Nelson Piquet Jr, the driver at the centre of the "Crashgate" race-fixing storm, is fortunate to have escaped punishment from the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC), according to the vice president for sport at Formula One's governing body. Renault were yesterday handed a two-year suspended ban from F1 by the Federation Internationale de 'l Automobile (FIA) for their part in the incident that enabled Fernando Alonso to win the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix following a deliberate crash by Piquet Jr, his Brazilian teammate.
The WMSC also handed recently departed team principal Flavio Briatore an "unlimited" FIA ban while former chief engineer Pat Symonds received a five-year ban. Piquet Jr, who was sacked in August by the French team, was given immunity from prosecution in return for supplying precise details of how the crash was manufactured. "I'm not happy Piquet got away with it," said Mohammed ben Sulayem. "If you give someone a knife and they attack, it is still their fault. If I asked you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?
"He has orders. Either to win or help his team, but always to show the team in the best way. He didn't do it." Ben Sulayem's displeasure at Piquet Jr's escape mirrors criticism from Carlos Gracia, the head of the Spanish motorsport federation, who questioned the FIA decision to grant him immunity. "This kid, if it was up to me, wouldn't be allowed to walk blind people on the sidewalk," Gracia told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. "He should also be prosecuted in an ordinary court."
Alonso, who attended the hearing in Paris yesterday, was cleared of any involvement in the race-fixing scheme. An FIA statement thanked him "for co-operating with enquiries" and concluded he "was not in any way involved in Renault F1's breach of the regulations". The FIA president Max Mosley felt "the blame has been placed where it should be placed and it's the right decision". Ben Sulayem has now urged all parties to put the sport's latest controversy behind them and focus on rebuilding F1's tarnished image.
"Let's go forward," said ben Sulayem. "We need stability and harmony in Formula One." firstname.lastname@example.org