With the most recent revelations about the allegations surrounding Renault, all is becoming clear. It is just another one of Max Mosley’s power games — his parting shot, if you will. Having dispensed with enemy number one, Ron Dennis, earlier on in the year, Mosley has moved on to target number two: Flavio Briatore.
This is the inescapable conclusion one reaches when digesting the fact that Pat Symonds has been offered immunity if he “tells the truth” or, perhaps more accurately, in return for landing Flav in the shit whether it’s true or not. The scheme seems particularly odd given that most of the evidence thus far appears to implicate only Nelsinho Piquet and Pat Symonds for concocting any scheme that may have existed.
Even Piquet himself in his statement to the FIA seems reticent to directly accuse Flavio Briatore of concocting a conspiracy. Piquet only talks about Briatore’s presence in a meeting in which Symonds and Piquet discuss the crash strategy:
The proposal to deliberately cause an accident was made to me shortly before the race took place, when I was summoned by Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds in Mr. Briatore’s office. 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”.
Instead, Nelsinho Piquet’s ire for Briatore is based on the fact that Briatore was reluctant to renew his contract. Boo hoo! Martin Brundle isn’t terribly impressed with that line of reasoning:
His rationale is that his contractual option hadn’t been taken the previous month so he was stressed and wanted to please the team. Try waiting the whole winter to sign a race-by-race contract days before the first grand prix of the season — that’s stress, but still not enough to crash a car intentionally.
I must agree with this. Normally, I would think that the normal course of action for a driver trying to renew his contract would be to improve his performances, not go around deliberately crashing.
For me, the only smoking gun we have seen so far is the reluctance of Pat Symonds to answer some of the questions the FIA investigators asked him. He was very reticent to discuss any plans he may have made with Piquet, while at the same time the idea was discussed. Symonds says it was Piquet who came up with the idea, while Piquet alleges that Symonds went as far as to specify on which lap and corner Piquet should crash.
Other evidence is inconclusive. The telemetry, which reveals that Piquet instinctively lifted but later applied full throttle while his rear wheels were spinning during the crash, is described by Symonds as “very unusual data”. But Piquet was no stranger to crashing. Meanwhile, the pit wall communications reveal little interesting, apart from an anxiety on the part of Piquet to know which lap he was on, and the fact that the team was concerned about Piquet’s condition following the crash.
So the evidence so far is that Piquet claims to have deliberately caused a crash. Symonds has acknowledged that a discussion took place, but refuses to talk any more about it. So where does Briatore fit in with all this?
We are now in the ludicrous situation where the two people who appear to be implicated the most have been offered immunity. Of those accused, that leaves just Briatore, against whom there appears to be very little evidence. It is surely not a coincidence that Max Mosley sees Flavio Briatore as an enemy.
There are other interesting aspects about the FIA’s behaviour over this scandal. Despite Max Mosley’s claim that he is greatly concerned about the leaks, The Times‘s Ed Gorman reveals that all of these leaks have come from the FIA! That newspaper would know — it is a common leaking outlet for both Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone.
Surely, Ed Gorman suggests, it is no coincidence that this entire scandal has overshadowed Ari Vatanen’s campaign to become FIA President. Mosley has made no secret of the fact that he would prefer his ally Jean Todt to replace him in the role, plumbing even his already-extraordinarily low depths to endorse Todt on FIA letterhead.
Vatanen has struggled to make headway in the media against the weight of the Mosley/Todt machine and recently his efforts to have his voice heard have been drowned out by leaks on the Renault case, widely thought to be from the FIA, and by strategically placed FIA announcements on the scandal.
I have to confess that I am not convinced by Ari Vatanen. To me, he seems like a failed MEP who is seeking attention and looking for a new purpose in life. His campaign has seemed ill-prepared in comparison to Jean Todt who has clearly been waiting to fill this role for a very long time. But what Todt has going against him is his anti-sporting record while at Peugeot and Ferrari, and the fact that his campaign has been unfairly advantaged by the FIA, which appears to be corrupt from tip to toe.
This is all turning out to be very convenient for the Mosley–Todt camp. Mosley has spent much of the past year trying to edge the manufacturers out of F1 (mere years after he lambasted the Williams-style model which he now apparently thinks is the life and soul of the sport!). He is clearly not good friends with Briatore, and is doing his very best to bring Briatore down. Very interesting that this comes mere months after he successfully brought Ron Dennis down, as though Mosley realised that this year was his last chance to do it. The Todt advantage is the icing on the cake.
I really am sick of the FIA. If an actual government behaved like this, there would be riots on the streets.