Archive for the ‘2009 Season Off-Track’ Category

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Suspended Sentence for Renault, Lifetime Ban for Briatore

September 21, 2009

The World Motor Sport Council issued Renault with a two-year suspended sentence today, as it reached its verdict over “crashgate”.

Former team boss, Flavio Briatore, who left Renault last Wednesday, was given a lifetime ban from all FIA-sanctioned motorsport, and anyone who is managed by Briatore will not receive their Superlicence for 2010 if they are associated with him. Currently, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Heikki Kovalainen and Romain Grosjean are all managed by Briatore.

Pat Symonds, the team’s former director of engineering, received a five year ban from FIA-sanctioned events. The FIA stated that Symonds had acknowledged his involvement in the conspiracy and expressed his regret, unlike Briatore, who continued to deny his involvement.

The FIA said that the team “had accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and cooperated fully with the FIA’s investigation. It had confirmed that Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team.” The FIA also said that the team had apologised “unreservedly” and had offered to pay the costs incurred during the FIA’s investigation, as well as Renault, the parent company of Renault F1, “making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.”

The FIA added: “The World Motor Sport Council considers that offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship.  However, having regard to the points in mitigation mentioned above and in particular the steps taken by Renault F1 to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved, the WMSC has decided to suspend Renault F1’s disqualification until the end of the 2011 season. The World Motor Sport Council will only activate this disqualification if Renault F1 is found guilty of a comparable breach during that time.”

Renault’s team president, Bernard Rey said: “Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologise unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. We sincerely hope that we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future.”

Fernando Alonso, who attended the hearing, was found to have had no involvement. Nelson Piquet retained his immunity given to him by the FIA for disclosing information.

Piquet said he bitterly regretted his actions, and that he does not expect this to be “forgiven and forgotten.”

He said: “Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life. Now that I am out of that situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the plan, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse. Listening now to Mr Briatore’s reaction to my crash and hearing the comments he has made to the press over the last two weeks it is clear to me that I was simply being used by him then to be discarded and left to ridicule.”

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Briatore and Symonds Leave Renault

September 16, 2009

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds today left Renault after the team announced it would not be disputing the allegations that driver Nelson Piquet deliberately crashed at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The Renault team issued a statement saying:

“The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

“It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.

“Before attending the hearing before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009, the team will not make any further comment.”

Piquet’s crash resulted in a safety car, and as teammate Alonso had already pitted he was able to take the lead, and eventually win the race.

After Piquet was dropped from Renault following the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, it emerged that he had allegedly been told in a meeting with both Briatore and Symonds prior to the race, to cause the crash, where, and on what lap.

A statement made by Piquet, telemetry details and radio transmissions were leaked to the press at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, which led to Renault’s announcement that it would take legal action against Piquet and his father.

Despite the fact both have left,  Renault will still appear in Paris on Monday, as it is the team who are charged with the race fixing allegations.

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Fisi Joins Ferrari… Vettel Joins Twitter!

September 6, 2009

It’s been a busy few days in the F1 world. On Thursday it was announced that Giancarlo Fisichella would be taking over from Luca Badoer as Felipe Massa’s replacement at Ferrari. On Friday, Renault were summoned by the World Motor Sport Council over Nelson Piquet’s accident at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. And then, last night, Sebastian Vettel became the latest F1 driver to join the growing phenomenon that is Twitter.

The announcement that Fisichella would be moving to Ferrari, from next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, was revealed by the Force India team on Thursday, who released the Italian driver from his contract.

The team’s owner, Dr Vijay Mallya, said that Fisichella and his management had approached the team after it had become clear that Massa would not be returning to the Ferrari team until next season.

He said: “For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception. No one should stand in the way of this. Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari and it will be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India.”

Fisichella in turn said he was grateful to the team for releasing him to fulfil his ambition. He said: “It is true that it has always been an ambition to do this, and for Vijay to have allowed it to become a reality is very generous.” He added: “[Force India] are now a very competitive team and I wish them all the very best.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said that he chose Fisichella because he deserved it, and because he is an expert driver.

The switch came off the back of Ferrari’s first win of 2009 in Spa by Kimi Raikkonen, who led home the Force India of Fisichella.

It is expected that Vitantonio Liuzzi, who last drove in Formula One for Toro Rosso in 2007, will replace Fisichella at Force India, having been the team’s test driver.

On Friday, the WMSC summoned Renault to appear in court over charges that the team caused a deliberate crash during last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. It is alleged that Nelson Piquet’s crash, that brought out the safety car, aided Fernando Alonso to take the lead and eventually win the race. The allegations emerged shortly after Piquet was dropped from the team during the summer break, however it is uncertain as to whom divulged the information. The hearing is expected to be heard later this month.

So not only have the last few days been eventful for the F1 world, the drivers also seem to have something to occupy their time with: Twitter. The first driver to make an appearance a while back was Nelson Piquet, shortly followed by Rubens Barrichello. Both Brazilian drivers tweet in a mixture of Portuguese and English, with the latter providing F1 fans worldwide with updates on Felipe Massa’s condition after his crash in Hungary. The next driver to appear was Jenson Button who tweeted Rubens telling him “you converted me big guy!!”

But it was the appearance of @real_Vettel last night that got tweeting F1 fans excited. It was Jenson who helped to figure out whether it really was Sebastian Vettel, with the former asking questions to check his true identity, and the latter appearing to give the right answers. Within less than 24 hours Vettel has just under 1,000 followers.

What remains to be seen now, is whether any more drivers will join.

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Renault to Race in Valencia

August 17, 2009

Renault will race in this weekend’s European Grand Prix after their suspension was overturned by the FIA International Court of Appeal in Paris today.

The team had been issued with a one-race ban after releasing Fernando Alonso from his first pitstop in Hungary with a loose wheel.

The team said that there had been no conscious wrong-doing and that the two mechanics who dealt with the wheel had been unable to notify the pit wall to notify Alonso of the situation.

Renault admitted unsafe conduct, and the court upheld the appeal, issuing the team with a reprimand and a $50,000 fine instead.

The team issued a statement on their website saying: “The ING Renault F1 Team welcomes the decision of the FIA’s International Court of Appeal to lift the team’s suspension from the European Grand Prix. However, the team acknowledges that sporting regulations were breached during the incident in the pit lane of the Hungarian Grand Prix, which compromised safety. The team therefore accepts the decision of the FIA to issue a reprimand and a $50,000 fine is fair and balanced.”

It is expected an announcement will be made over who will replace Nelson Piquet as Alonso’s teammate after he revealed over the summer break that he had been dropped from the team.

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Schumacher Pulls Out of F1 Comeback

August 11, 2009

Michael Schumacher will not be returning to F1 to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari, due to the injuries he suffered earlier this year, it was announced today.

The German told the team last night, and it was announced this morning, that the injuries he suffered to his neck following a motorcycle accident in February are still too severe to cope with the pressures that will be put on his neck in Formula One.

Schumacher said on his website that he’d tried everything possible to make a temporary comeback to stand in for Massa. He said: “I am disappointed to the core. I am awfully sorry for the guys of Ferrari and for all the fans which crossed fingers for me.”

The injury to Schumacher’s neck flared up again following testing of the F2007 at Mugello last week.

Schumacher was set to take Massa’s place at the European Grand Prix later this month, instead, the Brazilian will be replaced at Ferrari by test driver Luca Badoer, who told the team’s website that despite always wanting to drive for Ferrari, he is upset that Schumacher will not be making a comeback.

He said: “I’m really sorry for Michael, because I know how much he wanted to return: I’m saying that as his friend and his fan.” He added: “I know that he’ll always be ready to give me some advice and he will shout for me.”

Badoer has been test driving for the team since 1998.

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Renault Suspended from European Grand Prix

July 27, 2009

Renault have been suspended from the next round in Valencia following an incident in yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, where Fernando Alonso lost his right-front wheel.

The stewards in Budapest said that Renault had knowingly let Alonso leave the pits with a loose wheel, which he subsequently lost out on track whilst hobbling back round to the pits.

The incident came a day after Felipe Massa’s crash where he was hit on the helmet by a spring from the suspension of Rubens Barrichello’s car, and a week after the death of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees, who was hit on the head by the wheel of another competitor’s car. The events of the last week have raised concerns over the safety of motorsport.

The suspension means Alonso will not be driving in his home Grand Prix next month.

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Mosley Angry Over ‘Dictator’ Accusations

June 25, 2009

It has emerged that Max Mosley is re-thinking his position as president of the FIA after FOTA’s claims that he is a “dictator”, and that they have made “deliberate attempts” to mislead the media.

Mosley said only 24 hours ago that he would not be standing for re-election in October as part of an agreement with FOTA over the 2010 budget row. Now, it seems, he is angry over FOTA’s misleading statements to the press.

Mosley issued a letter to FOTA saying that if they did not correct the false statements made against him, with an apology, he would consider his options open, meaning he may well stand for re-election in October after all.

In a letter to FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo, he said: “You have suggested to the media that I was a “dictator”, an accusation which is grossly insulting to the 26 members of the World Motor Sports Council who have discussed and voted all the rules and procedures of Formula One since the 1980s.”

He added: “If you wish the agreement we made to have any chance of survival, you and FOTA must immediately retify your actions. You must correct the false statements which have been made and make no further such statements.”

He concluded: “Given your and FOTA’s deliberate attempt to mislead the media, I now consider my options open. At least until October, I am president of the FIA with the full authority of that office. After that it is the FIA members clubs, not you or FOTA, who will decide on the future leadership of the FIA.”

The letter throws the future of the sport in the balance once again.

It is believed the letter was sent prior to FOTA’s press conference in Bologna today, with Mosley hoping a correction and apology would be given then, however, it was not. For now, we shall have to wait and see what happens next.