Formula 1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone has warned that there could be "serious" consequences for both Nelson Piquet and Renault if an investigation into race-fixing at last year's Singapore Grand Prix uncovers anything suspicious.
The FIA is currently looking into claims, which emerged during last weekend's race weekend in Belgium, that Piquet may have been asked to crash deliberately in Singapore last year to help teammate Fernando Alonso win. The nature of the claims, or who has provided them, has not been revealed, and the FIA has only confirmed that it is looking into "events" at a previous world championship race.
However, Ecclestone has confirmed that the incident being looked at is Singapore – and says he and the governing body are taking the matter seriously.
"The FIA has launched a thorough investigation into the allegations about Nelson," Ecclestone said. "I do not know if they are true or not. But if they are true, then I would have thought Nelson was in just as much trouble. If I tell you to go and rob a bank and you get caught, you can't say, 'Well Bernie told me to.'
"It all seems very strange to me and I do not know the truth."
Should the FIA find any evidence of foul play, then it would most likely call a meeting of its World Motor Sport Council to discuss the matter. If the WMSC finds Renault guilty, then punishments range from a reprimand through to fines, race bans and even exclusion from the World Championship.
Ecclestone said that FIA would come down hard on any guilty party.
"If the investigation finds out that that is what happened, then I think there is going to be a lot of trouble," he said. "You hear of these things happening with jockeys and in football (rugby), and it has led to all sorts of trouble hasn't it?
"If it is true, then it is a very serious situation. But it could just be a rumor and Nelson is just annoyed that he has been fired. But it is not good for the sport. People seem to be spending money betting on F1, which is good, but they will not want to do that if they think something is wrong with the result."
Ecclestone also fears that Renault could pull out of F1 as a result of the investigation – joining Honda and BMW in exiting the sport in the space of less than 12 months.
He told The Times: "This is not the sort of thing we need at the moment. I think it will p*** off Renault, for a start. Them leaving the sport is a danger, obviously. I mean, I hope that it isn't like that, but it's the sort of thing that might happen."
The departure of Renault from F1 would not only hit the Enstone, UK-based team, but would also hurt Williams, which is close to signing a customer-engine deal with the French car manufacturer.
Renault has so far not commented on the situation.