Niki Lauda has said that the current Renault-Piquet crash saga is one of the worst things to even have happened in Formula One.
In an exclusive column with British newspaper the Daily Mail, Lauda has said that the part of the saga which upset him the most was that Briatore repeatedly denied all the allegations and now that Briatore has been fired by Renault, we can only assume that the allegations of race-fixing were true.
“When I first heard the accusation that Renault had asked Nelson Piquet to crash deliberately, the question was whether it was true or not,â€ Lauda wrote. “If it was true, then it amounted to the worst thing that has happened in Formula One.
“There is only one other incident that comes near – Michael Schumacher parking his Ferrari on the racing line at Monaco in 2006 to block Fernando Alonso’s last qualifying lap. But, really, even that is not comparable.
“This time it was about manipulating a race. There was also the obvious danger to Piquet, other drivers and spectators.
“What also really upset me at the weekend was what Flavio Briatore was saying. He denied it all . His messages were murky, even making comments about Piquet’s private life. It was unbelievable. And now, because Briatore has been sacked, we must assume the allegations against Renault were all true.â€
Lauda himself had a terrible F1 accident at the Nurburgring circuit in 1976 and he has said that he would never crash on purpose.
“Certainly, I would never have crashed on order: firstly, because sport is sport and secondly, because in my day I could have hurt or killed myself.
“My Nurburgring crash in 1976 was big. I got straight back in and drove as soon as I could. Others were not so lucky. Some died. We do not want a sport where we are putting lives at risk for all the worst reasons.â€
Because of these reasons, Lauda believes that despite Briatore and Symonds leaving the team and the sport, the Renault F1 team have to be punished heavily to ensure that credibility is restored as this is the worst issue that F1 has seen even worse than the McLaren spying saga of two years ago.
“Yes, the McLaren spying scandal two years ago was extremely serious but mechanics have always discussed technical data among themselves.
“This, though, is new. The biggest damage ever. Now the FIA must punish Renault heavily to restore credibility in the sport.â€