The departure of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds over the Renault 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal is a loss to F1, contends former grand prix star Derek Warwick – a man who argues that were the paddock to be 'full of Kimi Raikkonens...it would be the most boring sport in the world'.
On Wednesday of last week, it was announced by Renault F1 that both managing director Briatore and executive director of engineering Symonds had parted company with the Enstone-based outfit, ahead of today's crucial FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing in Paris.
That is set to determine whether or not the two men really did instruct Nelsinho Piquet to deliberately crash out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in an effort to help the sister R28 of double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso win the race from a distinctly disadvantaged grid slot following an engine failure in qualifying.
The fact that two of the most prominent heads in F1 rolled before a verdict had even been pronounced stunned the sport and fans around the world in general – and the common school of thought is that neither will be back. Whether or not Briatore and Symonds are guilty, though, reasons Warwick, the paddock will be a poorer place without them.
“I read that Renault have actually admitted to telling Nelson to put it in the wall, so you can't condone that,” the Englishman – who drove for Renault himself for two of his eleven years at the highest level – told Crash.net Radio
. “They were the people that were instigators of the crime, so for sure they had to go. I don't think they had any choice, which is very unfortunate. What I'm surprised at is that I thought Flavio wouldn't be so silly as to get himself in this situation.
“What we cannot have is a Formula 1 full of Kimi Raikkonens, because it would be the most boring sport in the world. Flavio – whether you love him or hate him – is a controversial figure, and he was on the front and back pages, which was good for Formula 1. Pat Symonds I know really well; he's got very high standards and very high morals, and this will be devastating for him.”
The name of Prodrive chairman David Richards has been mooted as a possible stand-in for Briatore, in the short-term at least, and Warwick suggests the former World Rally Championship-winning co-driver 'would be a great choice – he's a great man manager, and he knows how motor racing works and how teams work'. A greater problem for Renault, the 55-year-old points out, is how to replace Symonds – and the dilemma about whether to even remain in competition at all.
“Sure, you can't condone cheating or staging what they've done, but we've got to be careful here,” he opined. “We've already lost Flav, we've already lost Pat Symonds – two really colourful characters we can't afford to lose in Formula 1 – and what we don't want is to lose Renault. We've got to be careful how we look at this and what action we take against Renault.
“What I'm frightened of is that it might give them a reason to go. I think like we've seen with BMW, like we've seen with Honda, these people only need a small reason to leave Formula 1, and I think this is where the FIA and Formula 1 in general were wrong – in allowing the manufacturers to own teams. I don't think they should ever have owned teams, because that can be negative for what we're trying to do.”
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