FIA broaden Renault probe

d07esp150-2Further doubt has been cast over the future of Renault in Formula One amid reports that the FIA will broaden its investigation of the French team beyond the allegation that Nelson Piquet was instructed to crash his car in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to help teammate Fernando Alonso win.

The FIA launched an investigation into the result of the race after it received a tip off from Brazilian network Globo TV who claimed that Nelson Piquet, who was recently sacked by Renault, was asked to crash his car deliberately to help Fernando Alonso.

Technical director Pat Symonds and Alonso himself were among those to be interviewed by FIA representatives in Belgium this week.

According to The Independent the FIA could widen their investigation to look at “other issues above and beyond” the result of the Singapore grand prix.

A source within the FIA told the British newspaper: “There were interviews going on all weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, and other issues above and beyond Singapore are also to be looked at.”

Renault has been hit hard by falling call sales and the likely loss of its star driver Fernando Alonso next year, allied to a tarnished reputation which this recent controversy could inflict, could force the French team to follow Honda and BMW out of the sport.

Piquet told reporters at the time that the accident had been nothing but a mistake on his part, on a circuit that demands driving on the ragged edge very close to concrete walls. But its effect was that the Safety Car was brought out, closing the field up and allowing recently refuelled Alonso to jump right up the pack. It is not clear where the new evidence comes from.

“The FIA can confirm that an investigation is underway regarding alleged events at a previous world championship race,” said an FIA spokesperson.

Rumours abound that the new evidence has come from Piquet himself, who was sacked by the team after last month s Hungarian Grand Prix. Piquet endured a torrid last months with the team and an acrimonious divorce, during which he directed angry invective at his “executioner”, team principal Flavio Briatore.

If so, Piquet would have followed in the steps of his erstwhile team-mate Fernando Alonso, who held his McLaren team to ransom in 2007 when he discovered they had been spying on Ferrari.

If found guilty by the World Motor Sport Council, it is thought probable that Renault will be fined or banned for future races. The result of the Singapore race is relatively unlikely to be retrospectively altered, but if it is, it would promote Nico Rosberg to race winner, and further increase Lewis Hamilton s margin of world championship victory.