Max Mosley has defended the penalty handed out to Renault by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris yesterday (Monday) for having 'fixed' the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix - asserting that it was 'the harshest one we can impose'.

Renault declined to contest allegations made by its sacked driver Nelsinho Piquet that the Brazilian was instructed by former managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds to deliberately crash out of F1's inaugural night race just under twelve months ago, in order to prompt a safety car period that enabled team-mate Fernando Alonso to go on to triumph from a disadvantaged grid position following an engine failure in qualifying.

That earned the French manufacturer exclusion from competition suspended for two years, meaning that provided there is no repeat or similar incident over the next 24 months, there will equally be no further ramifications.

However, paddock observers contend that the punishment makes a mockery of the sporting record $100 million fine and disqualification from the 2007 constructors' world championship meted out to McLaren-Mercedes over the espionage row two years ago, a crime Mosley had admitted was not as serious as that of Renault, who received no fine at all. The FIA President and former McLaren team principal Ron Dennis had long been sworn enemies, and some suggested at the time that there was more than just a trace of personal antipathy in the Woking-based outfit's penalty.

The general paddock consensus is that the WMSC did not dare come down too heavily on Renault for fear of it becoming the third major car maker to walk away from F1 in the last ten months - but Mosley is adamant that the council was as heavy-handed as it could possibly have been.

"I think it's the right decision," the Englishman told reporters, according to the BBC. "I think the blame has been placed where the blame should be placed. The penalty we've imposed is the harshest one we can impose, which is disqualification - that means complete exclusion from the sport.

"However, because Renault have demonstrated that they had absolutely no moral responsibility for what took place - that's to say the team, Renault F1, still less the company - it would be wrong in the circumstances to impose an immediate penalty, so it's a suspended penalty."

Similarly insistent that the latest scandal to afflict F1 doesn't 'mean anything' - "We have problems from time-to-time, but as long as we sort them and deal with them properly, that's fine" - Mosley also spoke of Briatore's spectacular fall from grace. The two men have rarely seen eye-to-eye during their time together in the top flight.

"It's sad, because he's been in motorsport for 20 years - more actually," mused the 69-year-old. "It's sad to see a career end like that, but what else could we do?"


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