Damon Hill has described the two-year suspended ban handed down to Renault over the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal as 'a crying shame for the sport' – arguing that 'there is a whole book on what's wrong with Formula 1'.
Whilst FIA President Max Mosley contends that the World Motor Sport Council's punishment was 'the harshest one we can impose' [see separate story – click here
], many paddock observers disagree – suggesting that the governing body went purposely easy upon the French manufacturer to prevent it from following in the wheel tracks of rivals Honda and BMW in leaving the top flight come season's end, a scenario that some surmise is still more than plausible.
It has been commented that the ruling sends out a message that the FIA cares more about retaining its teams than about the safety of its competitors, marshals and spectators – given the threat to injury or even worse when Nelsinho Piquet deliberately crashed out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix on the instruction of disgraced former Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, both of whom have been handed lengthy bans from working within motorsport.
What's more, the lack of a fine for what has been described as arguably the most explosive cheating controversy in the sport's history sits ill-at-ease with those who deem that the FIA was disproportionately heavy-handed with McLaren-Mercedes over 2007's espionage row. Then, the multiple world championship-winning Woking-based concern was meted out an unprecedented $100 million fine for a crime whose severity Mosley has admitted paled into insignificance when compared to that of Renault.
Former world champion Hill – who lifted the laurels for Williams back in 1996 – told British newspaper The Times
that the leniency of the Renault sentence was 'a crying shame for the sport', and characteristic of the arbitrary nature of the powers-that-be inside F1 in recent times.
“I'm not surprised they've let Renault off,” asserted the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) President. “You have to put this in the context of inconsistencies in the way in which the FIA has treated breaches of the regulations over the years and, knowing what we know, we cannot dissociate this from the power play going on behind-the-scenes for control of Formula 1.
“Formula 1 has to ask itself, is it just a very expensive form of entertainment or a proper sport? There is a whole book on what's wrong with Formula 1. It's called Bernie's Game
, and the history of this episode is typical.”