Renault Race Fixing…

We all know by now that Renault have effectively entered a plea of nolo contendere regarding the upcoming “trial” over their race-fixing in Singapore last year. They’re apparently hoping that, by shedding Briatore and Symonds, they’ll be treated more leniently by the FIA. But should they be?

I don’t believe they should. Just as McLaren were held corporately responsible for the actions of just a couple of people – and there was never any evidence that they derived any benefit from the affair, unlike Renault in Singapore – so Renault should be held responsible too.

Given that not only did their driver, Alonso, win the race (and just how culpable, if at all, was he?), Renault’s actions can be argued to have materially affected the outcome of the world championship (though there is no certainty of that). They also put at risk the life of their own driver, Piquet and, potentially, the lives of other drivers, too.

Their punishment must not just reflect the severity of the offence, but must serve as a deterrent to anyone else with similar ambitions. The punishment has, therefore, to be substantially more severe than McLaren’s, whose offence, in real terms (had it not been insanely ramped up by Ferrari and motormouth Mosley), was little different to the “spying” that goes on in the pit lane at every race, or when a driver switches teams (non-disclosure agreements are worth squat).

The result of the race has to stand – changing it by retrospectively disqualifying Alonso would cause chaos, and would set an appalling precedent. As well as being heavily fined, Renault should lose all constructors’ points from this season, though, and Alonso, if found to be involved at any level, should also lose his points for this season. At least. A fine may also be appropriate. There is no point at all in penalising whoever else might be driving for Renault this time next week, back at Singapore. Indeed, as both the team principal and chief engineer are in the wind, it may well be impossible for Renault to race at Singapore.

The fact that Symonds got the push and Briatore quit counts for very little – it does not change what happened in Singapore last year by one iota, nor does in minimise Renault’s corporate responsibility for the actions of its employees.

If, however, Renault walk away from this with little more than a slapped wrist, it would be an affront to justice and demonstrate – as if it were needed – that McLaren’s punishment was motivated more by personal animosity than by the needs of justice.