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A very difficult moment for Renault’s Pat Symonds
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A very difficult moment for Renault’s Pat Symonds
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Sep 2009   |  6:19 pm GMT  |  90 comments

Who would want to swap places with Renault’s Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds? The veteran, whose F1 career goes back almost 30 years to the Toleman team, is the only senior engineer to have worked with Senna, Schumacher and Alonso and is always fascinating on the subject.

Picture 11
It has been a career of great distinction. He hasn’t worked for Ferrari, Williams or McLaren but he has helped a new team break their stranglehold on F1 glory, with Benetton in the 1990s and Renault in the 2000s. Both phases brought double world championships and although there was a whiff of controversy about some of the technical aspects of the 1990s successes with Benetton, no-one in F1 would deny that Pat is one of the good guys and a very well respected engineer and strategist.

His successes have all come in partnership with Flavio Briatore and the two have a very strong relationship, but now Symonds has been offered the chance to save himself and his career by telling ‘the truth’ about what happened in Singapore last year over Nelson Piquet’s crash. Piquet has already been given immunity by the FIA in return for spilling the beans and that same privilege has now been extended to Symonds. The FIA feel that he has a lot he is able to tell them, and may be more willing to do so in return for a deal.

Judging from the transcript of his interview with the FIA investigators below, Symonds was being very cagey. But as more and more evidence emerges into the media ahead of the hearing next Monday 21st, Symonds has to make a very difficult decision; to risk his career and his reputation or to drop Briatore in it.

Of course if it transpires that everything happened exactly as Piquet alleges, with Symonds suggesting the accident and showing Piquet when and where to crash to guarantee a safety car, then Symonds’s reputation will take a serious knock anyway.

The radio transcripts from the period around the crash are released in the Times newspaper today. They are interesting but not conclusive. So far the only weighty evidence has come from Piquet himself. But that is one man’s word against two others. Symonds has already said that the idea of crashing was Piquet’s and was made the day before the race. He does not however confirm nor deny whether the discussion on Sunday covered this subject, so he has left himself room to confirm everything Piquet alleges, if indeed that is how things transpired.

This is a real life, high stakes dilemma of the kind Hollywood script writers dream up in their imaginations. It shows why movies about F1 are pointless; because the real thing is more than dramatic enough already.

As with McLaren over Dave Ryan and Ron Dennis through their various scandals, the human damage is likely to be high in this case as relationships and loyal friendships stretching back decades are shattered.

Here is the transcript of the FIA interview with Symonds.

FIA adviser: In your own words Mr. Symonds what do you recall being said to Nelson Piquet Jnr at that meeting? This is shortly before the race.
Symonds: I don’t really remember it.
FIA adviser: You don’t remember?
Symonds: No.

FIA adviser: Nelson Piquet Jnr says that he was asked by you to cause a deliberate crash. Is that true?
Symonds: Nelson had spoken to me the day before and suggested that. That’s all I’d really like to say.

FIA adviser: Mr Symonds were you aware that there was going to be crash at Lap 14?
Symonds: I don’t want to answer that question.
FIA adviser: There is just one thing that I ought to ask you and put it to you so you can think about it at least. Mr. Piquet Jnr says that having had the initial meeting with you and Flavio Briatore you then met him individually with the map of the circuit. Do you remember that?
Symonds: I won’t answer, rather not answer that. I don’t recall it but it sounds like Nelson’s talked a lot more about it.

FIA adviser: Mr. Piquet Jnr also says at that meeting you pointed out a specific place on the circuit where he was to have the accident and said it was because it was the furthest away from any of the safety or lifting equipment and gave the most likely chance of a safety car being deployed.
Symonds: I don’t, I don’t want to answer that question.
FIA adviser: [Referring to the pre-race meeting] Was it you that did the talking at that meeting Mr. Symonds?

Symonds: I’m sure it would have been both of us but I don’t know for sure. Sorry that’s a contradiction. I would imagine it would be both of us that would be normal. Actually probably more often it’s Flavio that does the talking himself. I wouldn’t necessarily always agree with what he’s saying but the majority.
FIA adviser: Because just to be absolutely clear here what Nelson Piquet Jnr has said is that at that meeting it was you that asked him to have a crash deliberately?
Symonds: I can’t answer you.

FIA adviser: Can I say that if Mr. Symonds you’d been put in the position where you were made to ask Mr. Piquet Jnr to crash it’s much better, it would be much better for you in the long term to tell these stewards to hear that today?
Symonds: I fully understand that.
FIA adviser: Yes.
Symonds: I have no intention of lying to you. I have not lied to you but I have reserved my position just a little.

FIA adviser: And you’re aware that the stewards may draw conclusions from your unwillingness to assist them in relation to what went on in that meeting?
Symonds: I would expect them to. I would absolutely expect that.
FIA adviser: I think I haven’t got any further questions.

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90 Comments
  1. richard says:

    Bl00dy ell !!

    1. Chris says:

      I couldn’t agree more.

      I’m not a Renault fan but I am a Pat Symonds fan. After reeding the transcript I would say that no matter what he or Flavio do I would say they are 100% buggered.

      Before you know it Ferrari will arrange for Kimi and Massa to meet with unfotunate ends to make way for Alonso and Schumacher.

  2. Tom says:

    Well, although he doesn’t say much other than’I refuse to answer’, surely that’s going to be as damning as admitting to the accusations in the long run?

  3. Ajit says:

    What do you think is Alonso’s role in all this?
    Also can you say ‘An Very Difficult…’ instead of ‘A’?

    Ajit

  4. Michael says:

    I am not a Renault fan… but they are going down and going down hard and I feel for how it is all being played out in the media with confidential leaks. The FIA (Mosley) has a score to settle with Briatore and this situation landed perfectly in his lap… a great retirement present. HOW ARE ALL THESE LEAKS POSSIBLE??? Renault will not get a fair trial with all these leaks… but then again when it comes to the FIA the idea of fairness is non-existent. Renault were going to leave anyway… here is the push out the door. We knew that Piquet couldn’t drive for squat… and now we know he is a cheat and a sore loser.

  5. F1 Kitteh says:

    While I agree with many of Max’s positions on various matters, don’t think making this a witch hunt is the right thing. And yes, this year’s review DVD could make best picture at Oscars.. its simply unreal … both on and off track.

  6. Michael says:

    This is interesting as there is clearly enough evidence to implicate both Briatore and Symonds. My personal view is that this happened and both are responsible.

    I think the best solution to this issue whether the team is guilty or not is to claim there is not enough evidence and hang Piquet so he doesn’t drive in F1 again. Cover it up and move on as F1 can’t take further scandal, particularly of this nature. Briatore and Symonds should both leave the sport quietly at the end of the season and not return.

    1. krad says:

      Dream on this is never going to end quietly

    2. Snail says:

      People like Briatore will not go unless forced to go. That isn’t how they operate. The man is in possesion of a Jupiter class ego. Its impossible for him to walk away of his own accord. He’ll only go if shown the door with no other option present.

  7. Richard Mee says:

    What kind of judicial system openly offers pardons for possible serious cheating with one hand whilst being able to deliver heavy penalties without watertight evidence with the other? I find the lack of integrity shameful.

    If Max has such a bloodlust for Briatore why doesn’t he simply push through a missive banning men called Flavio Briatore from working in F1 forever and fining Renault backdated $1million per race since employing him. Such an action could barely lose further credibility; and once he’d settled all scores with luck he can leave F1 and we can close this unfortunate directoral chapter…

  8. Silverstoned says:

    I would have thought with something this serious that the correct legal procedures are followed right from the start. It can’t be right for the FIA to leak this conversation, even if they were entitled to have it in the first place with no legal adviser present, etc

    I would be v surprised if PS is guilty as charged.

    Incidentally what do crashgate and stepneygate have in common?
    answer: Fernando Alonso. Good luck Ferrari

    1. Both instances begun without Alonso’s apparent consideration though…

    2. PaulL says:

      Compelling similarities there. Bridgestone tyres are also common to both cases. Do you think their technicians had something to do with the crash?

      Do you think Alonso lied to the stewards as well about not knowing? Or is lying mainly a Lewis thing..

    3. Williams4ever says:

      Wow gr8 bias against Alonso Mate!!!! Alonso/De La Rosa were testing what their “Employer” “ASKED THEM” to test, They had not taken initiative to get Data from Stepeney.

      The way Ferrari and McLaren have patched up in recent times after all that venom they spewed in Spygate, I get a feeling both the managements wanted to eliminate Coughlan and Stepney and Joined hands to implicate them and eliminate them from Motor sport.

    4. Williams4ever says:

      The very fact that McLaren Management “Chose” not to report Coughlan, use the data acquired by him “Allegedly” through Stepney and asked their employees (Alonso and De La Rosa) to test the validity of the information acquired “Illegally” means It was “McLaren Senior Management(Ron Dennis)” who had to take fall in the Spygate.

      FIA and F1 is so inconsistent in regulating and governing that Dennis had to take fall when his favorite son, was not man enough to confess truth to the stewards in Australia.

      So when Dennis erred Coughlan had to take fall, when Lewis erred , Dennis and Dave Ryan had to take a fall. This simply proved how inadequate and inconsistent the system is and is only good to help all parties settle “Personal Scores”

  9. jed says:

    This is getting to be really insane.

    Now they are offering immunity to Pat.
    From Nelson’s testimony Pat is also a principal participant in the alleged offense, just like Nelson. He should have no immunity.

    The closest thing to immunity that they can have is that their own testimonies cannot be used as evidence against them but other evidence can be used to prosecute them.

    Now the picture is beginning to look like the FIA wants to get rid of Flavio.

    There are three principal participants in the alleged crash so alonso could win conspiracy.
    And now, two of them are gonna be set free just to get Flavio.

    To be fair they should also offer immunity to Flavio in exchange for his testimony. After all, if the allegations are true, Flav is just as guilty as the other two. In a conspiracy the act of one is the act of all.

    I guess the FIA does not have enough evidence to prove that renault cheated so now they are just trying to manipulate the situation to get Flavio.

    If the FIA had the evidence they wouldn’t be handing out immunities left and right.

  10. rpaco says:

    Is Pat going to be Flav’s fall guy?
    It looks very much like the investigation is being targeted at Flav with both Pat and Piquet being offered immunity. Who does the targeting?

    The problem is that if Pat accepts immunity and says “It was all my own idea and Flav knew nothing about it” No one on this planet will believe him, besides we have yet to read exactly what Piquet said, it is understood that he definitely and thoroughly implicated Flav.
    Let’s not forget that Flav has double responsibilty here, once as team principle and once as Piquet’s manager.

    The other thing is that Alonso’s fuel strategy made no sense whatsoever unless he knew that there would be a crash. This also implicates others who must have been asking why he was going out from the back of the grid with only half a cup of fuel. Mechanics are not stupid, they must have been asking about Alonso’s light fuel load, were they told nothing, just to shut up? Were they amazed when it all panned out and Alonso won?

  11. John says:

    I’m a little troubled by the immunity offers to both Piquet and Symonds. I’m sure both will suffer severe consequences regardless, but it doesn’t seem quite right that 2/3 (?) of the guilty parties may be immune.

    1. michael c says:

      this whole matter is a smelly business (like a few other things in the F1 soap opera over the years) but only 1 out of 3 (if not more) facing the consequences stinks as well. Max – if it looks to us punters like a witch hunt and smells like a witch hunt…………

      1. John says:

        I have a problem with the widespread use of the term witch-hunt in this case.

        Witch-hunt implies trying to pin something on someone that is basically innocent. The 1950s McCarthy era communist hearings are an example.

        In this case, I don’t think Briatore is innocent (although it remains to be conclusively demonstrated one way or the other). Regardless, I do think there’s more than enough suspicion to warrant investigating his role in the Singapore crash incident. He is a principle player in the whole thing. It’s not like the FIA just randomly dragged Briatore into the mess, or went looking for something to pin on him. Piquet dropped it in their lap; they had to investigate.

        That being said, I don’t think it’s quite right that Symonds was offered immunity. It certainly raises the perception that the FIA is only after Briatore. I understand the reasons, but dislike, that Piquet was given immunity.

        Despite FIA immunity, I would be very surprised is Symonds remains with Renault (if they even stay in F1) or even if he is hired by anyone else.

  12. PaulL says:

    I hope Pat is just waiting for his lawyer or something because the above seems to suggest something terrible.

    Is it about guilt or is it about waiting to meet with other Renault staff/board members to discuss how they will present their side of the story?

  13. Buck says:

    James, I’ve been an F1 fan for 35 years. It has always been a dramatic sport with strong and eccentric personalities, both in the cars and along the paddock. But with all the scandals and crises of these past few years, and obviously this year in particular which has lead up to these extremly serious allegations, have left me and I am sure many other F1 fans with the impression that the lunatics are running the asylum.

    Perhaps some appropriate reading on the subject of corporate corruption and crime can be found here: http://www.snakesinsuits.com/

    Thanks for providing such a great site.

  14. bill says:

    One option is for Renault and/or Briatore to pay off Symonds to retire from the team prior to the hearing. If Symonds is no longer a part of F1, then the WMSC can’t compel him to appear at the hearing, and then it just becomes Briatore’s word vs Piquet Jr’s word.

  15. Dans says:

    Not if but when.

    So whos likely to take over next week, Prost?

  16. Jason C says:

    I don’t really see why immunity is being dished out left, right and centre. Well, that’s not strictly true – it’s obviously because of Moseley’s personal grudge against Briatore.

  17. Al (21prods) says:

    James, I know you are holding your opinion on all this until all facts & matters are settled. But let me put you this:

    1. Piquet Jr. admits he crashed on purpose. Yet FIA grants him immunity.

    2. Piquet Jr. states that the idea of crashing deliberately came from Symonds in a meeting between both of them and Briatore.

    3. Symonds does not say any conclusive thing. Yet FIA grants him immunity if he drops Briatore in it.

    My conclusion is: Why does the FIA want to ‘catch’ Briatore? Why does the FIA not offer immunity to Briatore if he says the truth? Does it have to do with any personal ‘vendetta’ from Mosley? Because what I cannot understand (and I would very much appreciate it if you could cover this topic in one of your brilliant articles) is why the FIA is willing to grant immunity to two (apparently) ‘guilty’ people (Piquet Jr. and Symonds) in order to have Briatore alone before the WMSC. Please bear in mind that according to Piquet Jr. (unless I’m mistaken) Briatore did not instruct him to crash, not expressly at least.

    Sorry James, but I cannot trust the FIA while Mosley is in there dictating what to do, just because he thinks it appropriate. FIA needs transparency and democracy. It’s vital.

    1. Racing not politics says:

      nicely put

  18. Baktru says:

    In a case such as this, declining to comment, hell, not saying no is pretty close to saying ‘yes’ anyways…

    I still cannot believe this whole affair. If Renault had Nelsinho crash deliberately in order to have Alonso win the race here in Spore, that’s an unbelievable case of falsifying race results. Not to mention the damage this will bring to the sports, again. And if this is the case, which seems more and more likely reading this, I think at the least Briatore should be banned from F1 for life. Noone is going to tell me that in this case, it was not him who masterminded the whole thing.

    1. Scott says:

      What about Piquet Jr (already admitted guilt) and Symonds (if found guilty)? Should they not also get banned for life? While someone may have masterminded it, he certainly wasn’t the one who actually carried out out, and to grant immunity to the person who did stinks!

      1. Baktru says:

        Do you go for the dealer or the junkies? The mob boss or his henchmen?

        I do agree that granting immunity to Nelsinho and Symonds is wrong as well, but what the FIA needs to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, is whether the intentional crash is true (which it seems) and who masterminded it.

  19. lynnduffy says:

    I really feel for Pat Symonds, who I have always somehow felt is seen as Ross-Brawn-Lite. But there’s no doubt that there has been a lot of rule-bending, at the very least, on his watch. However, IMHO Flavio is as crooked as a three pound note, and deserves whatever he gets. He seems terminally stuck in the 70s in his appearance, his attitudes and his wideboy approach to competition.

    One thing that has really puzzled me today is that so many sources (including yourself James) are only reporting on this information today. It was available online (racefax.com) last week, the same day that NPJ’s testimony was leaked. Why are so many news organisations reporting this as breaking today?

    You’ve all been busy enough today I’d have thought! :)

  20. swayze says:

    I read that interview on another site but waited to comment until it had been confirmed as true

    I find it astonishing, and it does Renault/Briatore/Symonds no good whatsoever and just fans the flames almost to the point of finding them guilty before the hearing

    James would he have been legally represented at this interview ?

    “I have reserved my position just a little.”

    I feel that may well be legal speak for “I do not wish to incriminate myself”

    If, as i have read that he has also been offered immunity from prosecution if he tells the truth then it will also give more credability to the rumour that Max Mosley is more intrested in “nailing Briatore” before he retires.

  21. Erik Cramer says:

    So either Symonds or Piquet is lying, now who do you believe, a respected 30 year veteran or a spoild rich kid who´s angry because they have taken his toy away? I cannot believe a team would order a driver to crash, drivers however have crashed deliberatly. Fellow Brazilian Senna was pretty good at it. So Piquet suggests a crash in an effort to secure his drive but the team wants no part of it. He crashes anyway and after being fired says he was made to do it to get revenge on Briatore. If he told Briatore he would do this if Briatore fired him the blackmail story of Briatore comes into play. Briatore would still be in trouble for having denied to know anything about this. If Piquet lied in his statement his immunity won´t save him. I believe Symonds and I think Piquet is very sorry he ever started this because the only way he will ever get near F1 again is by buying a ticket for the grandstands.

    1. krad says:

      It’s true Senna would crash to affect as race/championship result. However he would only do it for himself and never to help anyone else out

  22. Neil Barr says:

    James, could get Pat in touch with a reputable book publisher? Because what he could reveal about wrongdoing at Benetton/Renault could fill a book. For decades Briatore required winning solutions from Symonds and history shows they had no hesitation about using creativity that would be best kept hidden. I would really like to know how Symonds felt when Senna was trying his best to stay ahead of the option13 equipped Benetton. How did he feel when his men were engulfed in flames as a result of a fuel filter removed under his instructions? How did he feel as he poured over McLaren’s drawings and utilized their solutions? What was his reaction when caught only to receive no penalty? There’s so much that the F1 audience would pay to hear about from the man who could be described as Flavio’s racing brain. But riddle me this, Mr. Pat Symonds: Is having Briatore as your boss a substitute for a conscience?

  23. Werewolf says:

    The lines are becoming so vague as to be meaningless. Immunity to Piquet, as the accuser, was one thing and easily capable of defence (irrespective of personal viewpoint). Now, the FIA is offering that same immunity to one of the defendants, a man of such senior position that the distinction between himself and the team principle is surely of little real consequence in this instance.

    I fully understand the prededents elsewhere of reducing sentences and even offering immunity in order to bust a Mr Big but I’m not sure I see it as reasonable here; and it can only add weight to the Mosley vendetta theories.

    I suppose it could be argued that the truth is the point and arriving at it is necessary to protect F1 but is that protection really going to be achieved if 2 of 3 alleged conspirators are immune from consequence, especially if Briatore goes anyway?

  24. Mario says:

    Very uncomfy position to be in for Symonds for sure. But let’s face it: honest people do not get entangled in that kind of dodgy deals at all. The only way to save himself is now for Symonds to start saying thing as they were, otherwise he is finished no matter how good a person he’s been up to this point.
    It seems to me that Mr Briatore is going to grow ever less comfortable from now.

  25. Ben says:

    Oh boy. Why not simply deny, deny, deny, if these allegations are false? I’m sure there are legal considerations at play, but surely?!?

    The question by Piquet about the current lap is rather odd also. Why ask that early in the race? Was an early stop planned for him? Obviously not before lap 17 – nice laps after he asked that question.

    I hope Renault haven’t sunk that low, though at the moment it is not looking good. Maybe the defense argument will be more persuasive?

    Renault asked over the radio for Piquet to push harder, but that request can be used as evidence for both sides. He either crashed as a result of pushing too hard, or this was the “code word”. It did seem odd that Renault said that he must pass Barrichello on that particular lap, unless that is normal motivational talk.

    Briatore’s outburst can be disregarded as being persuasive one way or the other.

  26. Steve says:

    One of the good guys in F1? The standard for being a good guy must be pretty low.
    “Fuelgate”
    “Option13gate”
    “Crashgate”
    This guy is dirty from head to toe.

  27. Paul Mc says:

    Off track politics are more entertaining than the races themselves. Symonds for the good of the sport should come clean on what he knows. Some things are greater than personal reputation.

    James i read Martin Brundles blog saying he is disappointed in Piquet Jnr & Snr and that this is motivated by anger. I have to say that if Piquet kept quiet we would have never known about this at all and we would have a team on the grid who knowingly allowed a driver to strategically crash an F1 car into a wall to get a victory. F1 does not need a team like this in the sport.

    Of course none of this is proven yet but its a disgrace if its true. Piquet is of course not without blame here but the fact that if Renault did not sack him, none of this would have come to light. Incredible….

  28. Wingers says:

    There is a South African phrase that kind of sums this all up…

    EISH!!!

    Said as:
    A (as in the letter A)
    followed with SHHH (as in SHHH be quiet)
    Which translates to something like (Oh %^*!! we are in kak (another South African slang word for poo!).

    Say it with me… EISH!!!

    Now everyone is ready for when England plays in SA next year at the World Cup ;-)

  29. Peter says:

    This is a war between Mosley and Briatore no. It is verz sad from the sport point of view. Hope Ari Vatanen will bring some new era and future for F1.

    1. James Allen says:

      There is a personality aspect to it, but the situation is real and there certainly appears to be a case to answer.

      1. Boltonjon says:

        Its only a few weeks since the press suggested that Flav will be taking over from Bernie when CVC sacked him for pro-Nazi comments.

        So, is this the first of the ‘favours’ which Max does for his mate Jean before he takes office??

  30. Peter says:

    Sorry, ….now. and …very

  31. Philip T says:

    This is a capivating piece of writing. In fact the whole story is. As the pieces come together it is becoming clear that someone is in deep trouble. I only hope for Pat’s sake he saves his career.

    Unfortunately for Piquet Jr it must be too late. He either a liar or a cheat and, whether immune from punishment or not, he loses every bit of respect that was left. Reading the Times Online I think it looks more likely to be the former which will be serious for Renault.

    1. Philip T says:

      I obviously meant the latter… Nelson [mod] wouldn’t have been serious for Renault would it?!

  32. Grabyrdy says:

    The only reason the FIA would give Symonds immunity would be to be sure to get Flavio. I’m a bit surprised they don’t think they have enough to get him anyway.
    Question 1 : Is any judgment which sanctions only one of the three actors in this drama worth much ? Makes it all a bit too personal, and devalues the judicial process. Doesn’t it ?
    Question 2 : Why was Dave Ryan not given the same chance ?

    Isn’t it grubby, all this ? I know it adds to the gaiety of nations and all that, but still…

  33. Malcolm46 says:

    I suppose Symonds next move depends on what actually happened!

    One other interesting thought I had, in the German GP 2008, Piquet Jnr finished second, due to the safety car coming out at the right time after pitting and fuelled to the finish having qualified 17th…

  34. Virgil says:

    Where were Renaults lawyers ? . Should have been advised to take the 5th amendment.

    1. Rich C says:

      Since its not in the USA there is no “5th”. And this isn’t a “legal” matter, its a “civil” matter, an internal investigation by a private “club”. There may be lawsuits as a result, but no criminal actions.

  35. adrian says:

    A couple of comments:

    (i) It’s pretty extraordinary to be asked a direct question, “Mr Symonds were you aware that there was going to be crash at Lap 14?” and to respond “I don’t want to answer that question.”. There can only be two answers. The adverse inference is plain as a pikestaff. If the answer was “no” there could be no reason whatsoever not to answer “no”.

    (ii) I can’t see any reason why the FIA should offer Symonds ‘immunity’ unless Symonds has already indicated that this will be on the basis that he will testify against Briatore. There’s no-one further up the chain of command than Symonds apart from Briatore. What’s the point in offering immunity unless you’re going to get the bigger fish.

    1. James Allen says:

      I spoke to a London litigation lawyer this evening and he said that the key points here are that 1) this is not a case in the civil courts, where, in the UK at least, plea bargaining is not really done. It is subject to the rules of the FIA. I don’t know what it says in the rules on disciplinary hearings about the right the FIA has to offer plea bargains, but I will look into it; 2) were the FIA onto something anyway when Piquet gave his evidence, in other words did he go to them or did they quiz him first? The history we’ve seen so far seems to suggest that the Piquets started this, in other words the FIA was not on to them. As for offering Symonds immunity, is it to get at the truth generally or specifically to incriminate Briatore, in other words on what terms has Pat been given this immunity?

      1. adrian says:

        James, yes – (1) the FIA is a private body – it can make it’s own rules as to how it deals with its members, although there are probably some limits to that. (I think your intended reference was to the UK criminal courts? – in the civil courts a party can compromise their dispute on any terms they like with any other party).

        As to (2)(i), I would suspect too that it was the Piquets who have precipitated all this in a fit of (if you’ll excuse the pun) pique at Nelsinho being canned. The timing is pretty eloquent. As to (2)(ii), I can’t see *the advantage* to the FIA in offering immunity to Symonds unless they are confident that he will cement their case against Briatore. The point is one which someone else above made as well: what’s the point in offering Symonds immunity if his story is going to be, “yes, it was something that Nelsinho and I dreamt up together and no-one else knew”?

        Even with their FIA immunity, are not Piquet and Symonds still on pretty sticky wickets vis-a-vis the world at large, particularly all the bookies who have e.g. paid out on an Alonso win?

        And what does FIA immunity mean for Symonds in practice – surely if the allegations are true, this must be the end of the line for him in F1, whether or not he gets his ‘immunity’? Could any team really employ him after this from a PR perspective? What other punishment could the FIA inflict on Symonds personally other than exclusion?

  36. Spencer says:

    When I first read in the press that Piquet had made these alogations, I think like many I thought it was a case of sour grapes. The longer this goes on and the more evidence that comes to light, it really looks like the story is true.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Symonds or Flavs possition right now!!

  37. Peter says:

    Where did this transcript come from James?

    1. Rocky says:

      Autosport has it.

  38. Jeff Pappone says:

    Incredible stuff. It’s amazing how hugely important things just vanish from the memory banks.

    Seriously, I can see these guys saying: “I don’t recall attending the birth of my first child, but I do remember my wife being pregnant a day or two before a child magically appeared in the house.”

  39. CTP says:

    it’s pretty implausible to think that piquet suggested the idea… what would be in it for him? sure, he’d keep his drive, but i don’t think any racing driver would concoct that plan themselves. otoh, the team suggesting it is very plausible, and clearly piquet agreeing to it would make sense if it were worded that he would keep his drive by so doing.

  40. Robert McKay says:

    From that transcript he’d probably have been better just saying “No comment” eight times.

  41. Antoine says:

    “Symonds has to make a very difficult decision; to risk his career and his reputation or to drop Briatore in it.”

    So does that mean Pat Symonds’ reputation will be “saved” should he decide to cooperate with the FIA? I think the “Crash-Fixing” put his reputation in question in the first place, whether he drops Flavio or not will change nothing for the fans. Personally I’ll always have respect for people like him and Ron Dennis despite the few scandal they’ve found themselves in recently as they’ve done a lot for the sport for me to concentrate on their mistakes.

    1. James Allen says:

      Read on, it says that if proven that he did this his reputation will take a hammering, you’ve only read half the story

      1. john says:

        But even if he drops Briatore in his reputation would be affected aswell as being one of the participants of the fixing,no matter the immunity.
        This is what I can´t understand.
        Wouldn´t be better for him to deny everything?
        What´s his advantage in accepting the FIA proposal?

  42. Olivier says:

    It seems that the first night race has brought out the dark side of some people ;)

    Bye bye Briatore. And Symonds.

    What’s next? The Singapore GP result is corrupt and void. The best thing is to re-calculate the championship without the results from Singapore?!

    1. Snail says:

      It seems that the first night race has brought out the dark side of some people ;)

      Bye bye Briatore. And Symonds.

      I didn’t see any light sabres.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoXmqIptjK0

    2. CTP says:

      maybe that is max’s secret plan… one last kick in the teeth to ron dennis when he takes away lewis’ championship?

  43. Steve JR says:

    If Symonds was party to this debacle then he should come clean. To do so would show great maturity at the end of an awful sequence of bad decisions and I’m sure people would be kind and find forgiveness.

    To cover up and lie in the face of deception would be unforgiveable.

    I hope he does the right thing by himself and by the sport.

  44. Luke Robbins says:

    This is absolutely crazy!

    I didn’t really think it could happen a few days ago but given Symonds responses here it makes me suspect that Renault are in fact guilty.

    The major thing i don’t understand is why Piquet would offer to crash in the first place, if that is indeed true.

    The car was pretty good at that race and surely he could have had a chance of the points. You can’t really say that it was a majorly suprising win for Fernando given he dominated the race at the next GP – china i think it was.

    This is really bad if its true. What kind of bans would occur? Surely thats Flav and Renault out of F1?

  45. Rich says:

    Perhaps a guilt-edged chance for the FIA to make a fair and transparent ruling that is unequivocally ‘in the interests of competition and motorsport generally’ has turned into another Mosleyan score settling exercise.

    The ‘impossible to trace’ press leaks, the immunities granted to key parties. It seems that Max wants to take the rest of them down with him. The only one he can’t get to was Montezemelo.

  46. monktonnik says:

    If Symonds has such a part in this that he requires immunity from punishment, then you would have to say that it is the last thing the FIA should grant.

    You cannot, for one second, convince me that Briatore has more strategic insight than Pat Symonds. I am not suggesting that Flavio is clueless, but you have to admit that it is hard to countenance that the idea or the detail of where and when to crash came from Flavio. I am sure (if any if this is true) that he knew, but I don’t think he was the architect. This smacks of a witch hunt.

  47. James H. says:

    Symonds confirms that he knew of Piquet’s intention to crash for the Team’s benefit the day before. He is highly experienced and second in command of a high profile corporation with 598 subordinates who must answer to him. Why wouldn’t he tell an inexperienced, young driver not to crash purposefully? I realize that, as much as I love Formula One, much that goes on is neither fair nor ethical, but this exceeds the lowest possible standard. And in Piquet Junior’s defense, it seems that his father has more to answer for if any one here believes that silence has honor.

  48. Peter says:

    The fact that vital evidence has been leaked to the likes of The Times and Autosport for all of us to read is quite astonishing. This IS F1 hanging out it’s dirty laundry to dry in public. Who is to blame? Something tells me a lot of this has been deliberately leaked.

  49. Michael P says:

    Fully Pat was in the know and likely even more. Being a bit more than cagey with his responses I would think James. Usually people will at least take an opportunity to deny something fully untrue and hedge on the funny stuff. Did Flav have blackmail pics or something?! Pat was totally involved. Amazing.

  50. Tevin says:

    All three are guilty and should fry accordingly.

  51. Lem J. says:

    James, do you think Alonso knew about the race fix? Perhaps in a future article, you can spread more light about his lack of knowledge regarding “Crashgate”.

    1. Harveyeight says:

      From what I can deduce from the leaks, the prosecution case virtually depends on Alonso being in some way implicated.

      The FIA are suggesting that the tactic of fueling Piquet so light was so ridiculous that it can lead to only one interpretation: the crash was planned by the management, Pat and Flav, post qually when they took his Renault to the pump. When Alonso came to pay, he must have been shocked at the price.

      Many might feel it irrefutable that Alonso, who historically has taken a great deal of, some say controlling, interest in his race strategy would not have asked what was going on. One might feel that if the short-fueling was an issue then when FA brought it up an unevidenced homily suggesting he should trust Flav would have been met with hilarity. Indeed, FA might well be Flav’s secret weapon. Or, of course, might be Mosley’s. We’ll know if FA is offered immunity.

      Mind you, FA is on dodgy ground. He’s already coughed to cheating, albeit as minor partner to PdlRosa, but with the immunity there is the condition that they don’t offend again.

      Remember that whether or not Piquet crashed deliberately is not the issue. Nor even that Flav and Pat might have thought that he’d done so. It is whether or not the three/four of them discussed the matter before the race and came to a decision that Piquet should crash.

      Whilst much has been made of Pat Symond’s limited answers to questions before the hearing, if, as he says, Piquet did bring up the question of deliberately crashing then he should have gone to the FIA. That would explain him not being as open as he might be.

      Certainly post race he, and Flav if he’d passed the info on to him, should have done so. These matters will, no doubt, be raised.

      One can’t help but wonder if the Ferrari reluctance to kick Raik out of the car amounts to hedging bets.

      The Spanish connection is vital to F1. The Santander factor is overwhelming. And Alonso, the only thing that really holds the bank and two GP to the sport, is already on a yellow card.

      The FIA case depends on the willingness of four people to conspire together to act dishonestly. I don’t buy an explanation that simple.

      1. Lem J. says:

        Harveyeight, great reply. I can totally see your point!

  52. Rich C says:

    I hope he has a fallback career all lined up. Hey, maybe he could be a commentator?!

    1. adtrad says:

      Well, he would surely be better than Legard…

  53. Terry Griffin says:

    James,
    As long as I have been a fan of F1 , I have always thought that there are two schools of people who are in the game. The first group and most visible are the ones who will cheat and lie to get to the front no matter what it takes. The second are the ones who have the integrity to realize that you can win without cheating and walk away knowing that they can hold their heads high about not compromising the sport. If this story of what Nelson claims is proven to be true ( and I tend to believe him ) then the FIA must rid itself of two of its biggest repeat offenders. That being Flavio and Pat Symonds. If they allow Pat immunity Flavio will make him take the fall. If the FIA does this they loose all control of what happens from there. If this incident is proven it will show that the FIA letting Pat and Flavio off over the years on the various infractions and down right cheating has contributed to a perception that it is OK. I think that Neil Barr post clears one’s vision of Pat Symond’s being a nice guy by reminding us of past infractions. I hope this turns out to be Nelson Sr. trying to make every one in the Renault team pay for his son’s lack of relative talent. But I will not bet a penny on Flavio or Pat being clean.
    This blog is incredible. Keep up the good work James.

    1. MartinWR says:

      Thanks for that Terry, nice to see someone talking some sense here about this mess.

      I just wonder sometimes whether Nelsinho is quite as bereft of talent as he has been painted. But in the current circumstances it’s pretty unlikely now that we will ever have a chance to find out if he really is, because his career has probably finally hit the buffers, whatever the outcome of this is.

      Flav has a way of putting down anyone whose face doesn’t fit in the team for one reason or other, generally because they refuse to do his bidding to the letter. I seem to remember that he very nearly managed to blight the career of the current leader of the drivers championship when the latter refused to take Flav on as manager during his ill-starred stint at Renault.

  54. Bradley says:

    Hi James,

    Perhaps worth pointing out that the transcript above isn’t the transcript of the conversation, but what have been termed “the relevant parts”. There are missing sections of discussion between various questions.

    I’m intrigued by this idea of “relevant”. Relevant for whom, and to what purpose? Why are all these leaks happening and what are they for?

    One could infer that the FIA believes it has a weak case, as Harveyeight suggested, because they’ve also offered Symonds immunity – why would they need to? – and have felt the need to leak all this information to skew perceptions of the case.

    But it would be nothing more than an inference at this stage, of course…

  55. Stevie P says:

    Oh what a tangled web they’ve woven…

    It does seem, with the immunity option for Symonds, as though Max has some kind of personal vendetta. A “you’ve pushed me out, thus I’m taking you down with me” kinda thing… Max has had his suspicions for a long, long time (I’m no fan of Max though).

    I’m not surprised by the machinations of F1 teams, the will to win means you will goto the edge and beyond it, in some cases. You could accuse many drivers of being too extreme; thus you could accuse the management of the teams too.

    It’s very, very, very sad… but we’ve had drug-cheats in cycling and athletics; blood-gate in rugby; reports and incidents of match-fixing in snooker and horse-racing. You name it, it’s probably happened.

    The desire to be top of the pile outweighs any relevance to “playing fair”… but hey, F1′s a business now… and most businesses don’t “play fair”. If there is an advantage to be gained, they will take it! Regardless of the fallout.

    So Flav and Pat and whoever may have a dent in their reputation… they can go back to their expensive yachts and houses etc, whilst those that actually do the work (the crews and engineers) scratch around wondering what to do… as always it’s the “little” people, that have nothing to do with the actual decisions, who are truly affected.

  56. Finn says:

    Alonso qualified badly because of problems on on the Saturday.

    Quite reasonable to gamble that on a street circuit there might be a safety car incident. Seems like a good idea to take a chance. What else was he supposed to do?

    People seem desperate to drag Alonso down.

    If Pat and Flav both deny the plan … there’s no proof against them as far as we have seen.

    Piquet claims the telemetry shows he accelerated rather than braking when spinning. But on the warm up lap he also spun but accelerated out of the spin. He seems to have negated his own claim of irregular behaviour.

    If Piquet had this incident over Flav and Pat, I can’t see they would have let him go – let alone humiliating him by sacking him mid-season.

    The FIA should ban Piquet for life.

    If Pat/Flav say they have done something wrong, then they should also be punished. If they deny the accusation and the FIA can;t provide hard irrefutable proof, then they should be exonerated.

    1. Rob says:

      I recall Alonso looked so promising in saturday practice only for a fuel pump problem to thwart his progress, call me cynical could this be a conspiracy to legitimately get him down the grid and then to run light for an early pitstop we know the rest!! I have always respected and admired Pat for his off the cuff and seemingly relaxed comments i wish him well for the future he will be sorely missed, after all these years at the top now is the time to do all those outside F1 interests and money permitting enjoy them.

  57. F1Artwork says:

    Flav and Pat have left the team!!!
    WOW!

  58. Fran says:

    So breaking news…. Flavio and Pat are both gone…. Renault are not going to dispute the allegations!!!
    In a statement, Renault said: ‘The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

    ‘It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.

    ‘Before attending the hearing before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009, the team will not make any further comment.’

  59. voimbaf says:

    Thank you.Great site.

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