The Renault F1 team has agreed to pay substantial damages and court costs to former driver Nelson Piquet Jr. and his three-time World Champion father for libelous comments relating to the race fixing scandal that surrounded the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
When the truth of the events surrounding the Singapore event – in which Piquet was asked to crash deliberately to help teammate Fernando Alonso win – first emerged, Renault issued a statement claiming that the driver and his father had lied about the circumstances of the weekend and were trying to blackmail team bosses. The Piquets were furious about those allegations and instigated legal action against Renault over its statement.
Following a court hearing, Renault has now accepted that its comments were incorrect, and it agreed to cover costs, pay an undisclosed but "substantial" sum as compensation to the Piquets and undertake to make sure its remarks are never repeated.
A statement issued by Piquet's lawyer Dominic Crossley said: "Today the Renault Formula 1 Team apologized in the High Court for defaming my two clients, the motor racing father and son Nelson and Nelsinho Piquet. This marks the start rather than the end of the long journey they are both taking to correct many of the wrongs that took place during last year's "crashgate" scandal. They were both treated appallingly by Renault F1 when they dared to reveal the scandal to the governing body; and Nelsinho was abused terribly throughout his absurdly short career in F1.
"It is to the immense credit of both my clients that they have refused to be deterred from righting the wrongs despite the ferocity of the attacks and the size of the opponents they have had to confront. Nelson Piquet dominated F1 during the early '80s and his reputation as a motorsport legend should remain untarnished by this saga. F1 has been deprived of the best of Nelsinho and it is to its detriment that his talent is now being demonstrated elsewhere.
"While neither of them should ever have had to prove Renault F1's allegations false they are both delighted with the successful conclusion of the case."
Renault issued an official apology in court for what it had said, as it moved to bring an end to the matter.
"On Sept. 11, 2009, Renault F1 Team Limited ("the team") issued a press release, which was repeated on our website, in which we suggested that Nelson Piquet Jr. and his father had lied by making false allegations that members of the team and Nelson Piquet Jr. caused a deliberate accident at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix," said Renault in a statement. "We also suggested that these lies were invented in order to blackmail the defendant into allowing Mr. Piquet Jr. to drive for the team for the remainder of the 2009 season, and he and his father were therefore guilty of a serious criminal offense.
"The team accepts – as it did before the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA and as found by the WMSC in its decision of Sept. 21, 2009 – that the allegations made by Nelson Piquet Jr. were not false. It also accepts that Mr. Piquet Jr. and his father did not invent these allegations in order to blackmail the team.
"As a result, these serious allegations contained in the press release were wholly untrue and unfounded, and we withdraw them unequivocally. We would like to apologize unreservedly to Mr. Piquet Jr. and his father for the distress and embarrassment caused as a result.
"As a mark of the sincerity of our apology and regret, we have agreed to pay them a substantial amount of damages for libel as well as their costs, and have undertaken not to repeat these allegations at any time in the future."