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Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 12:34 UK

Briatore out over Renault fix row

Nelson Piquet Jr crashes in Singapore

Watch Piquet's Singapore crash

Flavio Briatore has left his position as boss of the Renault team after they decided not to contest charges of fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

Executive director of engineering Pat Symonds has also left the team.

Renault were summoned by governing body, the FIA, after Nelson Piquet Jr claimed he had been asked to crash to help team-mate Fernando Alonso's race.

An FIA spokesperson confirmed a World Motor Sport Council hearing in Paris on Monday would go ahead.

Renault have been called to answer charges that they "conspired with Nelson Piquet Jr 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".

The hearing will attempt to attribute responsibility for the Singapore "crash-gate" despite the departure of Briatore and Symonds.

Flavio Briatore
Briatore has lost his job over the Singapore race-fix charge

The FIA could still impose sanctions if Renault are found guilty, including excluding the team from the championship, although that must be considered unlikely given the two people Piquet said were responsible have now left the team.

When asked for his thoughts on Briatore's demise, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said: "Well, I feel sorry for him actually.

"Obviously, I am surprised at what has happened, and I am taken by surprise today that they've decided to walk away."

Piquet crashed in Singapore two laps after Alonso had come in for a routine pit stop.

That meant that when race officials sent out the safety car to clear up the debris from Piquet's car, Alonso was alone among the front-runners in not having to stop for fuel and tyres.

Renault's double world champion went on to take the chequered flag at Formula 1's inaugural night race and claim the team's first victory in two years.

Nelson Piquet Jr crashes out of the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008

BBC's Andy Swiss reports on case

At the time, Piquet attributed the crash to a simple error, but after being dropped by the team after July's Hungary GP the race-fixing allegations emerged.

The Brazilian has since testified to the FIA that he was instructed by Briatore and Symonds when and where to crash.

Renault's response was to accuse the 24-year-old and his father Nelson Piquet of false allegations and blackmail, going as far as saying they would begin legal action against them.

But on Wednesday the team said in a statement they would "not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix".

The statement added: "The team also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team."

BBC pundit and former team boss Eddie Jordan said he was surprised by Renault's announcement but believes it was effectively an admission of guilt.

ANDREW BENSON'S BLOG

"Suggesting they are not going to contest the allegations is in itself an admission," Jordan told the BBC.

"I don't know what goes on in teams, and certainly in the Jordan team you would contemplate all sorts of things, but you certainly couldn't contemplate that."

It remains to be seen whether this latest controversy, and the exit of Briatore and Symonds, will affect Renault's decision to stay in Formula 1.

Briatore had denied speculation that the French team's future was under threat and the team have signed a new Concorde Agreement to stay in F1 until 2012.

But this latest controversy, coupled with a decline in cars sales, could yet have repercussions for the staff of around 700, who are are employed at the team's headquarters in Enstone, in Oxfordshire, and Viry-Chatillon in Paris.

Former grand prix winner John Watson told the BBC: "The fact that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have left the team was the only solution to Renault.

Pat Symonds
Symonds was Michael Schumacher's race engineer in the 1990s

"A company on the scale of Renault, a world-scale motor company could not afford to have a scandal of this magnitude rattling around in the boardroom."

As it is, Renault's statement appears to end the F1 career of two of the sport's best-known protagonists.

Briatore became Benetton team principal in 1988 and when Renault bought Benetton in 2000 to run under its own moniker, the 59-year-old Italian was chosen to lead the team.

Symonds started his F1 career in 1981 at the Toleman team, which morphed into Benetton and Renault, and worked his way though the ranks to become executive director of engineering in 2001.

Briatore was also heavily involved in the teams' association Fota, as it sought to reach an agreement on the future of the sport with the FIA this season.



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see also
Alonso 'surprised' by fix claim
10 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Renault called to face fix charge
04 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Piquet Jr dropped by Renault team
04 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso wins as Hamilton prospers
28 Sep 08 |  Formula 1
McLaren exposed by spy evidence
14 Sep 07 |  Formula 1


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