Renault face race-fixing allegations over last year’s Singapore F1 – UPDATE and admission of guilt

Alonso follows Piquet during qualifying for the 2008 Singapore GP
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Renault face an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris later this month to answer charges of potential race-fixing.

The allegation surrounds last season’s Singapore Formula One Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso won the race, aided by a crash from then team-mate Nelson Piquet Jnr.

If found guilty, the team face severe sanctions which could result in them being excluded from the current world championship.

“The team representatives have been called to answer charges, including a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, that the team conspired with its driver, Nelson Piquet Jr, to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix with the aim of causing the deployment of the safety car to the advantage of its other driver, Fernando Alonso…”

Intriguingly, Renault had opted to fuel Alonso short for his first stint, a bizarre tactic when starting so far down and on a typical street track where it is notoriously difficult to pass…

At the time suspicions were roused, in particular by Felipe Massa who is understood to have confronted Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, accusing him of engineering the crash…

Only recently Piquet was sacked by the team, with the suggestion it is the 24-year-old, or his father and manager Nelson Piquet snr, who has since blown the whistle, prompting an investigation, and now subsequent hearing.

The politics of F1, the FIA and international motorsports grow more Byzantine – not less – every year.

Most years, when something this absurd happens – it’s a spur of the moment act of rash passion – often involving drivers who are neck and neck for the title. This piece of crap – if true – is truly nefarious.

UPDATED: Keeping French lawyers employed may not be especially useful; but, Renault is suing Nelson Piquet, Jr and his dad.

Here’s the important UPDATE: Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have stepped down from their posts after Renault decided not to dispute allegations that the team ordered former driver Nelson Piquet Junior to crash deliberately at last year’s Singapore grand prix.

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics – Wow!

Click on photo for video – and click on HD!

We were as shocked as anyone when BMW announced it was quitting Formula 1 to devote more resources to developing cleaner, greener automobiles. [Not as shocked as Mario Thyssen, I’ll bet!] There was some skepticism, but BMW wasn’t blowing green smoke. It’s serious about building eco-friendlier pavement-peeling cars.

First up is a slick 356-horsepower all-wheel-drive plug-in diesel-hybrid concept that BMW claims accelerates like an M3, sips gas like a Toyota Prius and can go 31 miles on battery power alone. It’s called the Vision Efficientdynamics Concept, and we’ll see it later this month at the Frankfurt auto show…

The EfficientDynamics is a 2+2 four-door hybrid that combines M Series performance with better fuel efficiency and less emissions than you see in many compacts. BMW performs this magic by marrying its ActiveHybrid technology with an extremely economical engine and excellent aerodynamics. The result is a concept car with a top speed governed at 155 mph and a zero-to-62 acceleration time of 4.8 seconds. More impressive, the car gets 62.2 mpg and emits a Prius-like 99 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

RTFA for details and specifications.

Yes, I want one, too.

Renault agree with Ferrari and threaten to quit Formula One

Hey, at least QPR is in the top half of the table…

Renault have today joined forces with Ferrari by confirming their intention to withdraw from the 2010 formula one world championship unless recently-adopted regulations are revised. The motor sport’s world governing body, the FIA, and its president Max Mosley, now face critical talks with all the teams if they are to save the sport.

The Renault president, Bernard Rey, said: “We remain committed to the sport, however we cannot be involved in a championship operating with different sets of rules, and if such rules are put into effect, we will be forced to pull out at the end of this season.”

The Renault team boss, Flavio Briatore, added: “Our aim is to reduce costs while maintaining the high standards that make formula one one of the most prestigious brands on the market. We want to achieve this in a co-ordinated manner with the regulatory and commercial bodies, and we refuse to accept unilateral governance handed out by the FIA. If the decisions announced by the World Council on the 29th of April 2009 are not revised, we have no choice but to withdraw from the FIA formula one world championship at the end of 2009.”

If Mosley and Bernie don’t get their act together, I presume the manufacturers will pull together their own series of circuits and racing schedule – and that’s that.

Most lifetime gearheads like me will follow the talent – not the bureaucrats.

Button – Barrichello – Brawn dominate the Spanish GP – UPDATED

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Jenson Button’s superb season continued as he grabbed his fourth 2009 race win out of five at a tactical Spanish Grand Prix which Brawn GP totally dominated.

Team-mate Rubens Barrichello got past pole-sitter Button with a great start – but a strategy change benefited the Englishman, who pushed him into second.

Subtle complicity here. If a suggestion from Ross Brawn can ever be considered subtle.

Now, a day after the race, I think the details on lap times make it clear there were no team orders.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who passed Felipe Massa’s Ferrari late on.

McLaren’s world champion Lewis Hamilton finished outside the points in ninth.

Massa ran third for much of the race, holding up Vettel’s faster Red Bull, but the Brazilian lost the place to Webber at the second pit stops thanks to clever strategy from Red Bull.

Massa then slipped down to sixth behind Vettel and Renault’s Fernando Alonso in the closing laps when the Brazilian was forced to go into fuel-saving mode when a problem at his pit stop meant not enough fuel was put into his car.

BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Williams’s Nico Rosberg finished seventh and eighth in the final points positions.

With a win that never looked in doubt after he had built up more than 11 seconds between his car and the rest of the field half-way through the race, Button has further stretched his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship and now sits 14 points ahead of Barrichello…

The sixth race of the season takes place on the street circuit of Monaco in two weeks’ time on 24 May.

Monaco – so difficult, so important to the history of motorsport, a feather in the cap of any driver good enough – and fortunate enough – to win there. There will be a TV breakfast party at our home. 🙂

Brawn, Button, Barrichello all winners at Oz Gran Prix – UPDATED

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Jenson Button says he and teammate Rubens Barrichello will not be underestimating their F1 rivals after a triumphant 1-2 in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The Brawn GP pair dominated Sunday’s race at Albert Park, leading many to predict they will take a stranglehold on this season’s title race.

Who’s predicting that? Some ninny who never follows Formula One?

But Melbourne winner Button is warning against complacency…

“Rubens and I are both going to be very competitive, pushing each other very hard. But I’ve a feeling other teams are going to be on us very quickly, and when we get to a different type of circuit, maybe in Malaysia, some other cars which weren’t so competitive here will be.”

Sunday’s sweep of the first two places completed a fairytale recovery for a team which was rescued from bankruptcy by Ross Brawn and team chief Nick Fry after Honda pulled out of F1 late last year.

Not since 1954, when legendary five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio led home Karl Kling for Mercedes in the French Grand Prix, has a team taken the top two places on their debut.

An exciting race. Including the disastrous crash 2 laps from the finish that took out Kubica and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton was moved to 3rd after a penalty on Trulli for passing while the safety car was out.

Could be a hell of a season.

UPDATE: FIA back to normal, reversing earlier ruling on Trulli – DQ for Lewis Hamilton and reinstating Trulli’s 3rd place.

Button, Barrichello and Brawn head the grid in Australia

Jensen Button during practice in Australia. Yup, slicks are back.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Britain’s Jenson Button claimed pole position for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne — leading a sweep of the front row for Formula One new boys Brawn GP. Button edged out teammate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil by three hundredths of a second to claim the fourth pole of his career…

But Saturday’s qualifying provided little cheer for reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will have to start from 18th in the grid. Hamilton struggled to the 15th best time but was relegated to the very rear of the grid because the gearbox in his McLaren had to be changed.

He later gained a partial reprieve as the Toyotas of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli were penalized for a technical infringement with the rear wings of their cars…

Like McLaren, Ferrari were also off the pace with Felipe Massa qualifying seventh best and Kimi Raikkonen in ninth, although both will move up a place after the punishment meted out to Toyota by race stewards.

It is the first time in 38 races that neither a Ferrari or McLaren is on the front row for a grand prix.

Sebastian Vettel will start from third on the grid on his debut for Red Bull, with Robert Kubica also performing superbly for BMW Sauber — the Pole joining the promising young German on the second row…

Button will be aiming for the second victory of his 154 grand prix career in a remarkable reversal of fortunes for the former Honda team whose future looked bleak when the Japanese car manufacturer pulled out of the sport late last year blaming the global economic downturn. But a management buyout led by technical guru Ross Brawn rescued the team and secured drives for Button and Barrichello.

Exciting as all hell. Even though I’m a McLaren and Hamilton fan, it’s a gas to see Ross Brawn pull off a season start like this one.

Ferrari boss smashed TV after F1 finale

He beat us by this much…”
Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo smashed a television set after seeing McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton snatch the Formula One world title from Felipe Massa in last weekend’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

“I broke the television, I must tell the truth,” Montezemolo told a news conference at a Ferrari event in Mugello on Sunday.

“When a television breaks it makes a terrible bang. My daughter in the other room was given an awful fright. Luckily we had another television so I was able to watch the podium ceremony, which I enjoyed.”

Ferrari’s Massa won his home grand prix and was poised for championship victory before Hamilton overtook a slowing Timo Glock on the final bend to finish in the fifth place he needed to clinch the title.

“I reckon that in the history of F1, we have never seen a world championship decided on the last bend of the last lap of the last grand prix,” added Montezemolo, who saw Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen steal the title last season in the final race.

Miracles, when they happen, usually only happen once. I say that because last year was a miracle. A repeat is usually impossible. In Brazil, with Massa, we were in the process of producing another miracle.”

I admit it. I replayed the DVR several times just to be certain Lewis Hamilton won. We were celebrating at our house.

Lewis Hamilton – the youngest champion in Formula One history

Photo by Daylife/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton became the youngest world champion in Formula One history by the skin of his teeth after a nail-biting Brazilian Grand Prix.

The English McLaren driver’s title rival Felipe Massa won the race in his Ferrari but Hamilton grabbed the fifth place he needed – at the last corner.

A late-race rain shower looked to have cost Hamilton the title when he dropped to sixth after a stop for wet tyres.

But he passed Toyota’s Timo Glock as they entered the pit straight.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso, the previous youngest champion, was second ahead of Massa’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel.

The article can’t capture the anxiety and tense anticipation of that last lap.

My wife and I are fans of Lewis Hamilton [and McLaren]. I had to stop the DVR and replay those last 20 or 30 seconds a couple of times just to be certain Lewis had gotten that 5th place needed for the world championship.

Massa and Ferrari were inspired these past few races – even without the micro-managing of the FIA. One of the best seasons I’ve ever witnessed. And I’ve followed most of them.

Hamilton leads the F1 drivers point – once again – after Hockenheim

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton overtook an ill-timed safety car period by passing his main rivals on the track to post a brilliant victory in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, only two weeks after shining in the wet in the British GP at Silverstone.

That same safety car period, provoked by a heavy crash by Timo Glock on the pit straight, played well into the hands of Renault rookie Nelson Piquet, who benefited from a one-stop strategy to score his maiden Formula 1 podium finish. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was third.

The McLaren pit strategy was useless – only succeeding in putting Hamilton behind with awful timing.

The McLaren man returned in sixth as Piquet jumped to the lead when Heidfeld also had to pit under green. Driving brilliantly, though, Hamilton began disposing of the competition, first with ease – teammate Heikki Kovalainen – then with determined moves on Massa, on lap 55, and Piquet two laps later, both at the hairpin at the end of the main straight.

Then, finally, it was smooth sailing for another masterful win by Hamilton, who now leads the championship with no company at 58 points. Massa is second with 54, while Raikkonen’s sixth-place result boosted the Finn to 51. Kubica earned two points from seventh and now tallies 48.

Hamilton’s pass on Massa was an exercise in skill and bravery. His pass on Piquet was as impressive; but, not as challenging. It was definitely a higher priority for Piquet to get that Renault through to a podium finish.

Read the article – it has all the details and more.