Fernando Alonso has been summoned to appear before the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) on Monday (21 September), as his employers Renault go into the dock charged with intentionally manipulating the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix – and the knives come out for the Régie's
former managing director Flavio Briatore.
According to British media, the news – imparted to the Spaniard on Friday – came as a 'huge surprise' to him. Alonso has always denied having had any knowledge of or involvement in the conspiracy, in which his then team-mate Nelsinho Piquet claims he was instructed by Briatore and the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds to deliberately crash out of the top flight's inaugural night race this time last year, in order to enable the sister R28 to triumph from a lowly starting position following an engine failure in qualifying.
Piquet's father – the man who tipped the governing body off about the incident in the first place – has suggested that Alonso must have been in on the 'fix', or else he would have questioned a highly unusual early-stopping strategy from only 15th on the grid. The Oviedo native was the principal beneficiary of Piquet Jnr's hefty impact with the Marina Bay street circuit's unforgiving wall in vaulting from well outside the top ten into the lead of the race as his rivals all swiftly dived for the pit-lane under the ensuing safety car period, two laps after Alonso had himself re-fuelled.
Moreover, it is being mooted that the 21-time grand prix-winner will likely be interrogated by the WMSC about his relationship with his manager Briatore, with a view to examining the potential conflict of interest in team principals simultaneously looking after active F1 drivers. Aside from Alonso, Briatore also takes care of the careers of Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber, McLaren-Mercedes ace Heikki Kovalainen and Renault new boy Roman Grosjean, who replaced Piquet from the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
The Italian's ruthless methods are tipped to come under the microscope – with possible punishments, should he be found guilty as charged, extending as far as a lifetime ban from the sport in all its aspects, which would cost him millions in terms of income. The 59-year-old – who is expected to attend the WMSC reunion – continues to protest his innocence, and when he stepped down last week he argued it was 'to save the team'.
Symonds, for his part, is presently holidaying in Spain and is not understood to be attending Monday's crunch meeting. The Englishman has admitted that discussions did take place with Piquet prior to the race to the effect of deliberately causing an accident, but added that it had been the Brazilian's initiative and that it had not been taken seriously at the time. Renault has revealed that it will not contest the allegations.
According to the Sunday Mirror
, further evidence has since come to light in the form of documents presented by Piquet Snr contending that Briatore had convinced his son to re-sign for 2009 on the premise that Alonso was Ferrari-bound in 2010 and that he would therefore then become the team's number one driver. However, the head of the Spanish motorsport federation, Carlos Gracia, has branded as 'shameless' the decision to grant Nelsinho immunity from prosecution provided he tells the truth.
“[Renault] is a company that has been in motorsport for many years, without any kind of immorality,” he underlined. “If the immorality was caused because of those two gentlemen (Briatore and Symonds), it's a good thing that they are out of Formula 1.”