13 September 2009
Head: Nelson should have said no.
Williams technical director Patrick Head has admitted that he, and others with him, thought that there was something odd about Renault's strategy in last year's Singapore Grand Prix, but insists that he would be bad for Formula One if the squad was found to have 'fixed' the race.
Speaking to Reuters from the paddock at Monza, the battle-hardened Head confirmed that eyebrows - and questions - had been raised when it became clear that Alonso was stopping after only twelve laps in last year's inaugural F1 night race, especially as he had qualified only 15th after problems on Saturday, but Nelson Piquet Jr's fortuitously-timed accident appeared mere coincidence.
"We thought it was a pretty extraordinary thing to put Alonso 15th on the grid with only twelve laps of fuel on board," Head said, "It seemed an extraordinary decision, and there were all sorts of rumours at the time."
Despite the rumours, however, Head said that it was hard to believe that a driver would deliberately crash, especially into a concrete barrier, in order to help his team - even if, as Piquet has suggested - he felt that his position in the line-up was under threat.
"If young Nelson was asked to deliberately crash or spin his car, regardless of his contractual position, in my view he should have said no at the time," the Briton continued, "Young people when they are under pressure do make mistakes. I would put 99 per cent of the blame on the people that asked him [Piquet] to do that, if that's what happened. If that did happen, then the people responsible should be dealt with pretty firmly."
Piquet insists that his testimony to FIA investigators in true and honest, but comes in the wake of his being dropped by Renault in favour of GP2 Series frontrunner Romain Grosjean after failing to score in any of the opening ten rounds. Having already slated team boss and former personal manager Flavio Briatore for the way in which he had handled his time at Enstone, Piquet was rumoured to have been behind initial claims that the Singapore race had been rigged, and his statement to the governing body then went public, prompting Renault to respond with the announcement that it intended to take both the Brazilian and his three-time F1 world champion father to court amid allegations that they had tried to blackmail the team.
"It's a complex sport - and some people say it isn't a sport," Head concluded, "If [cheating] proved to be happening in a consistent way, I think - rightly - that nobody would have any interest in F1 racing because you couldn't believe what you were looking at. Equally, if someone has used operational procedures to gain an advantage as has been suggested, then it needs to be dealt with quite firmly.
"But, if all the cars are designed to the same rules, and the engines are to the same rules, for all the shenanigans that go on beforehand and all of the commercial deals and everything, when the lights go out at the start one would like to think that was a straightforward race."
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