The Renault team has revealed that it is to seek legal redress against the Piquet family amid what it claims are attempts to use suspicions over last year's Singapore Grand Prix as a means to blackmail individuals within the organisation.
While the F1 rumour mill has kicked into overdrive since it emerged that the result of the category's inaugural night race was being investigated following suggestions that Nelson Piquet Jr was 'ordered' to crash in an effort to benefit team-mate Fernando Alonso - speculation heightened by the Spaniard's unexpected victory - Renault has kept a dignified silence - until now.
However, with Piquet Jr's allegations going public [see story here
] following the leak of his statement to the FIA - in which he names team boss Flavio Briatore and director of engineering Pat Symonds as instigators of the ruse - Renault has issued its first response, signalling its intention to pursue legal action against the Brazilian and his three-time F1 world champion father.
"The ING Renault F1 team had not commented publicly during the FIA's initial investigation into this matter," a brief statement issued from the paddock at Monza confirmed, "However, today, the ING Renault F1 team and its managing director Flavio Briatore personally, wish to state that they have commenced criminal proceedings against Nelson Piquet Junior and Nelson Piquet Senior, in France, concerning the making of false allegations and a related attempt to blackmail the team into allowing Mr Piquet Jr to drive for the remainder of the 2009 season. The matter will also be referred to the police in the UK."
The FIA is to hold an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council to address the matter in Paris on 21 September, with speculation suggesting that Renault - one of the current manufacturers believed to be teetering on the brink of quitting F1 - could be banned from the sport if found guilty. The team has confirmed that it will attend the Paris meeting and answer the allegations against it.
Piquet Jr was replaced in the line-up after the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Romain Grosjean slotting in alongside Alonso, and quickly lashed out against Briatore, who had acted as his manager as well as team boss during the Brazilian's brief stint in the top flight. It was suspected that he had been the source of the initial claim that the result of the race had been 'fixed' to benefit Alonso at a time when Renault was desperate for success as its future was discussed.
Alonso, who was at the centre of blackmail allegations during his time at McLaren - when he threatened to reveal details of the Spygate scandal - insists that he was unaware of any plot to rig the Singapore event.