Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault., Singapore, 2008

Crashgate’s shadow still lingers five years on

F1 history

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The most notorious piece of cheating ever seen in Formula 1 took place on this day five years ago.

Fernando Alonso’s victory in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix raised questions as he began the race using an unusual strategy and benefitted from an early Safety Car period. That was triggered when his team mate crashed, and it subsequently emerged Nelson Piquet Jnr had done so deliberately under instructions from the team’s top management, to help Alonso win.

Yet despite suspicions about the race being raised in its immediate aftermath, it took almost a year for the matter to be investigated and the conspiracy exposed. Once it was the ill-gotten victory was not confiscated and punitive action was largely confined to individuals who had already left the sport.

Five years on, can it be said the FIA took the Crashgate scandal seriously? Or did it conduct a hasty investigation which unearthed no more than it was supposed to?

“I’m going to need a miracle”

The genesis of the scandal in Singapore began ten weeks before that race, at the Hockenheimring. As lap 36 of the German Grand Prix began Timo Glock lost control of his Toyota, striking the pit wall. It was a heavy impact, the Toyota skidding down to the first corner. The Safety Car was summoned while the wreck was recovered.

Nelson Piquet Jnr had made his second and final pit stop two laps earlier. This being two years before in-race refuelling was banned, Piquet had taken on enough fuel to the end of the race.

The rules also meant that immediately after the Safety Car came out no one could venture into the pits. Once they were allowed to come in Piquet was handed 11 places, and went on to lead the race and take a lucky second place. His frustrated team mate Alonso finished out of the points in 11th.

On Saturday morning at Singapore things were looking up for Alonso. He’d been quickest the day before at the new street circuit, which was holding F1′s first night race, and topped the times in final practice by over half a second. His last win had been at the wheel of a McLaren over 12 months ago, and this weekend seemed to be his chance to end the drought.

But in Q2 his car lost fuel pressure and came to a stop before he’d even set a time. A fuming Alonso stamped his feet as he climbed from the R28 and realised he would line up 15th on the grid. “Starting from the middle of the pack, I’m going to need a miracle,” he rued.

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Ill-gotten gains

Alonso was one of only two drivers to start the race on the soft tyre – the harder of the two compounds brought by Bridgestone. Nico Rosberg in the Williams did likewise.

The Renault driver made up three places at the start and gained another one soon after as Jarno Trulli, heavy with fuel, began to drop back.

But as early as lap 12 of the 61-lap race Alonso himself was in the pits. Seemingly, his hopes of running light on fuel to gain places had failed: he rejoined over 80 seconds behind Massa.

Two laps later Piquet Jnr’s Renault clattered into the barrier at the exit of turn 17. That in itself was no cause for surprise: this was his 15th grand prix start and he’d already crashed or spun out of five previous races.

As in Germany it worked out beautifully for Renault – albeit their other driver. Once the field had queued up behind the Safety Car and then pitted, Alonso was up to fifth. What’s more, two of the drivers in front of him had to serve drive-through penalties – Rosberg and Robert Kubica had been forced to stop for fuel while the pits were ‘closed’.

That left Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella, both of which had started with high fuel loads and were now running on worn tyres leaving them unlikely to challenge Alonso. After his second pit stop on lap 41 he easily held the lead until the end.

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Even at the time some suspected Alonso’s win was not entirely kosher: “There were those who left Singapore with an uneasy feeling at the coincidental manner in which Renault’s return to winning form had been achieved,” remembered television presenter Steve Ryder in his memoirs.

“There was the poor qualifying session, the nonsensical gamble on a light fuel load, and then the mysterious crash of Alonso’s team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr that brought the Safety Car out at the absolutely optimum time; a million-to-one-shot had seemingly come off, and on what was a particularly high-profile race for the team’s sponsors.”

Despite the suspicious circumstances of Alonso’s victory the stewards chose not to investigate. Even this pre-race spin conducted by Piquet during the warm-up lap – seemingly a dress rehearsal – failed to attract their attention:

After the race journalists quizzed Piquet Jnr about the crash, noting it was “suspicious”. One of his engineers who had not been privy to details of the plan challenged Piquet on why he had not done a better job of keeping the car out of the barriers.

Hushing it up

It didn’t take long for the FIA to learn of the plot. Race director Charlie Whiting had been a chief mechanic at Brabham in the 1980s when the elder Nelson Piquet won his first world championships. Piquet approached Whiting at the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend.

“Nelson told Charlie the story, in great confidence, and Charlie told me,” said FIA president Max Mosley in an interview with Sky earlier this year.

Yet still the FIA chose not to act. “We knew what had happened but there was absolutely no proof, no evidence,” said Mosley.

Three days after the race in Brazil, Renault confirmed an extension on Piquet’s contract despite a disappointing debut season in which he had contributed little by way of results apart from his fluke podium finish in Germany and his involvement in the Singapore scam, which was still undisclosed.

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Having been reconfirmed as a Renault driver, though with his pay cut from $1.5m to $1m, Piquet Jnr intended to keep the plan secret. In an interview for F1 Racing magazine he scoffed at the suggestion he’d been involved in anything underhand in Singapore: “Yeah, I wanted to kill myself to help Fernando get on the podium.”

The truth comes out

Thanks in part to their Singapore win, but also due to a superb drive by Alonso two weeks later in Fuji to a fully-deserved second win, Renault seemed to have turned around their slump in form in 2008. They failed to carry that into the next season with the dismal R29.

Piquet continued to struggle and after ten point-less races, team principal Flavio Briatore finally cut him loose. With that went his reason to keep quiet about what had gone on in Singapore.

He wasn’t the only person feeling the pressure in 2009. Mosley was fighting a battle on many fronts. In April the now-defunct News of the World ran a devastating expose on his private life which brought the future of his presidency into question.

Mosley clung to power, but facing hostile opposition from the teams – temporarily united under the Formula One Teams’ Association banner – the clock was clearly running out on his presidency.

“In ’09 Nelson senior came to see me in Monaco and we had lunch together,” said Mosley. “He told me the story, not knowing that I already knew, and it was extraordinary because he was really, really upset. He was distraught over lunch.”

“I said ‘what we need is we need a statement from Nelson Jnr’. He said ‘he’s ’round the corner, I can bring him in.’ I said ‘no, I’ve got to stay out of this but I will arrange for people to interview him and so on, I don’t want to get involved’.”

Now the FIA had finally begun an investigation, matters proceeded swiftly. Yet the individuals they interviewed and the evidence they collected could all have been obtained months earlier when the suspicions first arose.

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Piquet Jnr exposes the plot

News of Piquet Jnr’s impending departure broke on August 1st. Two days earlier in Paris he signed a statement exposing a story which was predictably dubbed ‘Crashgate’ by a scandal-weary F1 media, which in the preceding two seasons had also reported on ‘Spygate’, ‘Liegate’ and ‘Spankgate’.

In his statement Piquet Jnr pointed the finger at Briatore and technical director Pat Symonds. He said that shortly before the start of the race: “Mr Symonds, in the presence of Mr Briatore, asked me if I would be willing to sacrifice my race for the team by ‘causing a Safety Car’.”

“I accepted because I hoped that it could improve my position in the team at a critical time in the race season,” he said, adding that the pair did not make the tactic a condition of him earning a drive for 2009, though he hoped it would help.

Renault were meticulous in their planning. Piquet was told to crash at the exit of turn 17 where there were no cranes and no side entrances to allow the car to be swiftly recovered, maximising the potential for a Safety Car deployment.

Naturally, Alonso’s strategy would have to be prepared accordingly: “Mr Symonds also told me which exact lap to cause the incident upon, so that a strategy could be deployed for my team mate Mr Fernando Alonso to refuel at the pit shortly before the deployment of the Safety Car, which he indeed did during lap 12.”

“The key to this strategy resided in the fact that the near-knowledge that the Safety Car would be deployed in lap 13/14 allowed the team to start Mr Alonso’s car with an aggressive fuel strategy using a light car containing enough fuel to arrive at lap 12, but not much more.”

The meticulous planning did not extend to how to minimise the risk to marshals and spectators. “Be careful” were Symonds’ only words to Piquet Jnr on the subject, “which I took to mean that I should not injure myself”.

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The evidence mounts up

The FIA hired corporate investigative firm Quest to conduct an inquiry. Among their team was Martin Smith, a former detective superintendent who had spent 30 years with the Metropolitan Police.

They were quick to rule out any involvement on Alonso’s part after he was interviewed on August 28th at Spa-Francorchamps, where practice for the Belgian Grand Prix was taking place. “Alonso denied any knowledge of any sort of plot,” explained Mosley.

Alonso told the FIA that the unusual strategy of starting with a light fuel load from a low qualifying position at a track where overtaking was difficult was borne out of a desire to pursue a different approach to those immediately around him in the hope of gaining an advantage. Besides which, he added, “the question of strategy was one which he largely left to his engineers” (in the FIA’s words).

“Interestingly the senior policeman [who interviewed Alonso] – very experienced at questioning people – is convinced he was telling the truth,” Mosley added.

But they reached the opposite conclusion about Symonds, who was interviewed shortly after Alonso. He refused to answer repeated questions over whether he had met with Briatore and Piquet Jnr on the day of the race or knew anything of a plan to orchestrate a crash, but did assert that the plan was first put to him by Piquet Jnr “the day before” the race.

Eventually one of the interviewers put it to him that “if Mr Symonds you’d been put in the position where you were made to ask Mr Piquet Jnr to crash it’s much better, it would be much better you in the long term to tell these stewards to hear that today?”

“I fully understand that,” Symonds replied. “I have no intention of lying to you. I have not lied to you but I have reserved my position just a little.” In their report the stewards added Symonds was “very responsive throughout the rest of the interview”.

Briatore responded to the investigation by claiming the elder Piquet tried to blackmail him by threatening to expose the conspiracy if his son did not keep his place at the team.

The Renault team boss gave the FIA a copy of a letter he had sent to Piquet Snr three days after the FIA received his son’s statement.

“I can certainly not accept your contention that the Renault team, myself and your son entered into some sort of conspiracy that would not only have a impact on the result of the competition, but actually, that may put at risk the safety of all the contenders in the grand prix just to have Fernando Alonso obtaining a racing advantage,” Briatore told Piquet Snr in the letter.

Briatore threatened the Piquets with legal action if he did not desist his “blatant attempt of exerting blackmail… by way of threats and outrageous lies”.

He maintained this position before the stewards. “I never talk with Nelsinho [Piquet Jnr].”

“I never talk about crashing the car, he’s never coming to me tell me ‘Flavio Jesus Christ I crash the car, you won the race, can you renew my contract?'”

The FIA also obtained telemetry from Renault (pictured) which clearly showed Piquet had provoked the spin and subsequent crash. He had responded to his car’s loss of rear grip not by backing off but keeping his foot planted on the throttle.

“To my eternal shame and regret”

The World Motor Sport Council finally convened to rule on the controversy on September 21st, 2009 – almost a year to the day since the race, and six days before F1′s second Singapore Grand Prix.

Five days earlier Renault made the stunning announcement they would not contest the charges brought against them and that both Briatore and Symonds had left the team.

This was enough for the Mosley: “Because Renault had actually, as a company, known nothing about it, got rid of the two people concerned which was Flavio and Pat, we took no further action, at least against Renault.”

In their eagerness to make Briatore the focus of the blame the FIA over-reached, handing him an indefinite ban which was later overturned by an appeal court. His management of Alonso and three other drivers was also placed in jeopardy as they were told they would lose their superlicences if they did not.

Symonds did not attend the hearing but did send a letter to be read out. It included a reiteration of his claim the Piquet Jnr first suggested the plan.

The driver refuted that in a 2010 interview, claiming Briatore had put the idea forward. “The only way we can benefit in any way out here is by getting a safety car on the course at the right moment,” were Briatore’s words, according to Piquet Jnr, who also said he had been reminded of how the Safety Car had helped him in Germany.

But Symonds told the WMSC he “should have dismissed [the plan] immediately”.

“It is to my eternal regret and shame that I did not do so,” he continued. “I can only say that I did it out of a misguided devotion to my team and not for any personal gain whatsoever.”

Back to Singapore

Soon after the teams were back in Singapore where paddock chatter was dominated by the scandalous fall-out of the previous year’s race.

The news got worse for Renault as their title sponsor ING announced its “deep disappointment” with the verdict and cancelled its sponsorship of the team, followed swiftly by Mutua Madrilena.

Piquet Jnr later admitted he “didn’t consider the morality” of what he had done. And the prime benefactor of the conspiracy – Alonso – didn’t care. Quizzed by journalists in Singapore he dismissed the facts of his team’s manufactured victory as an “interpretation”.

“There are many interpretations how you can win the race,” he said. “[The crash] was in the very early stage of the race, it was a long race to do, the car was performing well, I did no mistakes and I still count it [as a win].”

In the 2009 race Alonso took a remarkable – and this time fully-deserved – third place, and sent a clear message about his opinion of the previous year’s events by dedicating it to the disgraced Briatore.

Lingering doubts

There is nothing about the sordid Crashgate episode that doesn’t reek of cynicism.

The conception of the plan, the FIA’s initial indifference to the warning signs about the manner in which the race had been won, Piquet Jnr’s eagerness to keep quiet about it while it kept him in a drive, the sudden vigour with which Mosley pursued the matter once it suited him and Alonso’s dismaying readiness to accept his tainted spoils exposed F1 as corrupt, conniving and morally deficient.

Five years on, there are many who find it hard to believe that the one person who stood to gain most from Crashgate had no knowledge of it. The passage of time has given us further cause to doubt Alonso’s insistence that he would not know basic details of his own strategy. We have also seen examples of Alonso’s team mate being sacrificed for his needs in a manner which does not happen with other drivers.

Mosley’s attempt to banish Briatore from motor racing indefinitely having failed, he has since reappeared in the F1 paddock. His most recent visit, at the Italian Grand Prix, was with Ferrari.

Of all the teams for him to show up at, this was perhaps the most surprising. If any team had cause to bear a grudge against Briatore for his actions in Singapore it was surely them, for during the manufactured Safety Car period Felipe Massa suffered a disastrous pit stop which cost him a likely win.

Given that, it was strange to see Briatore back in their garage. Odd too, that a team not shy about levelling accusations at rival teams minimised the Renault conspiracy and crash as “a euphemistically naughty spin from Nelson Piquet Jnr”.

But to do so might have caused too much embarrassment on the other side of the garage – which, ironically, is now occupied by the very person whose ill-gotten win potentially cost Massa the world championship.

How the race unfolded

2008 Singapore Grand Prix race chart

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61
Felipe Massa 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 59.674 8.545 15.472 18.7 21.997 24.794 32.414 44.966 45.441 47.337 45.206 35.408 36.923 47.179 69.699 65.08 64.083 67.465 69.883 72.483 75.371 78.504 83.565 83.936 64.305 66.316 69.82 74.146 77.701 80.43 84.051 86.63 96.302 103.136 19.636 8.97 13.718 18.37 20.574 23.909 26.687 27.28 29.686 35.17
Lewis Hamilton 1.288 1.286 1.796 2.092 2.681 3.105 2.882 2.866 3.094 3.39 3.485 4.069 4.548 4.397 1.645 1.8 0.425 7.818 3.481 7.116 10.716 13.11 15.78 18.718 21.463 23.886 26.865 25.045 16.927 17.904 18.581 19.759 16.484 13.304 14.847 16.544 18.488 20.395 22.351 24.489 22.036 5.433 25.83 25.804 25.851 25.914 25.802 26.144 25.496 25.873 25.558 1.849 1.799 4.983 6.888 6.856 7.364 6.509 6.297 7.117 5.917
Kimi Raikkonen 3.532 5.068 6.259 7.115 8.055 8.415 8.206 7.78 7.49 7.379 6.712 6.686 7.23 6.606 2.901 3.907 4.748 18.104 6.885 12.048 15.997 19.106 21.733 25.24 28.589 30.771 33.593 32.652 24.542 26.915 29.164 31.599 28.981 28.248 31.149 32.629 35.956 40.787 43.555 44.558 41.781 19.799 18.326 18.802 18.656 18.222 17.822 18.344 18.691 24.08 45.014 4.482 2.807 6.894 9.081 8.819 9.43
Robert Kubica 4.889 6.305 7.92 9.14 10.663 11.868 12.318 12.401 13.774 14.924 15.551 16.686 17.969 18.645 13.399 4.682 10.829 3.039 1.358 4.84 7.861 10.385 12.905 15.314 17.257 20.01 26.856 48.703 38.65 38.468 39.862 40.675 41.717 63.409 66.707 69.076 71.732 74.363 77.785 82.682 83.394 63.179 65.467 69.25 71.493 72.771 74.54 76.543 77.256 78.499 77.295 12.709 6.219 12.124 17.184 19.144 21.768 23.646 24.682 27.272 27.975
Heikki Kovalainen 7.422 10.045 12.809 15.501 17.866 20.033 21.374 22.373 24.237 25.86 27.297 29.209 31.088 32.202 32.368 8.418 6.504 14.593 5.743 10.778 14.789 17.698 20.752 24.542 27.5 29.776 32.912 31.901 23.673 26.043 28.432 30.823 28.111 31.345 56.893 60.335 63.722 66.709 69.469 72.587 71.507 50.675 52.646 55.151 58.043 59.914 62.211 65.039 66.46 68.291 70.564 11.785 5.517 11.4 15.924 17.743 20.231 21.306 21.762 25.542 26.902
Sebastian Vettel 5.736 7.514 9.709 11.498 14.174 16.524 17.642 18.923 20.379 21.983 23.004 24.285 25.799 26.858 29.409 5.903 3.094 8.651 3.777 8.148 11.939 14.748 17.819 20.346 23.067 25.87 28.935 27.783 19.169 20.734 22.419 24.365 20.719 17.71 19.575 21.761 23.619 25.805 28.541 30.704 28.56 6.684 11.024 33.749 36.357 38.254 40.591 42.844 44.035 45.708 53.057 5.57 3.148 8.034 11.438 11.985 12.811 12.113 11.308 12.235 10.268
Timo Glock 6.727 8.888 11.472 13.494 15.584 17.563 18.949 20.532 21.978 23.646 24.758 25.99 27.539 29.097 31.328 6.744 3.71 10.481 3.976 7.739 11.437 13.927 16.843 19.217 22.379 25.005 27.937 26.45 18.142 19.883 20.881 22.437 18.653 16.168 17.971 20.198 22.313 24.759 27.237 29.019 26.863 5.166 4.839 5.615 6.189 10.904 32.916 33.989 33.523 33.445 34.067 3.547 2.222 5.987 8.27 7.995 8.658 8.044 8.169 8.471 8.155
Nico Rosberg 10.127 14.891 20.531 25.856 31.123 35.433 36.727 36.973 37.516 38.029 38.497 39.399 40.441 41.163 43.018 12.234 5.421 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 14.867 14.635 14.148 14.221 9.32 4.937 5.627 6.294 7.031 7.443 8.027 12.903 34.096 12.433 12.897 13.963 14.885 15.501 16.391 17.539 18.013 18.575 23.554 1.035 1.4 3.776 6.187 6.069 6.577 5.486 4.607 5.2 2.957
Nick Heidfeld 8.108 10.967 13.852 16.454 19.415 21.811 22.876 24.178 25.882 27.301 28.573 30.441 32.401 33.484 35.529 9.772 6.97 11.715 4.344 8.817 12.552 15.307 18.564 21.236 23.754 26.766 29.776 28.345 19.95 21.54 23.151 25.254 21.633 18.77 20.893 22.651 24.878 26.596 29.661 32.175 29.434 7.643 12.125 35.502 37.905 39.823 41.364 43.759 44.753 46.821 54.413 7.912 3.523 8.956 12.579 12.726 13.699 12.975 12.01 13.177 11.101
Kazuki Nakajima 10.696 15.626 21.236 26.803 31.908 36.499 40.567 43.93 45.995 47.87 49.356 50.828 52.358 54.156 54.999 11.068 8.102 12.656 4.915 9.589 13.305 16.085 19.172 22.645 24.923 27.807 30.718 29.668 21.216 22.65 24.309 26.516 23.703 24.433 28.084 31.503 35.206 38.181 40.568 42.156 40.193 23.184 48.121 50.103 51.219 51.714 52.776 53.956 53.915 54.997 56.975 9.784 4.447 10.103 14.153 15.538 17.31 18.187 18.769 20.199 18.489
Jarno Trulli 9.631 14.535 20.257 25.542 30.695 35.061 40.038 46.485 52.474 56.917 60.343 63.877 67.331 70.15 68.506 13.082 5.807 1.451 0.487 2.871 5.1 6.915 8.528 9.992 11.24 12.271 13.248 10.168 0 0 0 0 0 23.887 27.396 30.741 34.625 40.411 46.278 49.723 48.789 27.971 29.993 32.642 35.282 37.067 39.376 41.315 42.612 120.942
Jenson Button 12.482 17.729 23.548 29.266 34.45 39.442 43.357 48.506 54.095 58.538 62.498 66.485 70.093 73.288 69.998 15.459 9.758 13.356 5.349 10.35 14.239 17.054 20.125 23.734 26.641 29.08 32.152 31.163 22.951 25.547 27.8 30.256 27.315 26.316 34.237 59.293 61.805 64.66 67.735 70.814 69.858 48.994 51.065 54.129 56.637 58.725 61.092 63.713 64.819 67.023 68.205 10.577 5.026 10.922 15.264 16.846 18.857 20.006 20.439 21.688 19.885
Mark Webber 11.725 16.89 22.621 28.269 33.301 38.428 42.285 47.754 53.094 57.622 61.148 64.962 68.388 75.546 152.065 73.192 12.293 4.747 2.611 5.951 9.34 11.96 14.39 17.123 19.873 21.856 24.788 36.81 65.464
David Coulthard 12.972 18.318 24.233 29.755 35.299 40.283 43.993 49.082 54.783 59.26 63.426 67.262 71.073 78.621 153.808 74.685 13.953 5.668 2.927 6.445 10.017 12.632 15.379 17.991 20.842 23.325 26.186 24.374 16.101 17.225 17.773 19.142 15.514 12.406 14.066 15.906 17.7 19.737 21.722 23.752 21.263 7.885 34.642 37.689 40.613 43.368 46.164 48.116 49.452 51.236 55.269 8.95 3.947 9.626 13.568 14.612 15.982 15.984 16.309 17.603 16.387
Fernando Alonso 11.069 16.123 21.733 27.397 32.495 37.017 41.369 46.755 50.149 51.562 52.478 57.467 84.793 88.198 147.825 71.656 11.28 3.945 2.345 5.388 8.741 11.288 13.67 16.232 18.205 20.697 23.772 20.904 11.971 11.277 10.62 10.829 4.943 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nelson Piquet Jnr 15.052 20.923 26.793 32.478 38.639 43.925 48.363 52.684 57.657 62.791 67.237 71.791 76.483
Sebastien Bourdais 13.496 19.112 25.066 30.643 36.457 41.094 44.693 49.764 55.669 60.132 64.628 68.347 79.068 83.05 85.443 17.288 8.897 5.387 7.576 13.429 17.655 21.358 32.207 34.082 35.168 36.501 46.714 44.105 33.973 34.216 36.176 38.912 41.186 65.737 70.001 73.496 76.669 79.151 82.368 87.424 87.782 68.132 72.463 77.486 79.995 81.898 85.365 88.693 92.006 97.29 105.825 25.226 8.188 13.019 17.924 19.881 22.698 24.823 25.502 28.259 29.432
Rubens Barrichello 14.414 20.023 26.174 31.921 37.737 43.174 47.444 51.598 56.767 61.63 66.209 70.611 75.174 82.906
Adrian Sutil 16.249 21.863 27.85 33.321 39.502 44.821 49.144 53.514 58.412 63.458 68.006 73.153 77.429 81.924 81.614 16.732 11.842 15.817 6.29 12.819 17.024 20.707 23.636 27.382 30.921 34.146 37.759 37.801 30.702 33.316 35.496 38.047 35.656 34.132 37.658 40.879 44.253 47.35 55.201 85.895 86.679 67.61 70.674 74.436 77.943 80.815 84.282 87.841 91.157
Giancarlo Fisichella 16.937 23.201 29.546 35.653 41.701 47.401 51.671 56.413 60.831 66.079 71.055 75.606 80.528 85.366 92.316 20.695 10.281 2.516 1.04 4.379 7.314 9.916 12.375 14.639 16.66 19.43 22.013 19.93 15.503 45.593 49.315 53.627 52.849 53.166 59.251 63.743 68.166 72.37 77.136 82.058 82.434 62.647 64.725 68.378 73.834 77.096 79.951 83.68 86.325 89.644 100.134 18.848 7.064 15.811 21.636 25.299 29.906 34.097 36.881 41.436 43.571

2008 Singapore Grand Prix partial Renault radio transcript

Extracts from the pit wall radio transcript published by the FIA of Renault’s radio messages leading up to and after Piquet Jnr’s crash. Only Briatore, Symonds, Alonso and Piquet Jnr were named.

From Message
Engineer Nakajima was being told that Trulli was heavy so he needs to overtake him as well.
Pat Symonds While we’re behind Nakajima we’re f***ed, we’re not going anywhere.
Engineer I agree.
Pat Symonds I’m also’
Engineer It’s f***ing our three stop isn’t it completely.
Pat Symonds Yeah absolutely. I’m also concerned about that that fuel current thing, um as soon as we get laps coming in I’m gonna look for gaps.
Pat Symonds […] I can tell you now we’re not three-stopping.
Engineer At this space for Fernando we are lap 15 so far and maybe we get to 16. We’ll see how it develops.
Engineer Okay.
Pat Symonds [Engineer], don’t worry about fuel because I’m going to get him out of this traffic earlier than that.
Engineer Massa ran over the debris on lap eight.
[…] There’s a bit of debris in the middle of the circuit there.
Engineer Maybe debris on the circuit. Yellow flag between nine and ten and we think there’s debris on the circuit.
Pat Symonds Pat Symonds That’s not gonna be a safety car.
Fernando Alonso Okay, okay.
Flavio Briatore […] [Inaudible] Fernando will be going nowhere?
Pat Symonds Absolutely. Um we’ve got a little strategy programme problem but as soon as I’ve got it back I’m gonna be looking for a gap to put him in.
Pat Symonds […] I think Rosberg will be quite light because he’s on options but this is still bad news for us. We’ve, we’ve gotta think out of the box now.
Flavio Briatore […] Fernando need to overtake somebody there because that is not’
Pat Symonds Yeah.
Flavio Briatore Alonso passed Trulli on lap nine.
That Trulli’s very slow eh?
Engineer Okay, I’ll tell him.
Nelson Piquet Jnr As per his testimony, Piquet Jnr asks what lap he’s on.
What lap are we in, what lap are we in?
Engineer […] He just asked what lap are we in.
Pat Symonds Yeah, tell him that he’s about to complete lap eight. Is that correct?
Engineer That’s correct yeah. I think he was asking what lap are we in though but, which he already knows.
Pat Symonds No just tell him, he is about, he’s just completing, he is about to complete lap 8.
Engineer Understood.
Nelson Piquet Jnr Piquet Jnr says he can’t see his pit board.
[…] I can’t see Gabria, I can’t see Gabria.
Engineer Okay, want to tell him this straight yes?
Pat Symonds Just say understood – say understood. He can’t see the pit board.
Engineer Okay – understood.
Pat Symonds Don’t worry [Engineer].
Engineer Okay, I think we’ve got him.
Engineer Understood.
Pat Symonds Gabriel – can you hear?
Engineer He just said ‘yes’.
Pat Symonds Okay. Just try and get that pit board a bit further out, wave it or do something like that.
Pat Symonds […] Right, what have we got; f***ing hell we’ve got seven seconds to Nakajima.
Nelson Piquet Jnr […] It’s better to count through the laps because I cannot see Gabria.
Pat Symonds Nakajima lapped in 1’50.3 on lap eight.
[…] And then see how quickly we can catch up on Nakajima. Nakajima’s doing 50.3.
Engineer No, he’s going to be much quicker this lap.
Engineer 1.3 up at the moment.
Engineer And these tyres are s***.
Pat Symonds We need to’I need a bit of help here cos we haven’t got any strategy system.
Engineer I just think, I can’t believe we can’t lap at Nakajima’s pace; I’m just worried these tyres are useless and we should get on the other ones.
Pat Symonds Yeah, exactly…
Engineer We 9/10ths up at the moment.
Flavio Briatore Just wait one second guys.
Engineer We’ve got a much better first sector to come on here.
Flavio Briatore Maybe, you know, maybe we need to quicken up now.
Engineer Yeah, we gone quicker now than Nakajima.
Pat Symonds [Engineer], we’re gonna go two.
Engineer Okay.
Pat Symonds Um, what was our target without this now?
Engineer Um, 40 was the sort of optimum, and then 40 up to 46 if he wanted to cover…
Pat Symonds I think we’ll stay at around the 40 mark.
Engineer Predicted what 47.6 for this lap.
Pat Symonds 47 – 6.
Engineer Yeah.
Pat Symonds So point 8, point 8 quicker than Nakajima’s last one yeah?
Engineer 47 – 1 predicted now. We’re two seconds up at the moment on that lap.
Engineer We’ve gone below one and a half seconds quicker than him.
Pat Symonds One and a half’so we’re going to catch him in about three laps. Yeah?
Engineer Yep.
Pat Symonds Alonso took 0.6s out of Nakajima on lap 11 and was still over three seconds behind him.
Right, I’m going to ‘ I think we’re going to stop him just before we catch him and get him out of it, the reason being we’ve still got this worry on the on the fuel pump, it’s only a couple of laps short, we’re going to be stopping him early and we’re going to go to lap 40.
Engineer Yeah I think so.
Pat Symonds 4 – 0. Lap 40.
Engineer Alonso set his fastest lap of the race so far on lap nine, then improved on it on each of the next two laps.
How’s the balance, Fernando how’s the balance?
Pat Symonds Um, acknowledge please Freddie.
Fernando Alonso Very poor grip.
Engineer Can you repeat that please?
Engineer Okay let’s stay as we are, it will be tyres yeah?
Pat Symonds That confirms it.
Flavio Briatore ‘Cause no way we’re overtaking Nakajima with these tyre.
Pat Symonds Exactly, exactly and I don’t want to waste one second behind him.
Engineer What lap you’re claiming Pat?
Pat Symonds Um lap ‘ we’re coming in in a couple of laps something like that and then I want you to get to lap 40 please – four zero.
Engineer Okay lap 40′ which fuel system-wise I think we can… we can go easily to lap 12 without any problem.
Pat Symonds Symonds announces Alonso’s early pit stop.
Okay, I think I’m going to stop him the end of 12, that looks like it’s all going to work out.
Fernando Alonso Maybe over steering.
Engineer I’m quite aggressive on rear pressures Pat so…
Engineer Alright don’t do anything it’s gonna be a different story on the other tyre I would imagine.
Pat Symonds Yeah exactly.
Engineer Scupper our rear isn’t it so.
Pat Symonds Yeah that wasn’t a great centre. Right, we’re gonna stop at the end of lap 12 guys; we’re going to lap 40.
Engineer 63 kilogrammes for Fernando – 6 – 3. Okay?
Pat Symonds […] Yeah with a good lap we’re going to be within a second and a half of him which is right.
Engineer An engineer who apparently was not in on the plan queries whether Symonds is pitting Alonso too early based on the fact Alonso is not catching Nakajima quickly enough to be held up by him for three or four laps.
Pat do you still not think that this is a bit early? We only did six tenths that lap.
Pat Symonds No, no it’s going to be alright.
Engineer Okay, okay. Understood.
Flavio Briatore [inaudible] …behind Nakajima now.
Pat Symonds Renault also had a problem with their computer strategy system leaving Symonds to devise Alonso’s strategy on the fly.
I’m having to hand calculate because we haven’t got.
Engineer Okay. Just we were 3.1 that last lap.
Pat Symonds Yeah, I mean we might be able to get one more lap but I’m not gonna risk missing anything.
Engineer Okay Pat, understood understood.
Engineer […] And in now Fernando in now pit confirm. 40 seconds Fernando.
Fernando Alonso Alonso pits on lap 12.
Okay in now.
Flavio Briatore Anyway we had nothing to lose.
Pat Symonds Exactly.
Engineer 62 [Engineer], 6 – 2.
Engineer 20 seconds Fernando. Multi-map 2, multi-map 2. Guys he’s gonna be target plus 8 isn’t he if we go into lap 40, 32 was the original one.
Engineer […] He’ll know from that we changed the two stops won’t he we don’t need to explain that to him?
Engineer Yep.
Pat Symonds […] Right, now let’s concentrate on Nelson.
Engineer […] He just sat behind Barrichello ain’t he and he’s got massive straight line speed give him a little hurry up [Engineer] tell him he’s got a load of straight line and advantage on him.
Pat Symonds Just hang on’
Flavio Briatore Tell him to push.
Pat Symonds ‘Let me just look at the end of this lap please. Just one minute [Engineer] please I just want to see where he is.
Engineer Understood Pat.
Engineer Bourdais went off the track at turn 18.
Bourdais’ spun, so he’s made a place up there.
Engineer [inaudible] go to R2.
Engineer Okay [Engineer]
Pat Symonds Lap 14 begins.
Okay right [Engineer], you’ve gotta push him really bloody hard now if he doesn’t get past Barrichello he’s a, he’s going nowhere, he’s got to get past Barrichello this lap.
Flavio Briatore Tell him, push.
Engineer Nelson no excuses now you’ve got to get past Barrichello you’ve got four clicks straight line advantage come on you’ve got to push now you must get past him.
Pat Symonds Tell him to push really hard.
[Multiple voices] Piquet crashes at turn 17 on lap 14.
[…] Nelson’s off. F***ing hell. Nelson’s had a crash I would say that would be a red flag its huge [all speaking at the same time].
Nelson Piquet Jnr Sorry guys. I had a little outing.
Engineer Is he alright? Is he alright
Pat Symonds Ask him if he’s alright.
Engineer Are you okay? Are you okay?
Engineer Fernando’s just gone past it.
Engineer Okay yellow flag
Nelson Piquet Jnr Yeah I hit my head in the back. I think I’m okay.
Engineer Okay understood.
Pat Symonds Right [inaudible] stop him.
Engineer Safety car, safety car, safety car, safety car, Fernando safety car mixture three.
Pat Symonds Tell him be careful, be careful, turn 17 I think it is.
Engineer Mixture three, mixture three.
Engineer Pat he went through it just after him.
Pat Symonds Okay thank you.
Engineer […] I overtake the safety car or no?
Engineer You follow it Fernando follow it unless you get a green light, follow the safety car unless you get a green light.
Engineer F***ing hell that was a big shunt.
Flavio Briatore Briatore appears to be watching a replay of the crash
F***ing hell… my every f***ing disgrace, f***ing, he’s not a driver.
Pat Symonds […] What position is Fernando in?
Engineer Well we were twenty, and we’re first guy to pick the safety car up.
Pat Symonds Yeah we’re not.
Engineer […] Okay Williams are refuelling
Fernando Alonso Alonso saw Rosberg – the only other driver who started on super-softs as he did – head for the pits. Renault’s plan relied on the pits being closed at this time so Alonso’s rivals couldn’t respond to the Safety Car by pitting.
Pit lane is closed isn’t it?
Engineer Yes, yes it is.
Engineer Yes, yes pit lane is closed.
Engineer 6.8 Williams and a penalty. Rosberg.
Engineer Did those guys ever get in before the safety car came in?
Pat Symonds Yes I think so, yeah.
Engineer Okay.
Engineer Yes I think both Red Bulls didn’t they?
Fernando Alonso Is the pit lane closed?
Engineer Yes, yes.
Pat Symonds The pit lane is closed
Engineer Yes, the pit lane is closed Fernando, the pit lane is closed
Fernando Alonso Rosberg he pit now hasn’t he?
Pat Symonds Yes he’ll get a penalty.
Engineer Yes Rosberg pitted, he will get a penalty there were guys that pitted before it came out we believe, think the Red Bulls.
Engineer And probably Barrichello.
Fernando Alonso I have the green flag, I will overtake.
Engineer Okay Fernando.
Engineer Okay.
Flavio Briatore What position we are now in the all this?
Pat Symonds To be honest, I don’t know Flavio. It’s got to have been good for Fernando but I honestly don’t know where he is.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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175 comments on “Crashgate’s shadow still lingers five years on”

  1. The last article says it all about Ferrari’s relationship with Massa… no respect at all. This is Ferrari.

    1. the last part of the article

    2. I call it impartiality. Why should Ferrari be about all questioning?

    3. Look around my friend, these teams won’t let a chance go by. In Renault 3.5 appears like Dams has run an illegal drs all championship long only being warned of their infringement when they got randomly checked yesterday, now imagine what F1 teams do, water tanks, the “stupid” safety car rule that I suspect was explored more than once and benefiting from your team-mate, who knows why Webber gets cautionary penaltys for replacing gear and Vettel none, I reassure that I’m just wondering the only fact here is that we have no idea what these groups do for the green.

  2. Alonso has matured a lot since 07/08. But I find it incredibly hard to believe that Alonso had no knowledge of these plans, even if questioned by an experienced person. Could he just be that good of a liar? (Note: I don’t hate him, I rate him highly as a driver, but I find this very odd). As also mentioned, you look at how Massa has been sacrificed before with Ferrari with Alonso as a team mate. You look at someone like Hamilton who wasn’t content with his 3rd place finish at all when Rosberg was told to stay behind – I just find that much more honest and with more integrity. Granted, a different situation, but still.

    1. There is one common person in the 2 Scandals (Crashgate & Spygate) of last decade – Fernando Alonso !!!!

      Is it a coincidence that in both case he escaped even without a reprimand ?
      Is it a coincidence that in both the cases the apparent effected party is Ferrari ?
      Is it a coincidence that in both the cases the driver knew nothing and the team knew everything ?

      I was a great fan of Fernando and was massively excited with his move to McLaren et all… But I lost most of the respect for him after 2007 Hungarian GP and then whatever little remaining of that after crashgate !!!!

      He is a wonderful F1 driver but yeah that is it…. nothing more than that…..

      1. Yep, he’s always the driver involved in scandals …

        1. How could anyone forget he drove in the Merc tyre test earlier this year?
          Oh wait, he didn’t :P

      2. That’s why he’s Teflonso…anyway, I firmly believe he had no hand, because otherwise he would have asked Renault to do the same again at Fuji, instead of having to “sprint like hell” and overturn a 15 second deficit to Kubica’s BMW in the round of pitstops.

        1. ‘unusual strategy ‘ that makes the article hard to take serious from the start.

          Rubens and the 2 red bulls were on exactly the same strategy. It was the strategy to go for if you were out of position. because you pitted early so you then went on to heavy fuel giving yourself alot of free air to run your race, you would then jump the guys ahead of you when they stop and a be faster than them after they pit as they are then running their heavy stint therefore pulling away getting well into the top 10. Strategy basics of the 90s/00s for a car out of position on a street track. I believe michael schumacher did the same in monaco 06 to great effect.

          IF a SC comes out in that time that so much the better.

          Now the obvious of above is out of the way, next question did fernando know? Fernando is many many things… a pointless risk taker? no he is not. He would not do that for a win he doesnt need. Did Flavio need the win? yes as renault were threatening to pull out if results didnt come. Little did flav and pat know that they would win the next grand prix anyway.

          The story is getting very old indeed. as is the lack of understanding of F1 at the time and the strategies etc

          1. forgot Nico being on the same strategy too and Robert. So thats quite a few cars on a ‘unusual strategy’

  3. I dont like how this article makes a very strong accusation against Fernando when even the speculation is so very, very weak. Plus the writer ignores the fact that one of the MAIN reasons for this stunt was to persuade Fernando not to leave the team, which would never have worked if Fernando was in on it.

    1. Source for your fact? After all, it must have been said by those who have been involved.

    2. A weekend with no F1 news, what do you expect? Other topics have been ruminated (Vettel booing, ALO-RAI relationship) already. So Keith comes with this stunt, let’s undig a scandalous subject and start a debate. Really, Keith a caption competition would be better.

    3. Not sure what article you read, but the one I read merely expressed a lingering doubt held by some people. At no point did it make any claim Alonso was definitely involved in the plan. In fact, it makes no claim either way.

      1. ….. and Alonso’s dismaying readiness to accept his tainted spoils exposed F1 as corrupt, conniving and morally deficient.

        Five years on, there are many who find it hard to believe that the one person who stood to gain most from Crashgate had no knowledge of it. The passage of time has given us further cause to doubt Alonso’s insistence that he would not know basic details of his own strategy. We have also seen examples of Alonso’s team mate being sacrificed for his needs in a manner which does not happen with other drivers.

        Here you are

        1. Which part of that can be disputed?

          1. No source, no names of who doubts so it is more a journalist view that should be written in first person.
            It is subtle, but is not good journalism
            Of course it is only my opinion, not interested in making any point.

        2. Thanks for proving my point for me :-)

        3. After Senna (god) and Schumacher (god2) winning championships by crashing into their main rivals, F1 fans have to be either cynics or extraordinarily credulous. Crashgate was the obvious natural progression of this trend. One step to far or 3 ?

    4. I dont like how this article makes a very strong accusation against Fernando when even the speculation is so very, very weak

      I seem to recall you recently claiming that Red Bull frequently fake problems with their car, based on no evidence whatsoever.

      1. yeah they have done that. Was it Korea last year when they told the world Sebs front tyre was in trouble when it clearly clearly was not. Half the Press fell for it(which says alot).

        But they have every right to do that if it fools their rivals

    5. But if Fernando wasn’t in on it he would surely be aware that supreme luck got him that win and it was representative of nothing?

  4. Ur article clearly suggests that Alonso was involved. He was already a 2 times champion. He did not need to something of this sort. And whats the point of writing the article now ? Massa could only support ALonso in only handful moments. Notably One Germany 2010, other being when his gearbox seal is broken. Why cant you see this being a team order before the race and hows this one different from the other orders’ given by other teams. Rosberg not allowed to race Ham in Malaysia 2013 was equallly baffling. The front wing which was taken away from Webber in Britain 2010, would you also say that Vettel wasn’t behind that decision or a part of ? Alonso was right when he attributed his win to Flavio for without Flavio he probably would still be racing in Spain. One mistake from a person cant take everything away from that person. He drove the race well and rightly deserved the win because he was not the part of this cheating. We all praise Webber for being straight forward. And ALonso spoke what he felt. He knew all media personnels will be after him after his POst race interview but he said what he felt. He could have been politically correct but why should have he devoid-ed himself of a great win which he fought for with all his might ?

    1. The front wing which was taken away from Webber in Britain 2010

      What IS it with people and that stupid wing? It is standard practice in F1 for a team with one new part to give that part to their driver with the most points at the time. This is so normal that nobody even mentions it 99.9% of the time it happens. Going into Silverstone 2010 the RB driver with the most points was Vettel. End of Story – if not for Webbers’ Praetorian Guard in the press.

      I was going to say that people are making a mountain out a molehill over this issue, but that’s really accurate. They’re making a mountain out of a single grain of sand.

      1. Well it wasn’t that the team brought one wing and gave it to Vettel. They brought two and Vettel broke his in practice, and the team then removed Webber’s to give to Vettel. That’s quite a big difference in my view, seeing as Webber would have been setting up his car for that wing.

        Also, i can’t remember exactly but wasn’t the points difference something like 5 points? Which is nothing at that point in the season. I think for Webber it was the principal, that Redbull clearly seemed to favour Vettel for the championship.

        1. @jonsan @keithedin The driver feedback from Friday showed that Vettel was happier, and faster with the new wing, which he didn’t break- it failed at the end of a straight. Vettel was ahead by 12 points despite numerous car failures from the lead.

  5. Excellent article Keith, thank you.

    1. Political agenda to get rid of Teflonso.
      The FIA could not afford to have double world-champion was a fraud, but the media certainly can. Sorry for Alonso fan, but he was two time fraud involved, excluding his plot to sack Raikkonen. What you get is what you give and the time will tell.

  6. I also find it very hard to believe that Fernando had absolutely no knowledge of this, he is not stupid.

    He has always been one for telling his team what he wants to do rather than letting them write his strategy for him, if the team came up with this seemingly crazy strategy that doesn’t make sense he would have questioned it and would not have taken the answer they have tried to give.

    I think he knew about it and to be honest after his antics at Mclaren where he intentionally held Lewis up in the pits so he couldn’t do a lap I wouldn’t be that surprised if Alonso played some part in formulating the plan himself as he has proven before that he has a dirty streak in him.

    Like most things perhaps one day the truth will come out.

    1. it wasnt a crazy strategy. Anyone with a grasp of F1 at the time can see that.

      Honda, BMW and Red Bull all had drivers on it. Were they in on it too? Its typical strategy for cars stuck out of position on a street track. F1 Fuel strategy basics.

      also as for hungary it wasnt nice or pretty, Infact it was very petty by alonso but he wasnt the only driver blocking that day.

      1. Honda, BMW and Red Bull all had drivers on it

        They were not on the same strategy – as noted in the article, none of those drivers were on the super-soft tyres which were likely to require them to pit as early as Alonso would.

        Only Rosberg was, and he started higher on the grid and would have expected to make up more places at the start but, as things turned out, didn’t make a good start and ended up dropping back.

  7. “Interestingly the senior policeman – very experienced at questioning people – is convinced he was telling the truth,” Mosley added.

    How convenient.

    1. After reading the pit wall radio transcript and seeing Alonso ask whether the pit lane is closed or not multiple times i have very little remaining doubt that Fernando was in on it.

      1. He asked twice – don’t see why that’s excessive :-P

    2. @shrieker
      Indeed. Here in Finland we have had a famous murder case going on for seven years now in which a house wife is accused of murdering her husband. It already went to supreme court once and they ordered the case back to district court. Even though it can’t be said with an absolute certainty that the wife did it, 99,9 % of people believe she’s hiding something. But the police completely screwed up the investigation, so we’ll never know the truth. The reason? An experienced policeman interviewed the wife shortly after the murder and was convinced that the wife had nothing to do with it. He threatened other policemen that they’d be fired if they investigated the wife anymore, so the police started investigating the wife again only two years after the murder).

      An opinion of one policeman after one discussion is the stupidest reason to drop investigation ever.

  8. I say the result stands for one reason and one reason only – I had money on Alonso to win. He was paying 20:1.

    Which begs the question, with knowledge of that information was there any significant bets put on Alonso?

    In a completely unrelated topic – I didn’t know Flavio was convicted on multiple counts of fraud in the 1980’s.

    1. I say the result stands for one reason and one reason only – I had money on Alonso to win. He was paying 20:1.

      Even if the results change due to penalties or whatever after the race, they pay to the initial result.

      1. Thats my point.

    2. Yes, you tell it!!! Follow the money!!!

    3. Oh my god, Hamish was in on it too!

  9. Piquet Jnr later admitted he “didn’t consider the morality” of what he had done. And the prime benefactor of the conspiracy – Alonso – didn’t care. Quizzed by journalists in Singapore he dismissed the facts of his team’s manufactured victory as an “interpretation”.

    “There are many interpretations how you can win the race,” he said. “[The crash] was in the very early stage of the race, it was a long race to do, the car was performing well, I did no mistakes and I still count it [as a win].”

    In the 2009 race Alonso took a remarkable – and this time fully-deserved – third place, and sent a clear message about his opinion of the previous year’s events by dedicating it to the disgraced Briatore.

    There were many worse things which occurred during the whole event, but this is the one that forever tainted my opinion of Alonso: I already didn’t like him from his McLaren days and it was the final nail in the coffin.

    1. I already didn’t like him from his McLaren days and it was the final nail in the coffin.

      Dude, you started following F1 in 2010. What are you talking about?

      1. Crashgate and Alonso vrs. Hamilton at McLaren were in every sport news program at the world. So you didn´t exactly have to follow closetly F1 to get to know this two incidents.

    2. I selected that on my profile because that’s when I started following F1 in the sense of watching every race avidly. I’ve watched it (albeit not with an entirely dedicated following) since the tail end of Schumacher’s days.

      Besides that, I still read the news.

      1. I just feel it wouldn’t be correct of me to say I started following F1 before I actually did start watching every race, since as far as I’m concerned that is “following” it. Hope that clarifies things :)

    3. he had no part of the incident so therefore would count it as a win. Wasnt his problem Flav did this to keep Renault in F1. They were desperate for the win Fernando was not.

      Senna did worse things than alonso has yet he is your pic, but you wouldnt of seen him race either…1 race contract at mclaren for 93 incase his car wasnt good enough for him and he wanted to go home mid season

      1. Senna did worse things than alonso has yet he is your pic

        Yes, I freely admit he wasn’t the most moral of drivers. But he was just so unbelievable to watch in qualifying replays – my personal favourite being Jerez 1990: it was absolutely staggering how he stayed so committed after that horrifying crash Martin Donnelly suffered. I like Senna so much because I think, had he not died, he’d be the best driver on history statistically as well as in ratings.

        Also though, he has the benefit of having had Prost as a teammate for more than one season, suggesting he can put up with internal warfare seemingly unlike Alonso (and didn’t resort to his crashing tactic until Prost had done so to himself).

        1 race contract at mclaren for 93 incase his car wasnt good enough

        I don’t see your point. He was denied the opportunity to drive the fastest car on the grid because his arch rival, frankly, was scared of losing to him. He wanted to keep his options open, as every driver wants to win.

        1. so what. he didnt get the car he wanted after one bad year at Mclaren. So he blackmailed the team to do a 1 race contract… Leaving mika on the sideline.

          As for Prost yeah he raced him but never actually beat him on points as team mates. The accident is there for all to see and Ayrton comes out badly, in fairness even Ron says so.

          Prost wasnt scared of him, he didnt want the man in his team. The same man that barely tested pre season, left it to prost. Why would prost do all his work?

          Senna was amazing but had weakness like the rest of them do.

          1. I should clarify, Senna’s move in Japan was unacceptable.

            How did he “blackmail the team” though? He wanted to leave, as he was at the time arguably the best driver on the grid (I’d certainly say so) but without the best car. Obviously he wanted to go to Williams.

            And although Senna never beat Prost on points, he beat Prost under the points system at the time. That’s all that matters: he was clearly faster when he did finish, obviously. And he was a very focused driver – second only to Schumacher in many people’s minds, for his technical feedback and dedication. So saying he “left Prost to do all the work” is completely nonsensical. Ask David Coulthard, who was test driver to both Mansell and Senna.

            As a result of all this, I think it’s perfectly fair to say Prost didn’t want to partner Senna again a) because they had a fractious relationship and b) because he wanted to win another WDC: Senna would likely have prevented him from doing that.

          2. So its worse to blackmail your team about cheating rife throughout, but its not bad to nearly kill yourself and your teammate to win?

            Some screwed up morals there.

          3. I don’t know how to jump into this debate that now is involving Senna, but I will just give my opinion on him and defend him thus. I think Senna was a genius, and I think he was born to race in the pinnacle of racing. We know he was very religious, and I think that he was convinced that God put him on this Earth to race in the pinnacle of racing. I think most other drivers are talented, many highly, and grew up around karting and developed from there into great racers, but I think Senna was a level above most racers that have ever turned a wheel. Did he make mistakes? Did he make errors in judgement? Sure. And he’d be the first to admit it. Btw, Prost WAS afraid of Senna, because he saw that Senna HAD to win at all costs. He (Senna) felt he was on this Earth for that very purpose. When Senna was performing at his best he said it was an out of body experience for him and it was like he was hovering over the car, not sitting in it.

            Let’s not forget one of Senna’s famous indiscretions against Prost was at a race that saw French president of the FISA Balestre change the rule mid-weekend after Senna got pole, and put Senna on the dirty side of the track for Sunday and Prost on the clean side. One can somewhat understand Senna’s frustration, no? Even if one doesn’t condone crashing one’s car into another for gain, one can at least see how Senna would have been extremely frustrated at having something he earned taken away mid-weekend.

            One of the remarks Schumacher made after he whacked JV at Jerez 97 was that Senna was a hero of his and basically MS blamed his action against JV on something he learned from Senna. I thought that was extremely poor of MS and I lost a ton more respect for him out of what little I already had. Couldn’t take the high road eh, MS? Had to say Senna did it so why shouldn’t I. Would he teach his own kids that? Two wrongs make a right?

            Senna did what he did in F1 without nearly the massive effort MS had behind him to compile his numbers. Senna was, imho, pure genius, MS…merely a good driver put in incredible circumstances to compile numbers post-Senna, except that MS (FIA’s hand-picked icon post-Senna) decided to take the cheap way out and spend his whole career behaving like Senna did after being slighted by the governing body. MS was never slighted by the FIA. Only ever helped massively by them. And yet he still had to be the boor and the bully on the track time and time again, for a far more sustained period than Senna, with more advantages hand over fist than any other driver in the history of F1. MS was no genius…more a copycat who was in the right place at the right time and more heavily advantaged with illegal Benetton’s and a trumped up package at Ferrari, thanks to Senna’s death and F1 feeling the need to create a new chapter in F1 since Senna was no longer around to have a Senna/Schumacher rivalry create the next chapter on it’s own. Imho of course.

  10. Man, I miss refueling. Bring it back FIA!

    1. Read Steve Matchetts book, where he recounts the refuelling horror of Jos Verstappen’s pit fire in 1994 and then we’ll see if you want to reintroduce refuelling.

      1. There are still racing series where refuelling is allowed… Shocking, isn’t it?

      2. I could give a horrific incident for almost any aspect of racing. Let’s ban the whole thing.

        1. I’m not being a nanny here @graham228221 However, refuelling is just an unnecessary risk where not only the driver is at risk, but people in and around pitlane.

          1. And it is very expensive.

          2. @dragoll I strongly disagree – it could made as safe as almost any other aspect of GP racing if the regulations were strong enough. Indycar, NASCAR, WEC all have in-race refuelling but I can’t recall the last serious incident in any series. Hey and don’t forget the thousands and thousands of people refilling their cars everyday without any safety equipment or expert supervision ;)

            The only reason serious refuelling incidents ever happen is because the teams were allowed to push it too far.

            Exactly the same as the pitlane incidents we’ve seen more recently. Changing a tyre is hardly difficult but because the teams are allowed to push the process to the limit in speed and complexity someone very nearly lost their life earlier this year.

          3. @graham228221 I disagree, F1 pitstops are ridiculously quick. In WEC they don’t fight for the split second. And in Indycar and NASCAR, I haven’t watched recently… However, I recall refuelling in Indycar hasn’t been without problems either…

          4. Indycar is without problems:
            Tony Kanaan 2009:
            Forsyth Car 2006:

            I had a look at NASCAR, they don’t have a rig, they use a canister to load up with fuel, which is probably a good way of going about it. I had a look, WEC have a very slow approach to their stops, refuelling is done first, then tyres.

            There are approaches that work, but yeah, its not suitable for F1’s lightning fast pitstops where the guys can’t even get tyres on properly because they’re so time poor.

    2. As a long time racing and F1 fan (since the mid 1960s) I am extremely grateful for the many improvements in fuel safety across all racing series and for no no refueling in F1. The lack of any injuries from fuel related issues during races in recent years is quite a welcome relief. The Williams garage fire emphasizes the inherent possibilities of the dangers of fuel when mistakes happen. Why reintroduce that to the pit lane? I don’t understand what the possible benefits of refueling could be.

      The current tire formula still requires at least one pit stop to change compounds. This allows for competing pit strategies without the dangers of refueling. Teams are allowed to put different amounts of fuel into their cars which can provide for different strategies. Maybe less so starting next season with the stricter fuel regs.

      Rick Mears was one of my favorite drivers in Indy Car/CART and I always wanted to see him in F1. After the nasty wreck he had and the injuries to his feet the F1 thing was not going to happen, sadly. The reason I mention Mears is because of the terrible refueling incident in the pits during a race. He still suffers the effects of that incident to this day. This is but one example, there are plenty of F1 incidents ranging from minor to horrific that argue against ever bringing back refueling in F1.

      It is correct that racing can be inherently dangerous. It makes sense to eliminate known hazards wherever possible.

  11. Great article @keithcollantine . I also admire your courage to cover Alonso’s possible involvement in the scandal knowing how much angry comments it’s going to spark.

    At the end of the day there are two possibilities – either Alonso knew that Piquet was going to crash on purpose or he doesn’t understand strategy and has no involvement in the strategic decisions.

    1. I also admire your courage to cover Alonso’s possible involvement in the scandal knowing how much angry comments it’s going to spark.


    2. i dont think its him that does not understand strategy. Go back and watch F1 at the time and do a bit of research.

      If your right perhaps you should go and tell Williams, BMW, Honda and RBR strategy team they know nothing too eh??

      1. They may have the same strategy but what they didn’t know was “when” to pit and refuel in relation to a safety car.

  12. Great summary of what happened. I’d not seen that piece of telemetry. Full throttle while spinning…

    At the time I remember I didn’t thought of it that way. Piquet had been crashing consantly, and it was bound to happen at Singapore again. And it happened.

    It’s very sad, but I don’t think FIA was wrong not to act. If you act based on suspicions, you’re constantly investigating stuff that’s probably not there, and governing bodies don’t work that way. Though they should’ve acted after the Brazilian GP, but that was already very late….

    All in all, it’s very sad that the race and the championship was tainted that way. Had this not happened, Ferrari would be firing a World Champion at the end of this year…

    1. At first I thought it was a lie-detector trace… I guess it is, in a way.

    2. Yes it’s very sad that all of that happened but we have to remember that F1 is half soap opera and half sport, we like scandals like this, like the secret tyre tests, like drivers disobeying team orders, it’s all part of F1 as much as the racing itself, it reminds us that there’s people behind, of what appears from the outside, a very cold and tech driven sport. Spygate, crashgate, tyregate all for the better I say!

    3. Had Nassa not spun 7 times in Silverstone a Ferrari driver would have been champion that year.
      Oh, Massa spun in Malasya and Australia. Oh, he started 6th and finished 6th in Monza (Hamilton went from 13th to 7th). Oh, he was given a win in Spa by the stewards.
      Both drivers had issues that year, and both had chance to win. Hamilton did, Massa didn’t.

    4. I do think the FIA was wrong not to act, as well as they were wrong in the way they acted a year later.
      It had very little to do with fair sports regulation and all to do with keeping a lid on things and sports politics.

  13. Excellent article, putting all the information in one place.

    1.- Even back in Germany 2010 media asked Alonso is that wing gived to him by Massa was like Singapore 2008.
    2. A driver like Alonso is highly involve and inform about the strategy of the race. This line

    ““the question of strategy was one which he largely left to his engineers”

    is what still don´t clear Alonso. Alonso is always over the strategy and he wasn´t involve in this one? I don´t believe it.

    1. Alonso knew exactly what his strategy was – he didn’t necessarily know that Piquet would be the one to crash.

      1. Williams, RBR, BMW and Honda were all on identical strategies.

        it was a very good strategy for cars out of position and wanting to get the jump with clean air running.


        1. But they weren´t as far behind as Alonso, were them?

  14. Lap 1 *Alonso message to the team*
    -Alright guys, time to race! So what strategy on will i be for the race?

    Understand how ridiculous that sounds? 2 times world champion doesn’t know on what strategy he will be on before the race? And if he does, hes got no problem on racing 3 stopper where you can not overtake? Come on guys…

    FIA and F-1 management in general has showed for a few times in its history, that it doesn’t punish big names, champions, because it is bad publicity and bad for a sport in general. 2 times world champion is a fraud? Imagine the headlines! In the book about Bernie E there are a few remarks about ’97 world championship, where Schumi turned into Jaques. quote Max M: “I need to make a decision which is best for sport. No need to disqualify Schumacher. Fans will not like it.” They took away his 2nd place in standings, which meant nothing.
    Getting back to Alonso. The guy had a track record of being egoist fraud even before that, we should remember his Mcl days, where he had the information about spying going on, withheld it for leverage, tried to blackmail team boss. Of course F-1 investigators puts him under “witness” category, not to damage his or sports reputation.
    Looking at his years at ferrari i just feel that karma might be real after all.

  15. I’m not 100% sure that there was any solid evidence against Alonso. Although all the circumstantial evidence suggests that it would be difficult for Alonso not to know about the scheme, there is nothing presented that conclusively suggests he was involved. Need to be careful with the wording @keithcollantine

    1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      28th September 2013, 14:34

      @dragoll he looks careful, I think. He’s not pointing a finger blaming him , because, as you say, the evidence couldn’t prove it. Why should Keith start detouring from an impartial website to an opinioinated one?
      It’s just eerie to think he didn’t know about it. It’s possible, as much as the opposite is possible too.

    2. I have always been thinking that Alonso could be explained his strategy something like this: “It is a risky tactic, we know that. But if safety car comes out at right time, you may win the race.”

      1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
        28th September 2013, 16:03

        @bleu which was more certain than today, given the refuelling ban during sc period that ruled those days. Anyway, doubts are there to stay. And I have my doubts about that day, so….

      2. ‘This resulted in the first safety car period of the race.[26] The two Red Bull cars managed to come into the pits before it was closed. With very little fuel left, Rosberg, Kubica and Rubens Barrichello had no choice but to pit despite the pit lane being closed’

        Alonso pitted just before this. This kills the ‘crazy’ strategy theory. Why is this so hard for fans to remember??? Are williams, Honda & RBR all thick too? NO.

  16. I’m not particularly experienced with telemetry, but it doesn’t look that suspicious to me. The throttle application highlighted was the same as the previous, and when the wheels started spinning he backed off the throttle slightly?

    1. He did back off – then straight back on ;-)

    2. Such a shame Piquet never got to drive with a blown diffuser.
      His driving style was perfect for it, just like Vettel…

  17. I’m going to leave the matter of whether Alonso was involved in this for what it is. The most important point for me is the way the FIA acted. They were aware that one of the teams had not only cheated to win a race, they had also endangered marshalls, spectators and their driver by doing so. And yet, they decided to keep quiet. What if Piquet wouldn’t have stepped forward, would they have kept quiet forever?

    Even NASCAR knows how to deal with things like this: as soon as there are suspicions (which there were in F1 too, as pointed out in the article), there should be an investigation. The FIA and possibly F1 as a whole failed in the aftermath of the 2008 Singapore GP.

    The entire episode is the worst thing to have happened in modern Formula 1 and it is just shameful to think NASCAR dealt with it better than a sport that is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport.

    1. I completely agree @andae23 .

      As soon as the FIA had any suspicions about the incident, they should’ve launched a full and thorough investigation. They should’ve looked at the telemetry, the onboard footage, the radio transcripts; they should’ve interviewed Briatore, Symonds, Piquet, Alonso and the other key staff at Renault; and they should’ve requested any relevant documents from Renault. That is how you build an investigation – you don’t necessarily need a whistleblower. You look at the evidence, you judge the credibility of the witnesses and then you reach your conclusions.

      The fact that the FIA not only failed to do this immediately after the race – but also once Whiting had been told of the plot – is disgraceful.

      I know that he’s considered a bit of a personality – but I’m amazed that Whiting is still in his job given his roles in “Crashgate” and “Tyregate”.

      1. Whiting told Mosley everything – in that capacity he did everything that could be expected of him. It’s not Whiting’s job to launch investigations.

  18. Thanks Keith – this is an exceptional piece of journalism and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    I wasn’t aware that the FIA were tipped off about the plot just weeks after, and I find it extraordinary that someone as senior as Charlie Whiting was told about what happened and nothing was done for months. Although I accept the point that it would have been tough to prove without a whistleblower and it may have been tough to obtain the necessary evidence by challenging Renault about what happened.

    To those complaining about the suggestion Alonso might have knew, there is no claim of certainty, and it is certainly true that many do think it is likely Alonso had knowledge. It may be something that we never know for sure. What I will say is that Fernando could have painted a much kinder picture of his feelings about the event by showing some humility when asked if he considered it a deserved victory.

  19. Alonso has been involved in all sorts of controversies.

    Very well written article.

  20. I remember during the time and for the following year I did not suspect a thing. Although I’d heard others’ suspicions at the time, I just couldn’t believe that Renault – or a few individuals within the team – would do such a thing.

    I remember I hated Piquet Jr after he revealed that he crashed on purpose, but I’ve since forgiven him. I’m sure he genuinely regrets what he did, and I also like to thing that perhaps he wasn’t himself when he agreed to do the deed. The pressure to succeed in Formula One can make you do crazy things and make you forget about what what is right and what is wrong. I imagine there are times when the drivers just don’t have time to properly think through what they are doing, and that apparently seems to be what happened with Piquet Jr.

    I’ve always given Alonso the benefit of the doubt in regards to whether he knew about the plot beforehand or not. This is partly because as a fan of him, I feel better believing that he wasn’t in on it, and also because of the fact that there is no evidence.

    The truth is that only Alonso – and perhaps some of those close to him – know whether he had knowledge of the Crashgate at the time.

    1. I also like to think that perhaps

    2. I think that was the case for most fans

      I remember during the time and for the following year I did not suspect a thing. Although I’d heard others’ suspicions at the time, I just couldn’t believe that Renault – or a few individuals within the team – would do such a thing.

      Sadly, after this incident, I will never put down the thoughts about anything fishy having happened as easily as I did then.

  21. Bruno (@brunes)