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Latest F1 news in brief
  • New race date for Bahrain could lead to major F1 test
  • Piquet not punished but F1 return unlikely
  • Briatore demise 'sad' - Mosley
  • F1 world lashes out at crash-gate leniency
  • Crash-gate over but clouds remain over Renault

New race date for Bahrain could lead to major F1 test
(GMM)  The road has been cleared for Bahrain to host a major pre-season test before the 2010 championship kicks off in the island kingdom.

Melbourne is the traditional host of the formula one opener, but the first officially published calendar for next year showed on Monday that Bahrain's Sakhir track will kick off the 2010 season in mid March.

The last time Bahrain hosted the first race of the season was in 2006, and it led to most teams taking the opportunity of a major test at the circuit before the championship began shortly thereafter.

Track boss Martin Whitaker however acknowledged that new rules mean that overseas testing is not allowed.

"The new regulations are there, but there is every opportunity now to encourage teams to come here and test," he told the local Gulf Daily News.

"Certainly now, we have an opportunity to talk to teams about it, given that we are the first race," he added.

Piquet not punished but F1 return unlikely
(GMM)  As the 'crash-gate' scandal ended on Monday, a contrite Nelson Piquet Jr said he now wants to resurrect his formula one career.

Having blown the whistle on his ousted bosses Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, the 23-year-old Brazilian was not punished by the World Motor Sport Council on Monday despite admitting to crashing on purpose during the 2008 Singapore grand prix.

The immunity granted to him by the FIA means he is now technically free to look for a new employer in the paddock, but many observers believe he is damaged goods.

"Sorry about that, now who wants to hire me?" British pundit and some-time official F1 interviewer James Allen faux-quoted Piquet as saying.

Allen was referring to the media statement issued by Piquet after the Paris hearing, in which the sacked Renault driver said he "bitterly" regretted the conspiracy and admitted he hopes to race in F1 again.

"I realize that I have to start my career from zero," said Piquet Jr.  "I can only hope that a team will recognize how badly I was stifled at Renault and give me an opportunity to show what I promised in my career in F3 and GP2."

If commentator and former grand prix driver Martin Brundle was a team owner, however, he would not be willing to forgive so quickly.

"I'm massively unimpressed with little Piquet," said the Briton, according to the Mirror.  "So are many others in the paddock."

Brundle doubts Piquet will ever be seen again at the wheel of a formula one car.  "How do you ever sell him to a sponsor?" he wondered.

"He didn't deliver at Renault, he wasn't fast enough, that's why he was released and that's why he has dropped hand grenades into the system ever since."

The manner in which Piquet emerged from the scandal scot-free is highly controversial, given that if the Brazilian had simply said 'no' to Briatore and Symonds, the conspiracy could never have been effected.

"If you ask me personally, I believe the punishment of Briatore seems extreme while Piquet committed a serious error with a dangerous precedent set," Spanish motor racing chief Carlos Gracia told the AS newspaper.

"I don't understand how the executor can be pardoned," he added.

Independent FIA presidential candidate Ari Vatanen agrees.

"The immunity system is very dangerous," the Finn told the BBC.  "I think all people should face results of their actions.  The final decision was for him to do it or not to do it and he can't escape that responsibility."

Briatore demise 'sad' - Mosley
(GMM)  Monday's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council ended Flavio Briatore's 20-year career in motor racing, and now the British Football League is considering whether to also ban the disgraced former Renault team boss.

"The Football League chairman, Lord Mawhinney, has today written to the FIA to request further details of its decision," a spokesman for the soccer competition said.

"Thereafter, the League will consider its position on the matter."

With billionaires Bernie Ecclestone and Lakshmi Mittal, Briatore owns Queens Park Rangers and is listed as the London club's chairman and a board director.

FIA president Max Mosley said the manner in which Briatore's career shattered over the crash-gate scandal is "sad" but argued that another outcome was not possible.

"It's sad because he's been in motor sport for 20 years, more actually.  It's sad to see a career end like that, but what else could we do?" the Briton said after the Paris hearing.

But Nelson Piquet Jr, who was told to crash in the Singapore grand prix by Briatore and the similarly-ousted Pat Symonds, was scathing of his former boss and manager after the hearing.

"His true character, which had previously only been known to those he had treated like this in the past, is now known," the Brazilian driver said in a statement.

F1 world lashes out at crash-gate leniency
(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 judgment, 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 penalizing 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 penalize 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."

Crash-gate over but clouds remain over Renault
(GMM)  The World Motor Sport Council was seen in F1 circles to have gone easy on the French marque on Monday, but the question marks remain over Renault's future on the formula one grid.

Many observers believe the FIA body did not levy a big monetary fine, or a tangible penalty like race or championship bans, in order to safeguard the carmaker's participation in a sport that has already lost Honda and BMW.

It is suggested that Renault and Toyota would be the next big names to go, and the fact that Renault has been effectively caught cheating does not bode well for the carmaker's forthcoming deliberations about the value of staying on the grid.

FIA president Max Mosley was asked by reporters in Paris what the scandal means for Renault's commitment to the sport.

"I don't think it means anything," he answered, adding a simple "yes" without elaborating when asked if Renault are planning to stay in formula one.

The timing of the so-called crash-gate scandal could not have been worse for Renault, given the global car sales crisis and the fact that its title sponsor ING is stepping out of formula one at the end of 2009.

Jonathan Neill, PR director for the company Generate Sponsorship, said: "No one, whether it's a fan or a business, will like to position themselves with a brand accused of cheating."

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