Renault's problems increased yesterday when a legal statement to the FIA was leaked in which Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet Jnr claimed that he was asked to deliberately crash his car in Singapore in 2008. Piquet says that he was instructed to crash in order to trigger a safety car period that would enable his team-mate Fernando Alonso to seal the team's first victory of the season.
A hearing into the incident is due to be held on 21 September and the team face expulsion from Formula One if they are found guilty of deliberately crashing. In the statement, Piquet said: "During the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore, held on 28 September 2008, I was asked by Mr Flavio Briatore, who is both my manager and the Team Principal of the ING Renault F1 Team, and by Mr Pat Symonds, the Technical Director of the Renault F1 Team, to deliberately crash my car in order to positively influence the performance of the ING Renault F1 Team. I agreed to this proposal and caused my car to hit a wall and crash during lap 13/14 of the race."
Briatore, Symonds and Alonso were all interviewed on behalf of the FIA by a lawyer for the Quest investigation agency who is said to have had a background in professional interrogation.
It is also believed that in return for immunity from any form of punishment, Piquet made a 1,400-word statement to the governing body ahead of the extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on 21 September in which Renault F1 must answer allegations of race fixing.
"The proposal to deliberately cause an accident was made to me shortly before the race took place," Piquet continued, "when I was summoned by Mr Briatore and Mr Symonds. Mr Symonds, in the presence of Mr Briatore, asked me if I would be willing to sacrifice my race for the team by 'causing a safety car'.
"After the meeting with Mr Symonds and Mr Briatore, Mr Symonds took me aside to a quiet corner and, using a map, pointed me to the exact corner of the track where I should crash. This corner was selected because the specific location of the track did not have any cranes that would allow a damaged car to be swiftly lifted off the track, nor did it have any side entrances to the track, which would allow a safety marshall to quickly move the damaged car away from the track.
"Mr Symonds also told me which exact lap to cause the incident upon, so that a strategy could deployed for my team-mate Mr Fernando Alonso to refuel at the pit shortly before. The key to this strategy resided in the near-knowledge that the safety car would be deployed in lap 13/14, allowing the team to start Mr Alonso's car with an aggressive fuel strategy using a light car containing enough fuel to arrive at lap 12, but not much more. This would allow Mr Alonso to overtake as many [heavier] cars as possible, knowing that those cars would have difficulty catching up with him later." Alonso won the race.