Whatever the conclusion of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) on the salacious 'Singapore-gate' scandal currently engulfing Formula 1, the two men arguably at its centre - Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds - will find a way back into the top flight one day, reasons 13-time grand prix-winner David Coulthard.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Briatore and Symonds had sensationally left their respective positions of managing director and executive director of engineering at Renault F1 [see separate story - click here], with the former claiming he did so 'to save the team'.

That has prompted fevered speculation inside the paddock that there must be some truth behind Nelsinho Piquet's assertion that he was instructed by his two bosses to deliberately crash out of last year's Singapore Grand Prix, thereby enabling team-mate Fernando Alonso to triumph in the sport's inaugural night race - and likely also prevented Renault from pulling the plug on its F1 project at season's end.

Related Articles

Whilst the WMSC is due to rule on the Enstone-based outfit's fate on Monday (21 September) - with the potential ramifications should the team be found guilty of the charge of 'race-fixing' stretching as far as expulsion from the world championship altogether - both Briatore and Symonds are gone. Coulthard contends that they may not be absent for long.

"I think it's been well-documented," the Scot told Crash.net Radio of the latest controversy to rock the top flight. "Singapore last year was the catalyst; Nelson Piquet Jnr obviously left the team and then decided to share some information with the FIA. They did an enquiry, and the end of that enquiry is that before the hearing on Monday where Renault have to step forward and explain themselves, both Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have left the team.

"You have to presume that that's because there are some grey areas or something that wasn't discussed with Renault beforehand. We'll find out in time. I think they will both have their opportunity to say something publicly on it if they want to, for sure the FIA will enlighten us as to what happened and there will be some information that comes out of the event on Monday. People don't leave organisations unless there's a reason - either they did act inappropriately or they just felt it was for the greater good.

"Pat I'm sure will end up somewhere else, because he's got a very long and successful history in motorsport. Flavio I'm sure will have a finger in some pie in Formula 1 - he's been a great entrepreneur and had a great deal of success, and he's never claimed to be passionate about the sport individually. It was more about the business side, and if he's made an error of judgement then obviously he's taken the penalty for that, but I think we have to keep in perspective that these guys are all under a great deal of pressure - and sometimes that makes them make bad decisions."

Other 'victims' of the fall-out look set to include Piquet - who Coulthard's BBC F1 colleague Martin Brundle has described as being henceforth 'unemployable' [see separate story - click here] - and Renault itself, which has suffered considerable losses in terms of car sales since the onset of the global credit crunch last year and whose CEO is known not to be a particular motor racing aficionado. If the French manufacturer was ready to leave before, so goes the school of thought, then nothing will be able to convince it to stay now.

"I can't possibly know," the Twynholm native stated of Renault's future. "I hope [they don't leave], but we just need to be patient and see what happens. It would be very bad for the sport if Renault pulled out - they've been a great supporter of Formula 1 and motorsport and have used it to good effect for the promotion of their vehicles, but these are difficult times and, if they are on the edge, something like that could push them over. Time will tell whether [Piquet] pops up at another team or not. You can't write the final chapter in the book; we just have to wait and see."

Whilst the name of Prodrive chairman David Richards has cropped up regarding taking over at the helm of Renault F1 in at least the short term - "He's been there before at Enstone, he knows the set-up, he's obviously got leadership qualities and he's well-equipped to handle it," argues Coulthard - it has conversely been suggested that the disgraced Briatore and Symonds could both face criminal charges for having knowingly and wilfully endangered lives. 'DC' contends that the whole threat level of the situation has been somewhat over-exaggerated.

"I think it's wrong to pull out the 'it could have hurt someone' card," he underlined, "because by the very nature of motorsport, at any moment there could be a very bad accident that involves a driver, a marshal or a spectator. That is the fact, that is the reality, so you can't look at one incident and say 'well, that's the one that tipped it over to being really dangerous'. It's not that type of small incident that is the thing we need to watch out for; it's the big crashes - the cars being launched and all the rest of it. It's a valid point in that it is increasing the danger, but I think it's overplayed in this circumstance.

"Crashing is pretty extreme, but I have had team orders in the past where I've been told to move over and allow another car to come through - and at the time that was part of the sport. If we go way back to Stirling Moss' day, drivers would come in and give their car to their team-mate if necessary to allow them to finish the race. The essence of the sport is all about team play rather than the individual, but clearly there are sporting rules that are there to define and govern the sport and what we should be seeing is the best driver/team combination winning on any given day.

"Obviously it's damaging for the sport to have any sorts of allegations of race-fixing and this sort of thing, but hopefully we'll be able to move on from this and it's good that the FIA have acted. Clearly anything that effectively fixes or changes the result is a form of cheating and should be punished. Scandals don't enhance the reputation, that's for sure, but they are factual events that have happened and the powers-that-be - the controllers of the FIA, the controllers of the commercial rights, the controllers of the teams - are collectively responsible for the image of the sport. If they've acted in a way which has damaged the image of the sport, then they have to respond to that."

It is easy to forget, finally, that against the backdrop of so much going on off-track, there remains a title fight on the circuit too, with four grands prix of the 2009 season now remaining. Whilst Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has written off his team's chances of denying Brawn GP glory in the wake of the energy drinks-backed operation's Monza disaster last time out, Coulthard is adamant that nothing is over yet - even if he acknowledges that it is Jenson Button in pole position to make it back-to-back title triumphs come Abu Dhabi in just over a month's time.

"There are 40 points available and they're 20-odd points behind, so the fight is still on," urged the 38-year-old, who ended his competitive career with RBR last year and has stayed on at the Milton Keynes-based squad as a consultant and occasional test driver. "It's not over. Kimi Raikkonen came back and won the championship from that far away two years ago, so we have to keep working, keep pushing and then see what the championship brings.

"The most likely person for the championship, though, is of course Jenson Button. He had a lean period, but that's inevitable in such a competitive championship, and he's led the championship from the first race. He's got a 14-point lead now and his wing-man is his team-mate, so he'll more than likely be the world champion."