Renault free to race after fix row
Formula One team handed two-year suspended ban as Nelson Piquet expresses regret at role.
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2009 22:28 GMT

Piquet said he had been 'at the mercy' of Renault boss Briatore [AFP]
Renault have been handed a two-year suspended ban from the Formula One world championship after admitting to race-fixing.

The French car manufacturer, appearing before an FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing in Paris, had said it would not contest accusations the team ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet to crash his car into a wall at last year's Singapore Grand Prix so that Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso might win.

"The ING Renault F1 team admitted that the team had conspired with its driver Nelson Piquet Jr to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, in breach of the International Sporting Code and F1 Sporting Regulations," the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) statement read.

The suspended ban will last until the end of the 2011 season.

'Unparalleled severity'

"The World Motor Sport Council considers Renault F1's breach relating to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to be of unparalleled severity," the statement added.

"Renault F1's breaches not only compromised the integrity of the sport but also endangered the lives of spectators, officials, other competitors and Nelson Piquet Jr himself."

Piquet on Monday condemned former team boss Flavio Briatore and expressed bitter regret for his own role.

"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"

Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr

The Brazilian driver said he hoped another team would give him the chance to "start from zero".

Piquet, who went to the International Automobile Federation (FIA) to expose what had happened after he had been dropped by the team in August, said in an emotional statement that his time at Renault under Briatore had been a nightmare.

"Having dreamed of being a Formula One driver and having worked so hard to get there, I found myself at the mercy of Mr Briatore," he said.

"His true character, which had previously only been known to those he had treated like this in the past, is now known.

"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."

Life ban

The FIA banned Briatore, who manages four other F1 drivers apart from Piquet, from the sport for life – even as a spectator.

Briatore and engineering head Pat Symonds already left the Renault team last week.

"I am relieved that the FIA investigation has now been concluded," Piquet added, apologising to fans and the FIA.

"Those now running the Renault F1 Team took the decision, as I did, that it is better that the truth be known and accept the consequences.

Briatore will not even be able to attend races as a spectator [GALLO/GETTY]
"The most positive thing to come from bringing this to the attention of the FIA is that nothing like it will ever happen again.

"I bitterly regret my actions to follow the orders I was given. I wish every day that I had not done it."

Piquet, whose father and namesake was a triple world champion, said he could not now believe he agreed to the plan presented to him on the morning of the race by Briatore and Symonds.

"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," he said.

Piquet, who was handed immunity from prosecution in return for telling the truth, said he would have to start his career from scratch and did not expect to be forgiven or forgotten.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso was exonerated of any involvement at the hearing.

"Mr Alonso was not in any way involved in Renault F1's breach of the regulations," the FIA said.

FIA president Max Mosley said after the hearing that the team would remain in Formula One, but Renault F1 chairman Bernard Rey did not comment.

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