The Crashgate saga appears to have come to an end. Renault have been handed a two-year suspended ban from the sport for their inadvertent participation in the conspiracy. Engineering head Pat Symonds has been ousted from the sport for five years, and team boss Flavio Briatore has been banned permanently.
To many, this seems like a slap on the wrist as far as Renault is concerned. Compare this to the judgment against McLaren two years ago, when the receieved a $100 million fine in the wake of the Stepneygate scandal. But conditions are different now. The world economy has clumped, Honda and BMW have left or are in the process of leaving the sport, and there are speculations that both Toyota and Renault could soon follow. This could see a sport that was dominated by manufacturers two years ago return to the realm of privateers (kudos to Williams for sticking it out during the manufacturuers era).
With so many once and future defectors, it’s certainly understandable that the FIA would decide to handle this issue with kid gloves. They can’t afford to lose Renault right now, if it can be helped. The tow year ban recognizes the wrongdoing (although it happened at the team director level, rather than in the board room), and the suspension recgnizes the need to get on with life, and rebuild the sport before it self-implodes.
In addition to his ban as team boss, it appears that Briatore will also lose the right to manage various F1 drivers currently on the grid. Specifically, any driver who is associated with Briatore will not be granted a superlicense. This will be a substantial loss to Briatore, who currently manages Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen, among others.
There has been some talk that Briatore might try to establish a rival series, but if he’s destroyed his credibility in F1, it hardly seems likely that he would find much support in a startup alternative to Formula 1.
There has also been some speculation that Briatore might be forced to relinquish his share of ownership in the British football team the Queen’s Park Rangers, co-owned by FOCA supremo Bernie Ecclestone. (Is there no end of conflict of interest in this sport?)
In the end, it is difficult to understand why Biratore, if in fact he was guilty as charged, was willing to risk so much for what was, relativley speaking, so little.
Image by Depista, licensed through Creative Commons.