Renault managing director Flavio Briatore and engineering executive director Pat Symonds left the Formula One team Wednesday, and the team said it will not contest a charge that Nelson Piquet Jr. was ordered to crash in a race.
Renault has been summoned to Paris by governing body FIA to answer allegations that Piquet Jr. was told to crash at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix to improve teammate Fernando Alonso’s chances of victory. The Spaniard went on to win the race.
The team could be thrown out of Formula One by the World Motor Sport Council, which is expected to meet with Renault in Paris on Monday.
“The ING Renault F1 team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix,” Renault said in a statement.
Piquet Jr. crashed on the 13th lap and Alonso’s gamble of running a short 12-lap strategy before pitting paid off. The Spanish driver secured an unlikely victory as other cars came in to refuel while Alonso had enough fuel to move ahead of the field.
The departure of Briatore and Symonds appears to be a move aimed at reducing the expected penalty.
“(Renault) also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore, and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team,” Renault said. “Before attending the hearing before the FIA World Motor Sport Council ... the team will not make any further comment.”
Piquet Jr. was fired by Renault last month. The Brazilian driver had complained about unequal treatment by Briatore compared to Alonso, his two-time world champion teammate.
Briatore, a 58-year-old Italian, started out at the Benetton F1 team in 1988, overseeing Michael Schumacher’s world title triumphs in 1994 and 1995 as team principal. He left Benetton in 1997 but helped Renault buy the team in 2000 and he was appointed managing director.
In 2005 and ‘06, Briatore helped the French manufacturer and Alonso become world champions.