A few days ago, I wrote (on these every pages – scroll down a little) half jokingly that Nelson Piquet Jr was some sort of criminal genius after the FIA took him seriously enough to launch a publicised investigation into his role in Fernando Alonso’s win in Singapore.
Now it appears that, with the latest news, the criminal ingenuity may run deep in the Piquet family.
While, I, and presumably you, found out about this event slowly through the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, when it was reported on Brazilian TV it seems the FIA knew about it beforehand.
As early as the Hungarian Grand Prix, when, you’ll remember, Piquet was still racing for Renault.
A report for Autosport says how Nelson’s former world champion father, rather unoriginally also called Nelson, told FIA President Max Mosley.
We’ve also learnt more of what other (and by other I mean non-Piquet speech) evidence they have.
They are partly related to technology, with the telemetry showing that Piquet didn’t lift off at the normal place to stop the car from spinning.
Now, exactly how this means that anything was deliberate is beyond me – it’s a mistake, drivers make them (and Nelson Piquet Jr. makes more than most) every accident, almost by definition is caused by a mistake – the driver braking too late or wrongly timed steering input for example, yet no-one claims every accident is deliberate.
Second, and seemingly central to the investigation is a three way meeting between Piquet Jr., Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, the team’s director of engineering.
Now, this might be great evidence, and all three of them actually admit there was a meeting, they just differ on what was discussed, or rather who said what.
While Piquet suggests it was Symonds who told him when and where to crash, in order to ensure a Safety Car period at the best time for Alonso, both Briatore and Symonds claim it was the driver who first suggested a staged accident. I imagine the conversation started something like “You know I’ve crashed a lot this season......”.
That, to me suggests something like the conversation happened – otherwise why wouldn’t Briatore and Symonds simply deny the meeting ever happened, or that crashing was ever mentioned.
But why would Nelson Piquet suggest he cause an accident himself, damaging his credibility (actually the was probably in tatters already) and potentially his entire career?
Did he get extra money for staging the accident? Briatore described that Piquet was in a “fragile state of mind”. Why? The mystery deepens
Or maybe Flavio Briatore’s rather bizarre claim is closer to the truth than you might think.
He claims he is “a victim of extortion by the Piquet family”.
What if Piquet Jr. did suggest and cause the accident himself, knowing what the likely outcome would be – that of an Alonso victory – knowing (as many suspected) that his tenure at Renault was unstable?
What if he used it as a back-up plan, or even to blackmail Renault into keeping him longer than they wanted given his poor performance?
And, in Hungary, when it started to become very clear that he was headed squarely to the door, he cashed in his metaphorical chips against Renault, by getting his father to tell the FIA.