Renault has confirmed that despite the two-year suspended ban it received for having 'fixed' the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, it 'would like to remain in Formula 1' – quelling speculation about the French manufacturer's immediate future at the highest level in the wake of the sport's latest high-profile scandal.
Renault's global reputation has taken a battering of late, after it emerged that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds – who have both since left their posts as respectively managing director and executive director of engineering of the Enstone-based F1 operation – instructed former driver Nelsinho Piquet to deliberately crash out of the top flight's inaugural night race in order to prompt a safety car period that enabled team-mate Fernando Alonso to triumph from a distinctly disadvantaged grid position following an engine failure in qualifying.
It had been whispered inside the grand prix paddock for some time that Renault was on the verge of pulling out anyway – indeed, it has been suggested that the late-season Singapore and Japanese successes last year were all that prevented a withdrawal from competition at the close of the 2008 campaign – and some had mused that being hauled up in front of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) earlier this week would prove to be the final straw that broke the camel's back.
However, the outwardly lenient penalty applied by the WMSC – for a charge that went uncontested – was read by most observers as an attempt to ensure that Renault did not join fellow manufacturers Honda and BMW in heading for the F1 exit door. It would seem that the governing body's strategic clemency has done the trick.
'Renault F1 and its parent company have given serious consideration as to whether it should remain in the sport following the prejudice caused to its corporate image by the conspiracy, in addition to the existing background of financial pressures that have caused car manufacturers to withdraw,' the Boulogne-Billancourt-based marque noted in submissions made during Monday's hearing, revealed by the BBC
. 'But it has concluded that it would like to remain in Formula 1 and continue to make an important contribution to the sport.'
It has also been revealed that Renault has withdrawn its complaint against Piquet and his three-time world champion father/manager Nelson Piquet, the man who first alerted the FIA to what had taken place – with Briatore having initially accused the pair of 'making false allegations' and blackmail in a bid to secure the young Brazilian's seat at the squad until the end of 2009. The 24-year-old pre-empted his own sacking with a statement at the end of July – what proved to be the catalyst for a vitriolic and very public war of words with Briatore over the following weeks.
It is unclear if the flamboyant Italian has similarly dropped his legal proceedings against the Piquets. The 59-year-old was handed down an effective lifetime ban from all aspects of the sport for his part in the Marina Bay controversy, though he continues to feverishly protest his innocence.
“We are keen to put this whole affair behind us,” stressed Ali Malek QC, who represented Renault before the WMSC in Paris on Monday and insisted the company was itself a victim of the conspiracy, given that only four employees had known of its existence, rendering anyone else powerless to prevent it from happening.
“It was a ridiculous plot, a one-off, and Renault knows nothing like this can ever happen again. This is a black day for us, but it is our intention to draw the line and do everything we can to put this sad history behind us.”