It’s “scandal eve” in Formula One, as the results of Mercedes’ secret tire test at Barcelona will be revealed at an FIA Tribunal on Thursday.
With “Tiregate” first and foremost on the minds of the F1 paddock, it’s nice that it’s been a few years since such a political scandal has emerged. We take a look back now on two of the more inglorious moments in F1 with the last two major scandals, “Crashgate” and “Spygate.”
It was late September 2008, and the first running of the Singapore Grand Prix. Renault rookie Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed, which necessitated the need for a safety car. Teammate Fernando Alonso took the advantage of pitting early and then leapfrogging everyone else to score a surprise win from 15th place on the grid.
There were a few eyebrows raised at the time but nothing substantive, until the following summer. Renault dropped Piquet due to his underwhelming performance, and the Brazilian later alleged the team told him to crash at Singapore on purpose.
This sparked an investigation by the FIA and later, a charge of conspiracy by the team. That meant the end of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds’ involvements with Renault, and bans imposed were later overturned as part of a settlement reached by the governing body.
The unfortunate soul picked to replace Piquet? A one Romain Grosjean…
McLaren’s current struggles with its car pales in comparison to when it had the microscope of scrutiny purely on its shoulders: “Spygate” in 2007.
It was alleged McLaren had obtained confidential information from Ferrari and evidence presented eventually led to McLaren’s exclusion from the 2007 World Championship, and a $100 million U.S. fine.
Ferrari had presented the case against Nigel Stepney and an engineer from McLaren – later named as Mike Coughlan – in the matter.
The off-track saga complemented the on-track drama for McLaren that year. A tempestuous relationship between Fernando Alonso and then-rookie Lewis Hamilton boiled over, where they both lost the title to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso, of course, left the team to return to Renault for 2008.