James Corrigan: F1 shame will be complete with Renault cop-out
The Last Word: Piquet Jnr should be banned for life and his team thrown out for good. But expect both to be let off
Sunday 20 September 2009
The "greatest act of cheating in the history of sport" will likely lead to "the greatest act of copping-out in the history of sport".
The suspicion is Renault will not be banned at the World Motor Sport Council hearing tomorrow. And the reasons why will be exactly the same as the reasons why Nelson Piquet Jnr was ordered to crash his car in last year's Singapore Grand Prix. Greed, self-interest, ego (fill in your own capitalist insult here).
It's simple really. The Formula One grid is becoming worryingly short of "grandee names" and the officials do not wish to lose another in Renault. This is the deeply ironic fashion in which the governing body will claim to be protecting the sport's future. In many ways it will be the gross conclusion this gross episode deserves. Let them govern – or as it will be, "not govern" – their sordid games. Let the world turn off in disgust.
Was this act of cheating truly that bad, as bad as the hysterical "greatest" epithet suggested? Very probably yes; just because of how many people were involved and how much these people were concentrating on their own little existences with no concern to the safety of so many others. Of course, Flavio Briatore, the team's principal, and Pat Symonds, his sidekick, have been named as the guilty men and have walked before having to face the music; just as guilty men tend to. But no one is innocent. Not the young driver himself. Not even the concerned father.
Piquet Jnr should never be allowed to race again, whatever levels of immunity he has been promised. That may seem harsh on a wannabe so desperate to keep his ride. But he is 24; he is not a boy. He had the power to say no and chose not to. The message must go out to drivers that they, alone, are in charge of their actions when it comes to transgressing the rules of the race. Without their compliance, the arch-schemers would be left with only the embarrassment of their evil intentions.
To this end it is clear that F1 must implement a whistle-blowing procedure immediately. But then, as the race steward, Charlie Whiting, knew some eight months before the incident came to light, one may rightly wonder who could be trusted in such a role.
This is where Piquet Snr was in the wrong. He claims to have told Whiting about the Singapore fix in Brazil last November, but did nothing about it because "I was afraid to screw up the career of Nelson". Indeed, it was only when the career of Nelson was screwed up – i.e. when Renault had dropped him – that the Piquets spoke up officially. The suspicion must be that if Briatore had retained the Brazilian then the affair might never have come to light. Yes, everywhere in "Crashgate" there is a wreckage where an ethic should be.
Even the F1 has-beens who were asked to comment on the controversy have only added to the depressing sense of depravity. Eddie Irvine actually suggested it had been blown out of proportion. "Formula One has always been a war and in war all is fair," said the privileged millionaire who should be dispatched to a frontline forthwith. David Coulthard's reaction was thankfully more measured but he still had the effrontery to draw comparisons with a footballer diving. "At least in F1 we hit the culprits hard ... we deal with these things," he said. "Briatore and Symonds have paid with their heads. You look at football – Eduardo has just been let off the hook. Where is the integrity there?"
They just don't get it, do they? The difference between a man flopping on to a piece of unoccupied turf and a man crashing into the wall at high speed with competitors and marshals all around him really doesn't require lengthy argument anywhere but the most inebriated of saloons. And "dealing with things?" F1 hasn't dealt with anything yet.
They have the chance to in Paris tomorrow and if they were to throw Renault out of F1 for good then they would at least be matching the punishment to the crime. But they won't. A hefty fine. That old devil called money is the answer for everything in this ever-more pitiful excuse for a sport.
Flintoff is right to go 'kerching!' before knee goes ping
It was billed as sport's great week of scandal, but what isn't a scandal, and what should never have been treated as such, was Andrew Flintoff's decision not to sign that piffling incremental contract with the England and Wales Cricket Board. In truth, that was as predictable as a one-day international between England and Australia.
Flintoff is trying to earn as much as he can before his body finally packs up; trying to go "kerching!" before his knee goes ping. And why shouldn't he? When Flintoff bid his sad and unavoidable farewell to Test cricket, he appreciated he would never be placed among the genuine greats of the game. He realised it is not possible to gain true Wisden standing from the shortened format. Yet it is possible to gain one's fortune.
Whatever anyone may claim, one-day cricket is not the real thing and is transparently treated as a money-making venture by the authorities. So why not by the players themselves?
Of course the great moral minority do not see it like that. What has amused those of us who know Andrew "Chubby" Chandler from the golfing world, is the accusation that he has persuaded Flintoff to "cash in" on his fame. That's what agents are supposed to do, aren't they? They are in golf, although perhaps the corrupt fairways should not dare comparison with those whiter-than-white wickets.
And why ridicule Flintoff if he does, as Chandler says, wish to be free to perform a bungee jump on a TV show? It would certainly make a change from watching former Test cricketers on Strictly Come Dancing. Haven't we seen enough of our bowlers and batsmen in sequins?
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