Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is worried that Renault may pull out of the sport following allegations that the team ordered a crash to help secure victory for Fernando Alonso.
F1’s governing body is investigating “alleged incidents” believed to be a crash by Nelson Piquet Jr. that allowed teammate Alonso to take advantage of an early pit stop.
Ecclestone said that Renault team principal Flavio Briatore told him he knows nothing about any conspiracy to affect the course of the race
Piquet Jr. crashed on the 13th lap and Alonso’s gamble to run a short 12-lap strategy before pitting paid off as the Spanish driver went on to score an unlikely victory.
“This is not the sort of thing we need at the moment,” Ecclestone said in an interview published by The Times of London. “Them leaving the sport is a danger, obviously. I mean, I hope that it isn’t like that, but it’s the sort of thing that might happen.
“All I know is that Flavio is insisting that he knows nothing about it. I think the FIA are looking into everything.”
Renault’s departure would be a blow to a sport that already lost Honda after last year’s championship and is set to lose BMW at the end of this season.
Ecclestone said the cheating allegation can only be proved by technical evidence backing it up.
“If it’s just young Piquet saying this because he wants to say it, that’s one thing,” Ecclestone said. “If, on the other hand, there’s some reality to it, then it’s all different. It will be difficult to prove.
“If there is something on the radio that said, ‘Er, Nelson, you’d better crash now,’ then what the hell can they do?”
Piquet Jr. was fired by Renault last month after a season and a half, and the Brazilian driver complained about unequal treatment by Briatore compared to his two-time world champion teammate.
Ecclestone suggested that Piquet Jr.’s F1 career could be over. “You can safely say that he’s sort of in trouble now,” Ecclestone said. “You’d have to wonder what next, wouldn’t you?”