Nelson Piquet Jnr, 2009

Piquet Jnr reveals how ‘Crashgate’ was planned

2008 F1 season

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Nelson Piquet Jnr, 2009
Nelson Piquet Jnr, 2009

Nelson Piquet Jnr has broken his silence over the conspiracy to cause a crash in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

In an interview with The Times the team’s former driver explained how Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds devised the idea to help Fernando Alonso win the race.

Piquet said:

I could see they were nervous. The room was hot and very tense. I was quite surprised because Flavio is a very assured guy and I had not seen him like that.

Symonds started talking first. “Look, both cars are at the back of the grid,” he told me. “We are in a situation where we are not going to get anywhere in this race unless something extraordinary happens.”

Flavio agreed with him. “It would be a disaster for the team unless something extraordinary happened.”

I just sat there listening because I couldn?t figure out where this was going. They were both very fidgety and the situation was incredibly tense. I don?t think I had said a word by this point.

It was only after five minutes that Flavio made his pitch. “Look, the only way we can benefit in any way out here is by getting a safety car on the course at the right moment.” he said.

I just sat there, looking at them. They both reminded me of what had happened in Germany when someone [Timo Glock] had crashed just after I had pitted and I came second in the race. “Do you want to help the team?” Flavio said. “If you crash at the right moment, it could change everything.”
Nelson Piquet Jnr

He admitted: “I did not even consider the morality of it.”

Piquet also claimed that a few days before the race Briatore urged him to sign a contract for 2009 which gave Renault the right to terminate the deal but prevented him from negotiating with other teams.

Piquet remained silent about the conspiracy until August 2009, after he had been dropped by the team. He settled a libel claim with the team earlier this week.

Renault Singapore crash controversy

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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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111 comments on “Piquet Jnr reveals how ‘Crashgate’ was planned”

  1. “I did not even consider the morality of it.”

    Didn’t consider the safety aspect either it seems. Any driver who seriously considers such a plan is a menace to everyone else on track. Good riddance.

    1. I dunno, I think he probably did think about the ‘safety’ of it, the same way he would think about the ‘safety’ of it every time he climbed into the cockpit, every practice, test, qualifying and race of his career.

      I am not for one second suggesting he what he did was right… I (like pretty much every race fan) was shocked and horrified at the decision made by Flavio and Pat and the choreographed crash that happened…

      What I am curious about in this whole mess is what was Fernando aware of, and what (if any) was his responsibility. I still find it incredulous that Flavio and Pat set his fuel load for his 1st stint and there was no discussion about why they were short fuelling him when he was towards the back of the grid on a track that everyone said was going to be very difficult to overtake on…. I just can’t see Alonso accepting such a retarded strategy without him knowing how it might play out….

      1. José Baudaier
        10th December 2010, 16:41

        Alonso obviously knew exactly what was going to happen. I never had any doubt.

        1. I fully agree, ALONSO must have been aware, in fact the whole team must have been ready when needed. For me… Mr Flavio should have a life time ban! Very simple.

          1. Yeah I highly doubt Alonso not being aware of this! That is not the Alonso way.. He is in everybodys business all the time it seems and it’s unlikely he didn’t know about this.. If he did, I have no respect for him! Even less now.. He lives on everybody elses unluck.

        2. Yes because Alonso is Satan.

      2. Drivers trust their team, engineers, strategists, etc. There was probably discussion about it but we’ll never know if he did or not know beforehand. I had seen teams that year short-fuel a guy in the back so it wasn’t totally out of the blue. You do this in the case you think theres a high possibility of a safety car. They basically could have left him out of the loop and just said look at it this way, we’re not going to get anywhere regardless and we will pray for a SC. It was a brand new track and a street one at that, a crash would be inevitable (there were 3 SCs that day I believe). There was no need to tell Alonso what they planned to do. Let him do his race and hope luck falls into his lap.

  2. If I had my way I’d have Piquet Snr. stripped of his titles, and the entire family banned from motor-sport worldwide. Either legally, or simply by having the motor-sport fraternity turn their collective backs on them.

    All Piquet Jnr. is doing now is re-writing history to make himself look as good as possible, and only because they can now that they got the upper hand in the courts.

    The whole thing is disgusting. All involved should be ashamed. But the Piquets truly repulse me now.

    1. Piquet Snr. hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s never been mentioned as being involved in the conspiracy. There’s only ever been talk of Symond’s, Briatore and Piquet who were behind it and even they’re at loggerheads as to who came up with the idea.

    2. I do hope you’re joking, because the philosophy of your concept stinks.

      1. I don’t think that is a good idea, why will Sn Piquet will pay the price for his son?

    3. It’s fortunate you will never have authority over any professional sport, then.

  3. Although this is disgusting act and i hate to admit it the plot was a masterpiece and worked out brilliantly. well, not until it was exposed by Piquet

    1. It only worked out ‘brilliantly’ because FIA didn’t chase up on the suspicions of a lot of people immediately after the race. The internet and apparently the paddock were rife with talk of the crash being deliberate, kind of confirmed by Piquet’s ‘practice spin’ on the out lap (I think). Maybe FIA thought they wouldn’t have enough evidence unless someone owned up.

      1. This is exactly what made it brilliant in my book – there was nothing anyone could prove until Piquet exposed the whole thing. I’m more than 100% sure that not only FIA was looking into it immediately afterwards. But there was nothing in there.

        1. The unstated part in this psychodrama is that Jr. no doubt assumed this action was going to secure his ride for at least another season.

          HOW stupid could Flabio be to then sack him without ANY thought of potential recriminations? I guess arrogance breeds stupidity, at least in the case of Briatore.

          This also proves out that in addition to being a great driver Alonso is also the ultimate Machiavelli on the grid. As others have stated he had to be in on the strategy if not the proposer.

          1. Having said that, how many GP’s has Flavio been invited to? How many millions is he spending enjoying himself, how many rumours have we heard he is coming back??

            Flavio got off scot free and it’s disgusting.

            Piquet, as much as some would like to disagree, is nothing but a stupid kid, who would do anything to be in F1.
            Maybe you personally believe you have more morals and would know better, but many wouldn’t.

  4. Disgusting… in a way I expected such a thing from Briatore, but I always held Symonds in far higher regard, a big shame. I hope the whole production can be put to bed now…

    1. I always got the sense that Briatore came up with the idea and Symonds ran with it. Even reading Piquet’s recount (assuming it is accurate and trustworthy), the initial discussion between them reads like it was rehearsed. Briatore probably talked Symonds in it for the sake of making it seem more credible.

      1. Strange, I was expecting you to say it was all Alonso’s doing.

        1. You mean it wasn’t!?

        2. I don’t like to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon, but let’s be fair.

          Alonso is one of the most cunning drivers out there. He is very smart and always on the ball strategy-wise.

          I’m not saying he knew something was wrong, but after the race he MUST have known that his ridiculous strategy would ONLY work if there was certainly a safety car at that precise time. That plus being a Renault crashing, I cannot for the life of me grasp the concept of him being completely ignorant of what happened until a year later.

          My 2 cents.

          P.S. I don’t mean to say he was involved, or even that he knew beforehand, but at some point, yes, I’m pretty sure he connected the dots and kept his mouth shut.

          1. Alonso came up with the whole thing. He was angry that piquet had a podium, so he came up with the ideal to Briatore who made symonds do it and then Piquet.

            Don’t you remember the “mysterious other person” who they didn’t name? ALONSO.

          2. Lettucefolk, you have hit the nail on the head there. I don’t for one second think Alonso knew of this in advance, but there is no way he wouldn’t have figured it out. He is way too intelligent for that. I even remember remarking to Mr Pink at the time that Alonso did not look very happy at winning his first race in nearly 12 months, so my money is on betting that he’d figured it out before he even reached the podium. But what would it have acheived for him to have said anything?

      2. I am not too convinced. The first time Piquet told the story to the FIA it was supposed to by Symonds who proposed the plan. Now it was Briatore.
        According to Symonds and the secret witness Mr.X it was Piquet himself who came up with the idea.
        As much as I would think Flavio is the first suspect with coming up with something as outrageous like this, i find it hard to take Piquet at face value here.

  5. HounslowBusGarage
    10th December 2010, 10:07

    Grrrr. The link to the Times requires a subscription.

    Flavio agreed with him. “It would be a disaster for the team unless something extraordinary happened.”

    I wonder why Flav said this about that particular race? (if he said it, of course)
    It wasn’t the last race of the year and ALO wasn’t about to clinch the title, was he? Could it be that Renault Main Board were already going cold on the idea of F1 racing and was Flav desperate to re-enthuse the Board with a good result?

    1. Renault were losing interest in the sport, the team was sliding backwards and ING held title sponsorship for the race as well as the team.

    2. I reckon its more to do with first night race, first in career, big sponsorship event, Flav needed the world looking at Renault again.

      1. meant to say Singapore rather than career, distractions grr.

    3. This particular race because Alonso clearly thought he had a chance of pole and the win. And obviously Briatore and the Renault team thought so too. Most people by now must have made their own minds up long ago about Alonso’s involvement or not, and it’s all speculation (for now) anyway, but his taking credit for the win still is truly bizarre.

      1. That’s what still rubs me the wrong way David BR. Why on earth is this still down in the records as a win for Alonso? It is even less deserved than his win in Germany this season.Both of which I had hoped would be stricken from the record. Alonso is poised to equal and likely pass Sir Jackie Stewart in the all time wins column next season and it’s just a shame that atleast two of them are not deserved.

        But this all confirms more of what everyone has known all along, that Briatore was a big, ego driven jerk, and that the FIA is once again spineless where they should take a firm stand.

    4. I reckon it has to do with the fact that Alonso had a term springing him from his contract if the team did not meet a certain points or finishes threshhold, which was reported at the time I recall. Remember who his manager was. It’s called a conflict of interest. Where you have that, and lack of scruples, hijinks often ensue.

  6. I thought we’d have to look forward to a book with the gory details from the pens of the Piquets. I guess Jr. spilling their story now means we won’t have to expect that. Good news then.

    As for the truth of it, well, it could be truth I suppose, certainly that Piquet Jr. felt intimidated and unsure, and I don’t believe Briatore or Symonds didn’t know about it, but Briatore is also a bit too convenient a villain, and Symonds and him have been in F1 for a long time.

    I guess strategy wise I Symonds could think it up certainly, but I somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if Piquet was the one who mentioned his one good race result as an inspiration.

    1. I guess strategy wise I Symonds could think it up certainly

      Strategy-wise, any semi-intelligent F1 fan could come up with this. And what’s more, any F1 team in the midfield could come up with this at any street circuit and win the race. But they don’t. Because it’s wrong. Renault did, Piquet turned the wheel and pressed the pedal. He has been punished as much as Briatore or Symonds in terms of loss of face, but at least one other hasn’t. His time will come one way or another, I’m sure. Even the successful suffer with bad reputations….

  7. This is still only one side of the story.I am not convinced at all that it is the whole truth.

  8. I’m sorry but I really don’t like the way Piquet Jr. is portraying himself as an innocent victim of the whole thing here. Sure, his team devised this plan but it was up to him to crash or not. What would have happened if he disobeyed? He would’ve been fired? Then he would’ve told the media about this whole thing anyway without being a cheat.

    1. And as Flavio Briatore was his manager, Piquet could have been left without a drive even if he did the right thing. Briatore would have done everything in his power to sabotage Piquet’s negotiations with other teams and prevent him from racing.

      1. And look where Briatore is now.

    2. But he’s not, he said himself he didn’t consider the morality of it – If that doesn’t say “what I did was wrong”, I don’t know what does.

      I still don’t get the venom spilled against Neslinho. It,s not a question of victim or not victim. It,s a question who should have known better. the two middle-aged men who had been in the sport for.. (how long was it?) and who came up with a twisted plan? Or the barely-adult guy, trying to follow in his father’s footsteps, knowing that he’s not succeeding, to whom the two men who will decide on whether he drives or not come with the twisted plan?

      It doesn’t have to be black and white, ‘he’s a villain or a victim’. There’s plenty enough blame to go around for all of them. But for me there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that if we’re going to pour bile on someone, then it’s Briatore and Symmonds who deserve it oh so much more than Piquet.

      1. Agreed, I can see how a young driver under pressure and eager to please his bosses could be persuaded to go along with such a dubious plan.

        Even if (worst case scenario for Piquet)he’d come up with it himself, the fact that Briatore and Symonds went along with it would make them just as culpable.

        1. Piquet wouldn’t come up with it himself though, no matter how keen he was to keep on side. He would not come up with the idea of crashing intentionally to help his better advantaged team mate, even if he did go along with it.

      2. Not considering the morality of it is another way of saying ‘I’m stupid’.

        1. Oh come now, what, you’ve never done anything you regret?

      3. Well said. Of course people should be disgusted with Nesinho, but that still doesn’t mean he should take most of the blame – that belongs to Briatore and Symmonds. This wouldn’t have happened if Piquet Snr had made a nuisance of himself and accompanied Jnr to all the races.

        I feel a bit sorry for Nelsinho, lacking the talent and the toughness of his father he was simply overwhelmed. I wonder how many of us would have fared better at his age against someone as domineering as Briatore? Crucially the kid didn’t have the magic card – talent – which would have allowed him to tell them to “go **** themselves” with impunity.

        1. Maciek and Jack are 100% spot on, Great comments!

  9. I think that Piquet was a victim in all of this, he didn’t come up with the idea and it may indeed be possible that the negotiation of a new contract at the time influenced the decision for him to crash. He didn’t look so happy after the race sat on the pit wall while the rest of the team celebrated Alonso’s win. He shouldn’t have even considered the morality of crashing on purpose, but it looks like he was being back into a corner by Briatore and Symonds and he wasn’t brave enough to say ‘no’.

    I didn’t like Piquet Jr. before anyway but this is sort of making me re-evaluate him. But I agree that what he did was dangerous and inconsiderate.

    1. He was a co-conspirator, not a victim. He doesn’t deserve a shred of anyone’s sympathy.

      1. I think that slightly unfair Keith. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, first year in F1 its his dream and he doesnt want it to end, if he says no he may never return.

        I take all of that back if Piquet had any influence on the turn of events and it was in anyway his idea.

        But of course with hindsight no amount of pressure should make you risk peoples lives like that but I certainly wouldn’t want to have been in his shoes.

        1. I agree with Keith. Like Massa this year at Hockenheim, he has to take his share of the blame (responsibility) for agreeing to help his team mate by crashing/letting him pass, even if there was huge ‘contractual pressure’ in both cases.

          1. Its a big step from letting someone overtake to crashing on purpose, potentially putting marshalls or other drivers at risk of injury or even death.

          2. True ed24f1, but comparing them is valid, I think, because both were supposed victims of team pressures related to their contracts being at risk. And you have to admit both cases caused an outcry in the media and among racing fans. Also the same team mate was favoured in both cases, funnily enough.

        2. No matter how much pressure he was under, I can’t have any sympathy for him if he wasn’t even bothered about the morality or safety aspect of it. He didn’t seem to have any motivation in revealing it apart from revenge either. He must have known he was blacklisting himself from any respectable F1 team by doing so.

      2. And there was me thinking Keith was impartial!

      3. Maybe he does deserve a shred of sympathy for the position he was put in. Less so for the way he handled it afterwards.

        Piquet was under immense pressure at Renault. He was under-performing, and Briatore’s style of management – read: favouring Alonso – wasn’t doing him any favours. He had no support in the team when he needed it the most. He was worried about his future, and he had nothing to fall back on if that future was taken away from him. I can understand how he might have agreed to it in a moment of weakness.

        The fact that he did it isn’t what bothers me about Piquet. It’s the way he handled it afterwards that rubs me the wrong way. When he came forward, it wasn’t because he was feeling guilty about it. He wasn’t losing sleep at night over it. He came forward because Renault were going to axe him, and swiftly. Even the threat of having their dirty secrets come to light wasn’t enough to make them hesitate in dropping him (the only reason why they didn’t drop him after the Nurburgring was because Piquet’s contract said he could not be dropped on the grounds of performance unless he and Alonso had equal cars, and Alonso was carrying an upgrade in Germany). Piquet came forward for all the wrong reasons – anger, spite, malice and petty revenge. He wasn’t owning up to anything; he was cutting people down because of his own shortcomings on the track.

        1. Maybe he does deserve a shred of sympathy for the position he was put in.

          Perhaps, but I’m not a big softy like you :-)

          1. I’m no softy. I might have a shred of sympathy for him, but it’s like taking a cup of water out of the ocean. That’s how small my shred of sympathy is. And whatever symapthy I had for him was obliterated when he tried to extort a drive out of Renault with it.

            Now that he has spoken, let’s just bury the memory of the whole sordid affair. Let’s just go down to the pub and drink until we forget it ever happened.

        2. That was the take i was going for, far more eloquent than me PM

        3. You don’t know why he came forward, nor do I, but I’ve always thought it was because he spilled the beans to his father after he was dropped and it was Snr who went after them. Jnr appears far too timid to want to square up to Briatore in court, and as I remember it it was Snr who did most of the talking for him when the story came to light.

        4. My feelings exactly.

          He didn’t come forward for the right reasons. Had Renault not axed him no one would have ever known.

      4. Seems much more like a classic case of the one who gives the order vs. the one who pulls the trigger, though that is after a reading of Piquet’s take on the matter which makes his case sound more sympathetic.

      5. Co-conspirator maybe, but I seriously doubt he was the mastermind. He was wrong to go along with the plan but as others have pointed out life would probably have been very difficult for him afterwards. I think he thought he was helping the team and securing his own future but really was being used as a pawn.

  10. On ESPN the interview can be read without subscription.

    I felt in control of the car throughout the crash.

    (nice to know he felt in control… for once)

    1. Haha, he’d had plenty of practice at crashing by then, and had only been in control of the crash for some of the previous ones.

      It’s a pity – and a bit of a PR disaster – for Renault that their F1 involvement’s ending with a combination of this and the Lotus mess – when Boullier, Kubica and the rest have done a really rather good job on the track.

      1. Adam