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GP Week : Issue 62
GPWEEK OPINION >> Hamilton were again caught for cheating and disqualified from the race. Renault, interestingly, was also pulled up on 151c at the end of 2007 on the subject of having in their possession some rather interesting McLaren drawings. Renault confessed everything, and promised they wouldn't use them. Honest guv'nor. Only, Renault did end up using them when they installed the inerta damper they'd promised not to. Quite incredibly this one was let go by the FIA as everyone at that time seemed to be fitting them. Renault, and team boss Flavio Briatore, are no strangers to controversy. In its Benetton days the team and Flavio were involved in the missing fuel filter oddity and, of course, the legendary Option 13 scandal. So what awaits Flav and his band of merry men when they get to Paris on September 21? The sporting world at present has little time for cheaters. One needs only look at British rugby where the use of a fake blood capsule to initiate a "blood replacement" at the end of a crucial match has resulted in a four month ban for the player, a two year suspension for the club's physiotherapist, a three year ban for the club's manager and the resignation of the club's chairman. Then there's football and the recent spate of diving to try and win penalties, which is what Renault's alleged crime has been compared to. Arsenal forward Eduardo has been handed a two- game ban for his attempts, and there has been outrage over the sudden increase in the tactic. Sporting regulators, therefore, are showing no signs of making light of attempts at cheating. What makes Renault's case potentially worse is that the team ended up winning a race in which they had, until Nelson Piquet's crash, stood not a hope of claiming victory. If Renault is found guilty of making Piquet crash in order to influence the outcome of the race, the team's penalty could be enormous. Fines, race or even season bans, the striking off of team members... who knows -- if the FIA follows rugby's example, possibly even a ban from racing management for Flavio Briatore. Of course, the team is innocent until proven guilty and we must be mindful of that. But the negative publicity will not be helping to ease anyone's fears over Renault's future in F1. Even without this controversy, the team's long term commitment to the sport looked shaky. This may just tip it over the edxge. likelihood. Back in the early 1990s, after the obsolescence of Honda's three-cylinder RS500 which had replaced the earlier square-four Suzuki RG500 as the private-team stalwart, there was a similar problem of dwindling grids. The nadir was the Belgian GP of 1991, with only 13 starters. (The record is held by the Argentine round of 1961, for which just six riders lined up.) Back then, both Honda and Yamaha stepped in to help. The former made a V-twin 500 that was likewise guaranteed not to win, though that wasn't actually a headline in the sales brochure; Yamaha authorised copies of their earlier factory chassis and provided engines. But that was in the two-stroke days, before engines became four- stroke and consequently very complicated and expensive to make and to run. That problem of expense remains and will always be there, although the limitation to six engines next year should help a lot, cutting the hardware used by about half. But at least the threat of production-based GP racing has receded. For the moment. But, as one highly placed official told me: "The cost will still be high with lease engines, but at least teams will have chassis and all the associated stuff ... so that if there is a change to production engines they will be modify what they already had." In other words, back to the brink again. Oh dear. ack again Accident ... or not ... 21