Nelsinho Piquet should be banned from motorsport for life for his role in the 'Singapore-gate' scandal that is threatening to drive Renault out of F1 – that is the view of one of the Régie's
former drivers Derek Warwick, who is adamant that the young Brazilian should simply have said 'no'.
F1 has once again been plunged into turmoil by allegations from Piquet and his father – three-time world champion Nelson Piquet – that the 24-year-old was instructed to deliberately crash out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, thereby prompting a safety car period that enabled his then team-mate Fernando Alonso to go on to unexpectedly win the sport's inaugural night race from a disadvantaged grid slot.
Renault is due to face the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) today (Monday) charged with race-fixing – an accusation the Enstone-based outfit has confirmed that it will not contest. The fall-out has cost the jobs of former managing director Flavio Briatore and respected executive director of engineering Pat Symonds – the two men who Piquet holds were at the centre of the conspiracy – and could yet see Renault departing the fray into the bargain, either through a wholesale expulsion at the hands of the WMSC or else of its own volition.
According to Warwick, though – a man who competed for the French manufacturer at the highest level in 1984 and 1985, achieving four podium finishes along the way – the whole situation could have been avoided had Piquet simply stood his ground in the first place, rather than acquiescing to the flagrantly unreasonable demands of an employer who he feared was about to let him go.
“I would never, ever, ever employ Nelson Piquet Jnr again,” the Englishman told Crash.net Radio
. “What I struggle with is that for me, what he's done – breaking the confidence of a team on an agreement that he had – is outrageous, and I think that's something he has to now live with for the rest of his life. I don't think there's a team out there that will employ him; he's unemployable as far as I'm concerned.
“What's that saying, 'what goes away stays away'? I could tell a few stories, I could write a few books – but they're confidences that I've got on the way through. Would I put a car in the wall for my team-mate? No, but then Nelson also had that opportunity. People are saying he's a young driver and he could have said no – well he should have said no. I would like the FIA to ban Nelson Piquet for life.”
As to the damage done to F1 in general in recent years, however – from the McLaren/Ferrari espionage row of 2007 through Max Mosley's tabloid sex éxposé, Lewis Hamilton's Melbourne lies controversy and the bitter FIA/FOTA war that looked for much of the summer like quite literally tearing the top flight in two – Warwick is confident that it will recover.
“They always say any publicity is good publicity,” mused the 55-year-old. “I think that basically the world knows F1 is the premier of motorsport, and probably of sport in general – it's one of the most followed sports in the world. Will it do any long-lasting damage? No, I don't think so.
“We'll wake up on Tuesday morning after the announcement and we'll get on with Singapore. We'll forget about it because we love Formula 1. I love Formula 1, it's my sport and I will absorb stuff like this because of the great sport that I'm involved in.”
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