According to recent news reports, either Nelson Piquet, Jr., or someone in his immediate circle, is the source for allegations in the current “Crashgate” investigation. The FIA have hired Quest, a private intelligence agency, to investigate the matter.
As reported earlier, several key figures from the team have already been interviewed on the matter, including tech director Pat Symonds, team principal Flavio Briatore and lead driver Fernando Alonso. In addition to completing interrogations, investigators are also combing through Piquet’s car telemetry and radio transmissions from the Singapore GP.
Should evidence substantiate these allegations, Renault would be found in severe breech of F1 sporting regulations. While this might cost them a hefty fine (recall that McLaren was fined $100 million dollars in the wake of the “Stepneygate” scandal), a more likely result might be an expulsion from this year’s championship, if not a permanent ban from the sport.
While the investigation seems to be gathering momentum, to many observers the charges do not seem credible. Ethical questions aside, a deliberate crash is an act that could have posed a physical danger to both Piquet and other drivers on the track. Moreover, the cost of such a ploy, should it be discovered, would clearly outweigh the benefits. Why would Renault undertake such risks in light of the fact they were, by no stretch of the imagination, in contention for either the driver’s or the manufacturer’s title in 2008?
Improbable or not, the FIA have taken the allegations seriously enough to incur the cost of hiring a third party agency to handle the investigation. It remains to be seen if the charges have real merit, or are merely a case of very sour Brazilian grapes.