Renault crisis deepens after FIA widens investigation

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The Independent Online

The Renault Formula One team's problems were compounded yesterday when it emerged that the FIA could investigate more than just the allegations that Nelson Piquet Jnr was instructed to crash his car in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to help team-mate Fernando Alonso to win.

A source within the FIA said: "There were interviews going on all weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, and other issues above and beyond Singapore are also to be looked at." Technical chief Pat Symonds and Alonso were among senior Renault figures interviewed more than once by FIA representatives in Belgium.

The allegations have added to pressures on the car company, who are likely to see sales in the important Brazilian market fall after Piquet's dismissal. Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 rights holder, has voiced fears that the speculation might prompt Renault to follow Honda and BMW out of the sport. Ecclestone said he has spoken with his close friend Flavio Briatore, the team principal of Renault F1, who insists he knows nothing about the allegations.

"This is not the sort of thing we need at the moment," Ecclestone said. "I think it will piss off Renault, and them leaving the sport is a danger. I hope that it isn't like that, but it's the sort of thing that might happen."

Meanwhile, BMW have dismissed suggestions that Robert Kubica could stand in for Felipe Massa at Monza next week as it emerged that the Brazilian is unlikely to return to F1 this year. Giancarlo Fisichella is still the favourite to take over from test driver Luca Badoer, who has disappointed so far.

Massa emerged with flying colours from tests at the Jackson Memorial Hospital Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit in Miami yesterday under the supervision of motorsport neurosurgeon Dr Steve Olvey. "The neurometric and impact tests, as well as cognitive capacity tests, were all positive, as was an eye exam," Ferrari confirmed. "Everything is in order for Felipe to get back to racing."

Though Massa wants to return in his home race at Sao Paulo next month he needs some plastic surgery and could not, under the rules, test beforehand. It seems increasingly likely he will not race again until next year.

"I'm very happy about the test results," he said. "I will finally be able to go to the gym to start getting back into shape. After that I'll drive some tests in karts. We're going to take this one step at a time. At the moment I'm concentrating on getting back into physical shape."