The FIA put out a short media release late this afternoon confirming Renault are being called to answer charges that they deliberately caused a crash to help Fernando Alonso win the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.The statement read:
Representatives of ING Renault F1 have been requested to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Monday, 21 September 2009.
The team representatives have been called to answer charges, including a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, that the team conspired with its driver, Nelson Piquet Jnr, to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix with the aim of causing the deployment of the safety car to the advantage of its other driver, Fernando Alonso.
Rumours about the investigation first came to light over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.
Renault is being investigated under the now-infamous article 151c, which concerns bringing the sport into disrepute. It’s the same charge McLaren were found guilty of in 2007 (for obtaining Ferrari intellectual property) and earlier this year (for misleading the Australian Grand Prix stewards).
In 2007 Renault were found to have broken article 151c in another spying inquiry, but no penalty was imposed because, as the verdict read, of a “lack of evidence that the championship has been affected.”
Felipe Massa may rue that Piquet’s crash led to a safety car period during which his race was ruined, costing him vital championship points.
If Alonso’s win were retrospectively taken from him, Nico Rosberg would inherit his maiden victory. But even if the points were redistributed it would not change the identities of Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari as the drivers’ and constructors’ champions.
But how the crash affected the world championship is likely to be of less interest to the panel than the matter of safety. It almost goes without saying that causing a deliberate crash puts drivers, marshals and fans at risk – something the FIA may be extremely sensitive to given recent serious accidents in F1 and F2.
If Renault are found guilty, expect the World Motor Sports Council to press for a very severe penalty. Renault will face the WMSC on September 21st.
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The Renault Singapore controversy