Nelson Piquet Jr. opens up on Crashgate and his reasons for that ‘mistake’

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr Pa 2008

With Felipe Massa considering legal action, using the word ‘theft’ in relation to the 2008 World title, Nelson Piquet Jr. says he never meant to “harm” Massa but that he’d been “psychologically cornered” by Renault.

Back in 2008 Piquet Jr, wanting a new Renault contract, deliberately crashed his car as ordered at the Singapore Grand Prix to pave the way for his team-mate Fernando Alonso to take the win.

Crashgate, as it became known, came to light a year later when Piquet Jr. was dropped by Renault with the driver then spilling the beans.

Renault were disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship, that suspended for two years, while team leaders Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds were banned from Formula 1, although those bans were later overturned.

It has since emerged that then F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and his FIA counterpart Max Mosley knew about the team’s actions in 2008 already with Ecclestone revealing that to F1 Insider.

He added: “According to the statutes, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions. That means it would never have happened for the championship standings. And then Felipe Massa would have become World Champion and not Lewis Hamilton.”

Massa, shocked by Ecclestone’s comments, is considering legal action and used the word “theft” in his comments.

Piquet Jr. has now weighed in, saying he never meant to hurt his compatriot, he only wanted to secure his own future in Formula 1.

“It was a team order to help someone within our team, it was not to harm Felipe Massa, it was nothing like that,” Italy24 quotes him as having said on the Pelas Pistas podcast.

“Yes, it was a mistake. There was no such thing. It was a mistake.

“But, in the position I was in, dreaming of staying in F1 for many years, the Singapore race arrived and they psychologically cornered me.”

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Answering the question as to would he do it again, Piquet Jr. says: “My normal answer is: ‘No, obviously not’. But at that age, under that pressure, you don’t have anyone there with you, except a bully like that, always complaining, always pushing, always warning: ‘This is your last chance’.

“Chasing your life and I had the feeling that everything was going backwards because I was supposed to have done more tests, that it would be another team-mate not as strong as Alonso, Kovalainen, so yes, I made a mistake.”

Piquet Jr. never made it back onto the Formula 1 grid, the driver instead competing in NASCAR’s Xfinity and Camping World Truck series before moving into stock car racing and then Formula E.

Piquet Jr. says he feels let down by his former F1 team boss Briatore who didn’t give him the support he needed.

“In that dream, we did not even consider having someone accompany me. A lawyer, a manager…but it must be so,” he said.

“My father did not go to any race the first year. I only had Flavio himself, who was the team director and my manager. Not only mine, but that of six other drivers on the grid, so I was ‘just a figure’ like all the others, who were Webber, Kovalainen, Alonso, Fisichella, Trulli.

“And then, that Briatore’s grotesque way, it’s not just how it is on TV: it’s even worse. And I was alone.”