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Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 13:29 UK

Renault blames Briatore & Symonds

Flavio Briatore
Briatore lifts the constructors trophy at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix

Renault director general Patrick Pelata has laid the blame for the Formula 1 race-fixing scandal firmly at the feet of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds.

Briatore and Symonds resigned after Renault chose not to contest charges of fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

"Flavio Briatore considered he was morally responsible and resigned," Pelata told French radio station RTL.

"We don't want a fault by two people to reflect upon the whole company and the entire Formula 1 team."

Renault will appear before governing body, the FIA, in Paris on Monday charged with ordering former driver Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash in Singapore last year to help team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race.

"I don't know all the details but there was a fault and a fault requires a sanction," said Pelata.

"We will know more about the details after what will happen on Monday with the FIA. For the moment we have assumptions but it is clear that basically there was a fault."

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Piquet crashed two laps after Alonso had come in for a routine pit-stop, meaning 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 clinch the team's first victory in two years.

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 team principal Briatore and executive director of engineering 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", while team boss Briatore and executive director of engineering Symonds departed their posts.

Monday's hearing will attempt to attribute responsibility for the affair and the FIA could still impose sanctions if Renault are found guilty.

Potential punishments include 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.

Pelata would not be drawn on the French manufacturer's continuing involvement in the sport and the possibility that they could walk away.

"This is not the debate today. We will have it calmly," he added. "Formula 1 is the world's most-watched show and you have to respect that. Formula One has been in the vanguard of progress for car technology.

"It is probably not the case at the moment, but it could be again and it is always what Renault have tried to do."

Pat Symonds
Symonds was Renault's director of engineering

Meanwhile, ex-Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine feels there has been an overreaction to the charges being levelled at Renault.

"Formula 1 has always been a war and in war all is fair," the former Jordan and Ferrari driver told BBC Radio 5 live. "When I was in various teams you would do anything to win. Back in the day it was normal.

"This is probably slightly on the wrong side of the cheating thing but in days past every team have done whatever they could to win - cheat, bend the rules, break the rules, sabotage opponents. This is just the FIA going on a crusade."

The Northern Irishman also believes that if Renault are found guilty, the FIA will deal with them leniently.

"Formula One cannot afford to lose more teams. For me, it will be a massaged court where the fine will be reduced in order not to scare Renault away.

"There are several teams in the sport that are looking shaky and they cannot afford to kick Renault out of Formula 1."

The 1996 world champion Damon Hill added that the case is not a good episode for the sport.

"There have clearly been some issues in the sport recently and there is a lot of soul-searching to be done," he said.

"It is a huge sport with a huge amount of interest and sometimes controversies add to the interest but you want it to be for the right reasons.

"I'm concerned that the sport is going to suffer as a genuine challenge of skill and competitiveness."



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see also
Briatore faces uncertain future
21 Sep 09 |  QPR
Briatore out over Renault fix row
16 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
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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