At this race...
After the Saturday session Renault
had a shocker, the number 2 Nelson Piquet
Jnr was not on a par results wise with his father and another Q1 exit didn't strengthen his position. He was a lowly 16th on the grid which was not much different to anything normal for him, Alonso meanwhile was a double champion with this very team had been much poorer than usual, one place above Piquet, in 15th.
On the 28th September Formula One hosted its first night race, Alonso would take the start after his qualifying mechanical failure haunted him in 15th. After a light opening stint he pitted first on lap 12 of the race.
Two laps later at turn 17, one of the corners without a crane nearby, Nelson Piquet crashed heavily into the barriers bringing out the safety car, something Alonso's strategy was hindering on. Due to the pit lane being closed until the cars were all behind the safety car (a regulation in 2008) the cars all ended behind Fernando Alonso
and other slower cars. In the final third the cars in front of Alonso pitted and the Spaniard moved into P1, something he wouldn't lose. He took Renault's first win since the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix.
The quotes were clear and seemed very ordinary
"A first podium of the season and first victory as well and I am extremely happy. I cannot believe it right now, I think I need a couple of days to realise we won a race this year. It seems impossible all through the season to be close to the top guys and here suddenly we have been competitive from Friday. Obviously we started at the back and the first safety car helped me a lot and I was able to win the race" Alonso
"From the start of the race things were complicated and I had a lot of graining and the situation got worse and worse. The team asked me to push, which I tried to do and finally I lost the rear of my car. I hit the wall heavily but I'm ok. I am disappointed with my race but obviously very happy for the team this evening" Piquet
Several critics were cynical and questioned Renault's actions. These were dismissed quickly as it was all accusations and bitterness over tactics gone wrong.
And that was that for many months, until the 3rd of August in fact, Alonso had 13 points for the team and Piquet Jnr had nothing, he was dropped and replaced by Romain Grosjean
for the season remaining.
On the 30th of the same month Brazilian TV claimed Piquet was ordered to crash at that specific corner in order to allow Alonso to win, the FIA launched an investigation into 'alleged incidents in a previous event'.
The outcome of the investigation into Renault caused the release of the following statement "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." A hearing was scheduled just days before the Singapore Grand Prix 2009, Alonso was cleared of any blame and Piquet was free to race again should he find employment, [Flavio] Briatore and [Pat] Symonds were banned for 5 years, they appealed the charges which did lead a negotiated solution.
The pair left the team shortly before this hearing, main sponsors ING left the team with immediate effect and Mutua Madrileña announced they were only sponsoring the driver Alonso rather than the team as previous. Piquet went to NASCAR and then Formula E becoming inaugural champion, beating ex Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi by a single point, Alonso also drove for Ferrari
until the end of 2014 when he left to re-join McLaren
. Symonds is now working at Williams
and Briatore was formerly Mark Webber
So while the outcome has affected the careers of all involved, we can be hopeful that nothing like this scandal will ever happen again.
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