It’s been labeled the worst act of cheating in the history of sport. Renault’s Formula One motor racing team is not contesting the allegation that one of its drivers, Nelson Piquet Jr., was instructed to crash at the Singapore Grand Prix last year. The aim of the act was to cause a delay to the race, which would allow Renault’s other driver, Fernando Alonso, to benefit from the sport’s safety procedures and claw his way back up the standings. The crash was suspiciously well timed, occurring just two laps after Alonso had pulled in for a routine pit stop — so when the debris from the crash was cleared, he was the only front runner who didn’t have to stop for fuel and new tires. Alonso took the checkered flag, giving the team its first victory in two years.
The story — inevitably dubbed “Crashgate” — came to light when the team dropped Piquet after July’s Hungary Grand Prix and the Brazilian driver turned whistle-blower on the sordid affair. Renault’s initial response was to accuse the 24-year-old and his father Nelson Piquet of false allegations and blackmail, but then team boss Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds left the team, which appeared before the FIA governing body in Paris on Monday, Sept. 21, to answer the charges. Renault was given a two-year suspended ban, with Briatore banned from FIA-sanctioned events for an unlimited period and Symonds excluded from F1 for five years. Whether the sport, which has gone through a series of dramas in recent months, can ever recover remains unclear.