PARIS // The Renault team has been handed a two-year suspended ban from the Formula One world championship after admitting to race-fixing, the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) say today. The French manufacturer had said it would not contest accusations the team ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr to crash his car into a wall at last year's Singapore Grand Prix so that Spanish team mate Fernando Alonso might win. "Renault F1's breaches not only compromised the integrity of the sport but also endangered the lives of spectators, officials, other competitors and Nelson Piquet Jr himself," a FIA statement said. "The World Motor Sport Council considers that offenses of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship. "However, having regard to the points in mitigation mentioned above and in particular the steps taken by Renault F1 to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved, the WMSC has decided to suspend Renault F1's disqualification until the end of the 2011 season."
The FIA has effectively handed Flavio Briatore a lifetime ban from motor sport, as well as determining he should not manage any drivers. There are currently four prominent F1 stars in his stable. The flamboyant Italian insisted no wrongdoing took place during last year's race in Singapore, but the council decided he was "complicit", also ruling that he continued "to deny his participation in the breach despite all the evidence". Pat Symonds, who resigned from his role as the team's executive director of engineering last week, has been handed a five-year ban from motor sport. Following the hearing at the FIA headquarters in Paris, the WMSC gave Symonds a more lenient sentence than Briatore as he accepted his part in the conspiracy, as well as communicating to the 26 members of the council that he participated in the event to his "eternal regret and shame". The Renault team president Bernard Rey gave no response to a question about whether Renault would stay in the sport next season. "We apologized in front of the World Motor Sport Council," Rey said. "We took full responsibility and we hope that we will enjoy better days in the future." Piquet was ordered to crash at last year's Singapore Grand Prix to help teammate Fernando Alonso win. Alonso, who attended the hearing in Paris, was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Describing the action taken against Briatore, a FIA statement read: "The World Motor Sport Council declares that, for an unlimited period, the FIA does not intend to sanction any international event, championship, cup, trophy, challenge or series involving Mr Briatore in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any team or other entity engaging Mr Briatore in any capacity whatsoever. "It also hereby instructs all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr Briatore access to any areas under the FIA's jurisdiction. "Furthermore, it does not intend to renew any Superlicence granted to any driver who is associated (through a management contract or otherwise) with Mr Briatore, or any entity or individual associated with Mr Briatore. "In determining that such instructions should be applicable for an unlimited period, the World Motor Sport Council has had regard not only to the severity of the breach in which Mr Briatore was complicit, but also to his actions in continuing to deny his participation in the breach despite all the evidence." Briatore currently has management contracts with Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen, Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean and Piquet Jnr. To aid their case, Renault made the following points in mitigation: It accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and co-operated fully with the FIA's investigation. It confirmed Mr Briatore and Mr Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team. It apologised unreservedly to the FIA and to the sport for the harm caused by its actions. It is committed to paying the costs incurred by the FIA in its investigation. Renault, the parent company, as opposed to Renault F1, is committed to making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects. Following the hearing, a Renault statement read: "We are very sad to find ourselves in front of the World Motor Sport Council today. "By way of background, as a result of our own enquiries, we informed the FIA last week that we would not defend the charges and we accepted our responsibilities in relation to the incident in Singapore and we immediately took appropriate action inside the team. "Today, we fully accept the decision of the council. We apologise unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. "We sincerely hope we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future. We will issue further information in the next few days." The WMSC also confirmed the immunity from individual sanctions granted to Piquet Jr, who apologised unreservedly for his part in the conspiracy, in exchange for volunteering his evidence. With regards to Alonso, who went on to win the race on September 28 last year, the council thanked the double world champion for co-operating with the FIA's enquiries and for attending the meeting. The council concluded Alonso was not in any way involved in Renault F1's breach of the regulations. Speaking after the hearing in relation to the penalty, Mosley said: "I think it's the right decision. "I think the blame has been placed where the blame should be placed. "The penalty we have imposed is the harshest one we can inflict, which is disqualification, and it is complete expulsion from the sport. "However, because Renault have demonstrated they had absolutely no moral responsibility for what took place that's to say Renault F1 the team didn't know, and still less of course the company it would be wrong in the circumstances to impose an immediate penalty." As to Briatore, Mosley added: "It's sad because he's been in motor sport for 20 years, more actually. "It's sad to see a career end like that, but what else could we do?" With regard Renault's future in F1, when asked whether they would remain in the sport, as they are committed to do through to the end of 2012, Mosley issued a firm "yes". * Agencies