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Formula 1 News - September, 2009
F1 world lashes out at crash-gate leniency

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Sep.22 (GMM) The press hit out after Renault escaped almost unscathed from Monday's so-called 'crash-gate' hearing of the World Motor Sport Council.

In its judgement, the FIA tribunal said the rules breach was of "unparalleled severity", but the London newspaper The Times said the penalty was one of "unparalleled leniency".

"The FIA cannot have it both ways," said the daily broadsheet, comparing the two-year suspended disqualification and Renault's paying for the FIA investigation with McLaren's $100m 'spy-gate' fine two years ago.

"The bill for the investigation is about $1.6 million, which makes Renault's sanction roughly $98.4 million cheaper," it added.

Spain's El Mundo agreed, calling crash-gate "a scandal without precedent and almost without punishment".

The Daily Mail likened Renault's feat to "The Great Escape", arguing that the French team "should not only be permanently expelled from the track, but face serious criminal charges".

Singapore newspaper The Straits Times accused F1's governing body of "one of sport's biggest cop-outs" and said by not harshly penalising the deliberate crash, the FIA is telling F1's fans and marshals "that their lives are far less important than possibly losing the support of a car-making giant".

The New York Times agreed that the FIA had moved to safeguard "the participation of one of its most powerful and wealthy sponsors", and Britain's Daily Telegraph said "no one had foreseen quite how lenient the punishment would be".

FIA president Max Mosley, however, defended the decision to penalise only the individual conspirators Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds rather than revert to the principle of collective responsibility.

"Renault has demonstrated that they have absolutely no moral responsibility for what took place so it would be wrong to impose an immediate penalty," he said in Paris, and argued that the lifetime disqualification from F1, albeit suspended for two years, is actually a harsh sanction.

"The blame has been placed where it should be placed and it's the right decision," Mosley added.

But Ari Vatanen, an independent candidate to succeed Mosley in October's elections, said the fact that the world smells an inside deal strengthens his case for "absolutely independent justice" in these sorts of disciplinary matters.

1996 world champion Damon Hill agrees. "Knowing what we know, we cannot dissociate this from the power play going on behind the scenes for control of formula one," he said.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the United Arab Emirates' automobile club president and FIA vice president for sport, gave some insight into the World Motor Sport Council's decision in conversation with local newspaper The National.

"We did our negotiations before and everybody is happy with the result," he said. "The verdict is fair and everyone is a winner."

Ben Sulayem also suggested that considerations other than the actual facts of the Singapore crash influenced his vote.

"I had to be loyal to my country as well as motor sport," he said.

"Protecting the investments Abu Dhabi has made into formula one is my duty; it is a big show and it needs teams .... (and) in the current crisis, you cannot go around hitting people and causing severe damage.

"We all want to see Renault (in F1). This is the result everyone wanted."

French industry minister Christian Estrosi told L'Equipe: "It (the decision) is a good thing for French industry and a good thing for the sport in general."

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