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SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

Renault and Briatore to take legal action against Piquets

Flavio Briatore and the ING Renault F1 team say that they have initiated legal action against Nelson Piquets Jr and Sr.

The team is up before the FIA World Council on September 21 to answer the charge that they organised for Piquet Jr to crash in order to get a Safety Car and thus help Fernando Alonso to win the Singapore GP. Much of the evidence against Renault has been leaked to the media and it is clear from this that it is going to be an interesting case. It remains to be seen whether or not the FIA has further evidence that has yet to come to light, but it is interesting to theorise on the subject of whether the Piquets would have embarked on the current course of action if there was the slightest chance that they would lose.

This seems very unlikely. The Piquets' course of action seems to be more that of someone who has nothing to lose, rather than being a risk that could go wrong.

Briatore has obviously been able to convince Renault management in Paris to support him in this matter. It is not clear how he has managed to do this but there is a very real danger that by doing this the French manufacturer will create a rod for its own back. The FIA clearly does not want to see the French company leaving F1, if only because the engines are needed, but if Renault is showing full support for Briatore then it is likely to be deemed to be in league with the team and thus if the team is found guilty the FIA is almost obliged to punish the parent company in the same way, based on its rule that embraces collective responsibility.

The Renault statement says that "the ING Renault F1 Team and its managing director Flavio Briatore personally, wish to state that they have commenced criminal proceedings against Nelson Piquet Junior and Nelson Piquet Senior in France, concerning the making of false allegations and a related attempt to blackmail the team into allowing Mr. Piquet Jr to drive for the remainder of the 2009 season. The matter will also be referred to the police in the UK."

This is not strictly correct. In French law it is not possible for a private individual or a company to commence criminal proceedings. They can claim that a crime has been committed and asked the authorities to investigate. These claims will be examined in a judicial investigation, which will be performed by law officers, working for the public prosecution service. The prosecutor - known as a Procureur de la Republique - will then decide whether the matter needs to go further. If the claims are deemed to have substance then a criminal procedure will begin with a summons being issued to the parties involved so that their story can be heard.

The Renault statement is therefore simply a gesture that shows that Renault is supporting Briatore.