As some of you already know, I’ve been volunteering as a motor sport marshal for a few months now, and so I wanted to share my thoughts about today’s announcement that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symmonds of Renault’s Formula One team have decided to stand down. This follows allegations of race fixing during the 2008 season, specifically in the team allegedly asking Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash in order to bring out a safety car. A fuller picture of the story can be found here.
From my point of view, I find the idea of deliberately causing an accident to be completely abhorrent. I am one of a group of people who regularly turn up at motorsports events and put our safety at risk to ensure that the events run as safely as possible, for us, the drivers, other officials and the public. We do it unpaid, and often unthanked by the teams and drivers. We do it because we love motor sports, and want to ensure that the spectacle may continue to be enjoyed by the public, and everyone involved.
In the short space of time in which I have been a marshal I have made some very good friends within the community. I cannot begin to express my displeasure at the thought that someone may go out of their way to cause an accident, let alone one in which innocent people’s lives are at stake. If I was involved at a race meeting where the life of one of my friends, or that of an innocent bystander was put in jeopardy by the irresponsibility of a team or a driver purely for the sake of a larger slice of the prize money I would be incredibly angry.
Although I will miss TV coverage of Flav being the eccentric character that he undoubtedly is, I will not miss his presence if it actually turns out that the allegations are true.
The other consideration is how much punishment Renault themselves should be given. If they get off lightly since the departure of the two remaining team members at the centre of the allegations, then surely that will leave the door open for similar acts of stupidity from other teams. It should not be enough to be able to say “Yes, we were wrong, but the people concerned have now left”. The team as a whole should bear the responsibility for their actions. I realise this will probably put the jobs of many people in jeopardy, but rather that than compromised safety. The bulk of the Renault team will have enough contacts and respect within the Formula One paddock to be able to find work at other teams – maybe one of the newly signed-up teams.
The bottom line here is that safety is vital, and the allegations are that this fundamental fact has been ignored. Formula One will more-than-likely survive the scandal, but it should not pass unmarked.