x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Ecclestone surprised by 'deliberate crash' claims

The F1 rights holder warns of the consequences following Renault's crash investigation from last year's Singapore Grand Prix.

Nelson Piquet Jr crashes into a wall during the Singapore Grand Prix last year.
Nelson Piquet Jr crashes into a wall during the Singapore Grand Prix last year.

Bernie Ecclestone, the rights holder of Formula One, has warned there will be serious consequences for anyone found guilty in an investigation into whether a driver deliberately crashed to help a teammate. Renault and Nelson Piquet Jr, their former driver, are being investigated after Piquet's crash at the Singapore Grand Prix last year.

The Brazilian driver hit a wall on lap 14, bringing out the safety car. It has been alleged that this was done deliberately in order to help his teammate Fernando Alonso. The FIA, motorsport's governing body, has launched an inquiry and if they find sufficient evidence, the case will go to the World Motor Sport Council who could punish guilty parties with fines, race bans or even expulsion from the championship.

Ecclestone said Flavio Briatore, the Renault team principal, knows nothing of the claim and it could upset them enough to withdraw from F1. But he also said that if the investigation does uncover any wrong-doing, strong action will be taken. "The FIA has launched a thorough investigation into the allegations about Nelson," he said. "I do not know if they are true or not. But if they are true then I would have thought Nelson was in just as much trouble. If I tell you to go and rob a bank and you get caught you can't say, 'Well Bernie told me to'.

"It all seems very strange to me and I do not know the truth. If the investigation finds out that is what happened then I think there is going to be a lot of trouble. "You hear of these things happening with jockeys and in football and it has led to all sorts of trouble, hasn't it? If it is true then it is a very serious situation." Piquet was sacked by Renault last month. The driver complained about unequal treatment by Briatore compared to his two-time world champion teammate.

Meanwhile Ferrari say Felipe Massa has passed his latest medical tests and is well on the way to being ready for the start of next season's championship. The Brazilian, who suffered a fractured skull after a crash in qualifying for July's Hungarian Grand Prix, underwent neurological and vision tests in Miami following a visit with racing injuries specialist Steve Olvey. "After the small cranium surgery that I will have done in the next few days I can finally start working out a little in the gym to get back in form, and then I can start some kart training," he said.

"When will I be back on a Formula One track? Let's take one step at a time. Right now I'm just focused on starting physical activity again, which is a big step forward." While he is still hoping to compete at his home Grand Prix in Sao Paulo on October 18 and then Abu Dhabi on November 1, Ferrari are reluctant to set a date for his comeback. The Italian team are said to be considering Giancarlo Fisichella, the Force India driver, and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica for short-term roles following the disappointing performances of Luca Badoer, who was promoted from test driver to deputise for Massa.

akhan@thenational.ae