Nelson Piquet, Sr is now modifying his earlier claim that Fernando Alonso was fully aware of the plan allegedly put in motion by Flavio Briatore and Pay Symonds at Singapore last year to have Nelson Piquet, Jr deliberately crash out of the race to bring out a Safety Car.
While Piquet, Sr had previously stated unequivocally that Alonso had had knowledge of the scheme prior to the race, he has now softened that statement, according to a report in The Telegraph, to separate what he actually knows from what he merely assumes.
“All I said was that an intelligent driver like Alonso would ask questions if his team told him to come in to pit after 12 laps from 15th on the grid,” Piquet said. “As a driver I would have suspected something, so I can imagine only with difficulty that Fernando didn’t know anything.”
According to another report, published in The Daily Mirror, Piquet claims that he first approached the FIA on the matter eight months ago in a discussion with Formula 1 Race Director Charlie Whiting at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix. The transcript below reveals Piquet’s remarks to Martin Smith, an operative with the private agency Quest.
PIQUET: Anyway, well I was very… when this thing happened in Singapore I couldn’t believe it. I’d done motor racing for all my life.
I couldn’t believe this thing. And after I called Nelson and Nelson said yes they asked me if I could help and this and that. I said ‘but you could have hurt yourself and if you didn’t hurt yourself you could have hurt somebody else’ and he said ‘yeah, I know it’s wrong’ but anyway.
Anyway in Brazil I talk to Charlie…
SMITH: Mm, mm.
PIQUET: I got him and I said ‘look what could happen to Nelson if I bring this up?’ And I was afraid to screw up the career of Nelson.
PIQUET: I keep myself quiet. That was my big mistake.
SMITH: When you, just to go back a little bit, Nelson, when did you find out first what had happened? Did Felipe (Vargas) tell you?
PIQUET (inaudible): I think the next day or maybe two days after the race… I was glad that he didn’t hurt himself or nothing but in the race in Brazil I called Charlie and I told the whole story to Charlie.
Piquet and Whiting are old friends. Whiting had once worked as Piquet’s race mechanic. However, rather than making a formal accusation, it seems as though Piquet approached Whiting in a personal capacity, as a friend asking for advice. Piquet doesn’t indicate, according to the transcript, what sort of advice Whiting gave him, but he does admit that he didn’t make any further effort to advance formal charges at that time. “I keep myself quiet,” he said. Presumably, he was willing to do so as long as he thought going public might jeopardize his son’s career. However, once it seemed that Nelson, Jr had little career left to jeopardize, the gloves came off.
Piquet is no stranger to creating a public media stir to further his own agenda. He did this during his years as a driver, when locked in internal political tussles at Williams, with Nigel Mansell as his team mate. It’s clear that he’s been willing to use the same bag of tricks in the Crashgate saga. He’s thrown accusations at everyone possible, including Alonso, while portraying his son as a victim. But at the end of the day, if the allegations are true, it was Piquet, Jr who actually executed the plan with a deliberate crash. Even if the scheme was initially hatched by Briatore and Symonds, if Piquet, Jr had had a reliable ethical compass, or half a brain, he would have told them to take a flying leap. But that didn’t happen. And so the driver is as guilty as the other participants in this tawdry tale.
Image by Stu Seeger, licensed through Creative Commons.