Piquets win Crashgate libel case
The Renault team has been forced to pay substantial damages and make an unreserved apology to Nelson Piquet Jr and his father after comments made about the pair in the immediate aftermath of the Crashgate scandal.
In August 2009 the story broke Piquet Jr was asked by his team to deliberately crash to help team-mate Fernando Alonso win the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, but following Piquet Jr's comments, Renault issued a statement claiming that the driver and his father were trying to blackmail the team's bosses.
"Today the Renault Formula 1 team apologised in the High Court for defaming my two clients, the motor racing father and son Nelson and Nelsinho Piquet," the pair's lawyer Dominic Crossley told reporters. "They were both treated appallingly by Renault F1 when they dared to reveal the scandal to the governing body.
"Nelson Piquet dominated F1 during the early 80s and his reputation as a motorsport legend should remain untarnished by this saga. F1 has been deprived of the best of Nelsinho and it is to its detriment that his talent is now being demonstrated elsewhere. Whilst neither of them should ever have had to prove Renault F1's allegations false they are both delighted with the successful conclusion of the case.
"This marks the start rather than the end of the long journey they are both taking to correct many of the wrongs that took place during last year's "crash-gate" scandal."
The Piquets instigated legal action against Renault and the High Court has now settled in their favour. Renault had already admitted the allegations against the pair were untrue. The whole matter concluded with Renault issuing an apology to the Piquets on its official website.
"[Renault] issued a press release [on September 11, 2009], which was repeated on our website, in which we suggested that Nelson Piquet Junior and his father had lied by making false allegations that members of the team and Nelson Piquet Junior caused a deliberate accident at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. We also suggested that these lies were invented in order to blackmail the defendant into allowing Mr Piquet Junior to drive for the team for the remainder of the 2009 season, and he and his father were therefore guilty of a serious criminal offence.
"The team accepts - as it did before the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA and as found by the WMSC in its decision of 21 September 2009 - that the allegations made by Nelson Piquet Junior were not false. It also accepts that Mr Piquet Junior and his father did not invent these allegations in order to blackmail the team.
"As a result, these serious allegations contained in the press release were wholly untrue and unfounded, and we withdraw them unequivocally. We would like to apologise unreservedly to Mr Piquet Junior and his father for the distress and embarrassment caused as a result.
"As a mark of the sincerity of our apology and regret, we have agreed to pay them a substantial amount of damages for libel as well as their costs, and have undertaken not to repeat these allegations at any time in the future."
Piquet's claims prompted an immediate investigation by the FIA, and less than two weeks after launching legal action against the Piquets, Renault were found guilty of race-fixing and slapped with a two-year suspended ban. Team boss Flavio Briatore was given a lifetime ban from motorsport, which was later reduced by a Paris court to a ban until 2013.