Revisiting the 2008 Formula One Crashgate Controversy

- Revisiting the 2008 Formula One Crashgate Controversy
Last Updated on August 5, 2023

The famous 2009 Formula One crash controversy, often referred to “Crashgate,” involved Renault F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crash-bombing in the Singapore Grand Prix to provide an advantage in the race to Teammate Fernando Alonso.

The result was that Alonso was able to win the race, despite being fifteenth in the field. In the aftermath, Piquet Jr. claimed that the crash was a “simple mistake.”

Revisiting the 2008 Formula One Crashgate Controversy

But, following his dismissal from the Renault team after the race in 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Piquet Jr. claimed his team ordered him to crash in order to improve the race conditions of Alonso.

The incident prompted investigations by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One’s governing body.

Renault F1 was charged with conspiracy on September 4th, and was scheduled to face the charges on the 21st of September, 2009.

On the 16th of September, Renault announced they would not contest the charges.

They also disclosed its managing director Flavio Briatore, and the team’s chief engineer, Pat Symonds, had quit the team. They were both dismissed.

Renault F1 team received a suspension of exclusion for Formula One for two years in the event of any other similar violations of the rules. Briatore was barred indefinitely out of Formula One events and FIA-sanctioned events as well as Symonds was banned for five years.

Each ban was later reversed by an French court and both decided not to take part for Formula One or FIA-sanctioned events for a certain period of duration as part of an agreement with the authority that regulates them.

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Felipe Massa Pursues Revising the 2008 Championship Results

Recently, Former Ferrari F1 driver Felipe Massa announced he is considering making steps to have his results from the championship in 2008 modified. Massa believes that it would be justifiable if he was retrospectively named the winner that year rather than Lewis Hamilton.

The motivation behind Massa’s decision is the Crashgate controversy, in which the team manager advised Piquet Jr. to deliberately crash in order that Alonso could win the race.

Massa did not earn any points in the race, but Hamilton did, which led to Hamilton ultimately winning the title only by one point.

The whole tale of Crashgate was only discovered in 2009. In recent months the former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone disclosed that he knew of Crashgate from the year 2008.

Together with then-FIA President Max Mosley, Ecclestone decided to keep the details a secret in order to avoid controversy.

According to Massa himself the reason is enough to see the outcomes from Singapore’s Grand Prix declared invalid. Even though Briatore as well as Renault were sanctioned, however, there was nothing made of the race results.

Massa asserts that this put him in the worst position and is also critical of the attitude to Ecclestone and Mosley regarding the matter :

“After 15 years, we hear from the former owner of this competition that he had found out about it in 2008, together with the president of the FIA, and that they did nothing to avoid tarnishing Formula 1’s name. That is very disappointing.”

If Massa is able to prevail with his protests is yet to be determined, however, the matter raises serious questions about the ethics of the teams as well as the body that governs Formula One.

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