Marbles

They say a week in politics is a long time. Well, with all that’s happened since we last spoke, it would be fair to say that a week in F1 is a long time too. In the last week Flav and Symonds have left Renault, the team have appeared before the World Motor Sport Council, and they have also landed themselves with a two-year suspended ban. But, did the punishment fit the crime, and what does this mean for the sport… What about the 2010 driver line-up? And if someone so much as crashes out of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, just what will everyone think? I’ll lay down the facts the way I see it… Feel free to have your say too! It’s time for Marbles…

Last week it certainly seemed like someone wanted Flav’s head on the chopping board. Renault announced that he had indeed left the Renault F1 team, along with Pat Symonds, both of whom were alleged to have told Nelson Piquet Jr to crash out of last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. So they left, with Flav still denying any involvement, and Renault saying they wouldn’t contest the allegations in Paris.

In the meantime, silly season got into full swing. Everyone started saying, ‘that’s it then, they’re guilty’. Felipe Massa and Ferrari fans started speculating over how their man ‘would have been’ world champion last year if there had been no ‘crashgate’, no safety car, and no pitlane blunder as a result. F1 fans in general started speculating over what might happen when the WMSC met. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, ‘crashgate’ is far worse than ‘spygate’, surely!? So going on the events of 2007, Renault were up the creek without a paddle. End of. Weren’t they?

Not quite, it would seem…

September 21st dawns, and Renault arrive in Paris to hear their fate. Piquet Jr has immunity, Symonds has been offered immunity, and Flav is still denying it…

…And thank you very much, a slap on the wrist and a permanent ban from the sport, suspended for two years. No $100million fine? It seems someone was just after the satisfaction of seeing Flav get his cards after all.

So many people have had their say since Monday’s hearing: many saying the sentence was too lenient. No points stripping, no ‘you’re out of the championship’ like it was with McLaren. As long as Renault doesn’t re-offend before the end of the 2011 championship, they’re in the clear. A bit of a shock, when you compare it to the result of the ‘spygate’ saga at least.

But Flav is gone. Maybe this should have been called ‘flavgate’ after all. Without wanting to sound too opinionated, it certainly seems that at the end of the day, what mattered most was that Flav was out of the sport. He’s certainly been dealt the biggest of blows in all this; he gave up his post as team boss, only to lose any chance of entering F1 in any other capacity. Not only that, but he is no longer permitted to manage any of the drivers, because if he does they lose out on racing in 2010. So he’s gone, for good it would seem. But Symonds, he was only banned for five years and Piquet was given immunity. Not only was Flav an instigator, so was Symonds, and Piquet could have said ‘no’. So why was the punishment so lenient? Because Renault apologised, Symonds expressed “eternal regret and shame”, and Piquet had volunteered information.

McLaren were certainly hit where it hurt, and were constantly reminded of it in 2008 when Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen lined up on the grid sporting the numbers 22 and 23 on their cars, when they very nearly earned one and two. A quiet reminder that ‘spygate’ had stripped the team of their constructors points, as well as that massive fine. But this time, Renault risked lives, not only the life of Piquet Jr, but the lives of the spectators and the marshals at turn 17 in Singapore. And they still have their constructors points, and they haven’t been fined. So, does the punishment fit the crime?

Many will be forever saying it doesn’t.

However, on a lighter note, the result of ‘crashgate’ doesn’t just mean Flav is gone, and Renault have got off lightly, it may also mean we’re finally going to find out who’s going where for next year, but then again, maybe not…

Currently all eyes are on Ferrari, who need to confirm what everyone is already expecting, that Alonso is headed to the Scuderia. This obviously poses the questions of where will Kimi go? Both Kimi and Rosberg are favoured for a McLaren seat next year, but with Mercedes collaborating with Brawn, Rosberg may well go there, meaning Kimi will head back to McLaren. Then, what about Kovalainen? Of course, he is one of four current drivers who needs to sort out his management, but what will happen to him? Will he end up back at Renault, or will Kubica take that seat? That is of course if Renault don’t quit the sport after all the shenanigans of late.

All we need is word from the ‘Alonso to Ferrari’ camp and then all the other teams can make a move on announcing their plans. Whether Ferrari sign Alonso or not, we all want to know. Now that ‘crashgate’ is over, perhaps we will get our answer, but then again, Flav’s sentence may have opened up a whole new can of worms. Currently, with Flav for a manager, Alonso is somewhat unemployable, unless he can get out of his contract, as there will be no Superlicence, which means no Ferrari drive. Kovalainen is another driver under Flav’s wing, and even Red Bull’s driver line-up may have to be reassessed if Mark Webber can’t get out of his contract. So maybe after all we are no closer to finding out next year’s driver line-up as we were to seeing Schumacher make his almighty return to F1.

All that is certain is that Lewis is destined to remain with McLaren, and Ferrari have a driver list as long as their arm, with not enough seats to go around.

But more imminent is this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, and if anyone crashes out at turn 17 and a safety car is deployed, what’s the betting that fans all over the world will shout ‘FIX!’? Of course, being a street circuit, crashes are more than likely to occur, but with the WMSC hearing so close to this weekend’s race, the thought is bound to cross many a mind if it happens.

I won’t get into too much detail over this, but enjoy Singapore anyway, it’ll certainly be exciting… Until next week…

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Sarah Green
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Sarah Green

Of course another key point in Renault’s punishment (or lack of) is that they offered a nice sum of money for the FIA’s road safety campaign to show just how sorry they are..! ;)

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Marbles, I have to say that you seem to be propagating this notion (manufactured by Max) that Briatore was primarily at fault. First of all, he is NOT denying “any” involvement. As a matter of fact, he has resigned from his post as team boss for his involvement. He simply has not completely capitulated to the FIA. He has stated what his involvement was and that is it. …and to your comment about how Piquet “could have said No”. By all accounts, (accept of course Piquet’s) he was the one who brought the idea forward in the first place. By… Read more »