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The rights and wrongs of immunity
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Sep 2009   |  9:05 pm GMT  |  124 comments

I’m interested in the rights and wrongs of the FIA offering immunity from prosecution to Nelson Piquet and Pat Symonds – but not to Flavio Briatore – in the Singapore crash investigation.

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 criminal 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 and whether it says in there that the FIA has the right 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 his offer of immunity to get at the truth generally or specifically to incriminate Briatore, in other words on what terms has Pat been given this immunity?

Offering immunity worked in the case of the Harlequins rugby player who was ordered to fake a blood injury in order to get a specialist kicker onto the pitch. The FIA will have taken note of this.

Earlier today I asked one of our regular readers, Harveyeight, who is an ex CID policeman, to give me his views on the whys and wherefores of granting immunity from prosecution in the Renault case to Nelson Piquet and Pat Symonds.

He has been involved in a lot of investigations and interviews of suspects in the real world and, as someone who has that experience, but is also clearly passionate about F1, I was interested in his view. Here it is:

“My instinct is to say that if you can’t trust anyone to tell the truth without inducements you can’t trust them to tell the truth.

The FIA do not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, as explained by Werewolf. So we have the threshold of the balance of probabilities. It you can’t reach that without some kind of prepayment then your case must be pretty weak.

Further, the FIA has protection against a duff decision built-in to the law. To go into pope mode and grant forgiveness of sins without repentance seems an abuse of the protection.

The penalty for Flav, the sponsors, Renault itself and, as you pointed out, the Renault workers, is severe. The decision must be 100% certain. Anything else is a betrayal of the FIA’s responsibility. The innocent victims in all of this cannot be seen as collateral damage.

Further, and this is a personal moral stance I know, ignoring all the political implications which the FIA must have cognisance of, if three people have conspired then they should all be punished.

I had a hero, a detective sergeant who criticised me for my long interviews in order to obtain confessions. He said: If you can’t prove it without a cough, you shouldn’t try and prove it with. It was easy for him because he was a real thieftaker. But the premise is a good one.

Many people have suffered in this matter already. Heaven knows what is going through the minds of the team workers and their families. How will they feel after, perhaps, losing their houses, their kids education, their holidays and their security to see Piquet walk free and back to his life of indulgent luxury? SBS CEO anyone?

I know life is not fair but the FIA have treated Piquet as some kind of hero for, if he is to be believed, keeping stum about the incident for 12 months and then, when galvanised into action by his sacking, eventually got daddy to go to the FIA. Some hero. But some reward, eh?

My personal experience of those offered some kind of deal – never immunity at my level – is that they remain selective in their memory. Informants are one thing, co-conspirators are another. My belief always was that they started lying for their mates and ended up lying against them. Either way, not to be trusted.

You suggest in your question that they are being given immunity for the truth. That’s not quite correct. They are being given immunity for saying what the prosecution wants to hear. A difference, and not a subtle one. Piquet is not an insider, giving evidence against those for whom he worked. This is against, if he is to be believed, those who conspired with him.

So to be rather Micawberish, in short I don’t trust evidence gained by absolution. But, as importantly, if Piquet and Pat have conspired, they should be punished. And severely.”

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124 Comments
  1. Steve W says:

    Some very interesting points raised. The reasons why immunity has been offered to Symonds and Piquet are intriguing, as if they were directly involved it would seem odd not to punish them.

    I totally agree about the whole “hero” status that seems to be being applied to Piquet. Whatever the outcome next week, I think it is Piquet’s reputation more than Flavio, Symonds or anybody else that has suffered the most. The timing of the whistleblowing makes him and his father look very bitter, as if they were doing this in the interests of the sport, they would have done it 12 months ago. And even armed with the knowledge of what might have gone on in Singapore last year, why would they drop this bombshell that once again rocks the sport to its core, and risks the livelihoods of hundreds of Renault employees? I think the Piquet’s have come out of this looking very badly, and I can’t imagine any serious racing team, not just in F1, wanting to employ Piquet Jnr in the future.

    1. jw1980 says:

      I agree with your comments. Piquet will never be employed in F1 again.
      However, this does need investigating. It is terrible publicity for F1 but the FIA have to get to the bottom of this.

      1. jeremy says:

        I believe his Super License should be revoked for committing such an act.

        This would also avoid his father purchasing a team for him to race with. He should never possess a competition license again.

        We need to petition the FIA!

      2. bryan saull says:

        And we all know the only thing to come out of a bottom……

    2. Steve says:

      Except it is a totally false claim. Who is calling the Piquet Junior a hero? No one.

    3. Phil says:

      I agree with your comments that Piquet will never drive a racing car again but for a different reason. He isn’t good enough to warrant another chance. The kid only got into the Renault F1 car because of his and his Dad’s connections to Flav.

      Don’t forget that he spent all of 2007 as Renault test driver so had plenty of time in the car to show something last year but all you got were excuses. I don’t think F1 will miss them at all. Do you?

  2. Gillian says:

    A really interesting and well written article. Thank you

  3. Craig says:

    Well written. Couldn’t agree with you more. Piquet jr, Pat and Flavio should all be held accountable along with anyone else who was aware but failed to inform the fia before hand. By Piquet jr and Pat being offered immunity it seems to me like one last ditch effort to have a go at Flavio. If it did turn out to be deliberate then all three men are GUILTY. The old saying goes ” If you play with fire……”

  4. Adron Gardner says:

    Excellent post James. Quite good. I had posted some smilier thoughts on a forum earlier in the week. A case based purely on one person’s word, propagated to do so by his father, after withholding information for a year. On top of that leaks have been selective and largely in favor of Piquet, who also was publicly bitter and according to his own testimony, emotionally fragile.

    It must be said, a race cannot be “Fixed” unless you purposely “throw” the match, such as in boxing, or pay off an opponent to do so. You simply cannot do this in formula 1 where there are nearly two dozen competitors in the same race.

    Where is the case in all this?

    Any experienced law man will know just as in Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon,” truth is subjective and facts open to interpretation.

  5. Tim Lamkin says:

    Maybe Symonds and Flavio have already worked it out…he will take the fall for his bud Symonds

    1. Flavio?? Are you sure..?

    2. " for sure " says:

      Dream on! Briatore wouldn’t even understand the concept.

  6. Tess Tarossa says:

    The best comparison is perhaps with European Community law, whereby the Commission will offer immunity for whistleblowers involved in large-scale cartels/anti-competitive agreements.

    But the ‘immunity’ offered can vary between total, reduced fines, no fines etc, depending on the value of the information provided and the extent of the cooperation by the party. But the Commission can go back on these ‘Leniency Notices’ offered if it turns out that the whistleblowing party has had such a level of involvement so as to warrant a fine anyway, or has failed to abide by certain conditions of the Notice.

    Applying this to Formula 1: if Pat Symonds is, say, found to be the ring-leader in the entire affair (and given his refusal to answer the majority of the FIA questions which you kindly reproduced for us), then by all rights the FIA shouldn’t offer any immunity. Perhaps a reduced immunity as incentive for him to reveal what he really knows? At least that way Formula 1 could get the entire affair out in the open, and then put this unsavoury episode where it belongs: in the past.

  7. alyssa says:

    must be a case of knowing people of power.

  8. Dan says:

    Another great post, many thanks for this James and Harveyeight. Compared to this blog the professional motor sport web sites are pretty boring these days with very few pieces as good as the ones we can read here!

    I walked past the FIA headquarter at Place de la Concorde today and it was very quiet with nobody famous in view. I guess that will be very different next Monday!

    Piquet Sr is quite used in screwing the Renault Team.
    In his Brabham days he won a world Championship against Renault by using illegal fuel. Should I remember you what happened to the naughty Brabham folks who so blatantly helped him cheat and were never punished? We all know who they are and where they are now! The famous poachers turned gamekeeper. Plus ça change et moins ça change!

    1. James Allen says:

      If you are there on Monday, send in some photos..

  9. Scott says:

    Wow – an interesting piece!! Whilst I’d say in the UK there seems to be a lot of scepticism about this, and a belief that ALL should be punished if guilty, I wonder how this plays out in other countries – Brazil for instance? How do the other drivers see it – particularly the Brazilian ones? Why are the Puquet’s being seen as heroes when certainly Jr is as guilty as sin?

    This certainly isn’t a case of innocent until proven guilty.

  10. Qiang says:

    Hi James,
    I remember you saying the fact of Piquet Jr in Renault for so long was largely because his father getting along well Flavio. Can you give us some new development on this subject?

    1. James Allen says:

      What can I say? They were on very good terms, things changed, clearly.

    2. Tim Lamkin says:

      Maybe Sr had something on Flavio back then and kept it all this time…not like Flav does not give the impression he is left of center.

  11. P King says:

    This is no different to Alonso and Pedro De La Roso who were offered immunity in the McLaren/Ferrari spygate case. It was alleged and I believe admitted by them that it was Alonso who was feeding questions to his Spanish compatriot De la Roso to get information out of the Ferrari mole.

    1. C.M. says:

      It actually is little different. 1 thing is ask questions about the material that you know is illegal the other is to crash your F1 car on purpose and risk your life and others while doing it.
      Not saying that Alonso is a saint, but there’s a big difference what they’ve done.

    2. PaulL says:

      I doubt that’s true. Alonso stated in the emails that he was surprised by the data and doubted it’s authenticity.
      Any other theories are likely hot air from Lewis fans..

      1. Opposite Lock (Ken) says:

        Not entirely correct. The E-mails had Alonso explicitly urging the team to follow up and find out more about the use of inert gases in the tires to better handle heat. He quite clearly knew about and participated in using stolen information.

      2. PaulL says:

        He cared about, and rightly, was that a different type of tyre gas had been identified. He neither stole that information himself or illegitimately sought it.

        I’d rather that be attributed to me than 5 driving based penalties in one year (ala Hamilton in 2008), or else being found guilty of having been party to the construction of a lie to invent a false penalty on another competitor.

  12. Steve JR says:

    The thing is, according to Pat Symonds, the meeting at which all three discussed crashing the car in the race puts all three up for the firing squad. But who’s scalp do we care about? The indian or the chief? To imagine for a moment that Briatore was reviled at the idea of Piquet’s suggestion of crashing to help the team win the first Singapore GP is rebuffed because Briatore did not immediately red flag the situation with the FIA at the time (before the race or after the race some 1 year later). He was quite happy to collect the accolade of winning the race.

    For that reason, we can be assured that unless Renault have some magical response to the allegations, that Briatore as team principal had the final say, and as such, must pay the ultimate price.

    Let’s hope justice prevails next Monday

  13. Rick J says:

    I suspect that as a retirement gift, Mosley wants Briatore’s head on a plate. He doesn’t care – or perhaps even want – to see Symonds or Piquet further injured, he just wants Briatore gone from F1 for good, preferably forever shunned. Perhaps for the others there is friendship, genuine sympathy, or a desire to actually keep them within the F1 landscape. But he REALLY wants to get Briatore and simply put will offer whatever is required to build an iron clad, irrefutable case. In a Machiavellian sense I can’t help applauding – Good on you Max! It must already be starting to feel so sweet!

    1. Andy Fov says:

      That surely is what it all boils down to?

      Max has seen Ron from the sport, and now the opportunity to oust Flav has also presented itself. The distinct possibility that Symonds and Piquet Jnr acted alone should not be allowed to get in the way of that. ;)

    2. Racing not politics says:

      I echo this 100%

  14. Steve says:

    You seem to imply that if Symonds speaks with immunity his statements are “not to be trusted.” While I don’t agree with that logic entirely, I’m more intrigued that you don’t give him the benefit of the doubt. I say this because you must have run into him a few times in your job, maybe enough times to form an opinion of him? If you have and you’re not inclined to believe statements he may make under immunity, it would seem to me you had a rather low opinion of him (regarding his integrity & honesty) before the scandal broke.

    1. Phil says:

      Don’t know if this is the scenario, but I think I may have read that Piquet only directly talked to Symonds about crashing the car.

      If that were the case, it would mean Piquet could only directly implicate Symonds. It might then be in Symond’s interests to take immunity and falsely implicate Briatore.

      If however, Piquet has already testified to direct converations with Briatore and Symonds then there might be grounds for offering immunity in return for corroborating Piquet’s testimony.

      It’s all terribly messy though – I tend to think they shouldn’t generally offer immunity. Obviously if they’re doing that, then by definition it means you yourself have been involved in the wrong doing – why then should they get off scott free.

      One small good thing I think will come out of this – who the heck would employ a jerk like Piquet after this? Course that’s little compensation to all the innocent people who might lose their jobs because of this.

    2. Scott says:

      I didn’t read it that way – I read it that offering someone immunity from prosecution doesn’t encourage integrity and honesty, and suggests a lack of real evidence and desparation on the part of the FIA – they apparently don’t care about guilt, innocence or the truth – they just want Flavio Briatore’s scalp.

      Only 1 person is definitely guilty and has admitted it – Piquet. Yet he will be immune from prosecution despite his self confessed guilt, and seems to be held up as a hero. He is no hero – he cheated, he has no integrity and no backbone, whatever the outcome of this. Yet he gets off scot-free?

      He also has an axe to grind with Flavio and with Renault since being sacked, so could effectively say what he likes and get away with it, yet everything he says seems to be taken as the truth when he has already admitted his own dishonesty and lack of integrity? Mind you, his father seems to be doing all the talking and fairly indiscriminate mud slinging – implicating Alonso now?

      Nobody is saying Pat Symonds is dishonest – quite the opposite. He is in a horrible position! Save his career by telling the FIA what they want to hear (I wonder what would happen if the truth differed from what the FIA want to hear? Would his testimony be dismissed and lose his immunity?) or destroy his career by remaining silent – he is already implicated by Piquets statement.

      However the whole concept of being offered immunity is flawed – it encourages someone to those offering immunity what they want to hear, whether or not that is the complete story, or whether or not that is the truth.

    3. Adrian says:

      I think you’re mistaking the majority of the article as being written by James, when I believe all of it apart from the first few introductory parragraphs were written by Harveyeight.

      1. Steve says:

        Thanks for that, didn’t notice the close quotation mark at the very end.

  15. Snail says:

    They are being given immunity for saying what the prosecution wants to hear. A difference, and not a subtle one.

    I disagree. In some cases what is written above is correct, but in this case they don’t know the whole of what Pat Symonds has to say.

    Thus, Pat Symonds being given immunity because the prosecution hopes he has something to say that is what the prosecution wants to hear.

    You may think the difference I present is a minor quibble. I think its actually quite an important difference.

    How much of what Pat Symonds has to say will be useful to the prosecution we don’t know. Of course its natural to suspect that much, if not all, will be useful.

    1. Opposite Lock (Ken) says:

      Actually, you don’t know what the terms of Symonds immunity are. As Harvyeight stated it may be offered ONLY if he implicates Flav. Or it may be blanket immunity regardless of his testimony. If it’s a blanket immunity, Symonds could take full responsibility and absolve Briatore. With Max’s years as a barrister, I seriously doubt he would offer Symonds immunity unless he got a guarantee that Symonds would testify against Flavio.

  16. punchdrunk says:

    Very good article James.

    Respect!

  17. luciano says:

    Very nice article. Good to see someone questioning what is going on here.

    It was one thing for the FIA to offer Alonso immunity in the Spygate affair – after all he hadn’t really done anything, he’d just seen some emails. Piquet on the otherhand if he is to believed actually deliberately crashed the car. How can he be allowed to ever race again in any series? Personally I believe he will be shunned by the motor racing industry for the rest of his career now, whatever the FIA have to say on the matter.

    Despite the numerous FIA leaks (not least of all the transcript of Pat Symonds interview in Autosport today) no evidence has yet come out which conclusively incriminates Renault. Perhaps this why they have offered immunity to Symonds. But surely this offer in itself points to the main objective of the exercise – to get rid of Briatore.

    If the three of them did conspire to influence the result of the Singaporean Grand Prix, they should all be thrown out of motor sport.

    But in my opinion the way this case has been handled is just another example of the poor governance of the FIA. As a motor racing fan I can only hope that the FIA will change it’s ways post-Mosley and become a professional institution.

    1. raffamuffin says:

      I have to agree there.

      As much as this drama makes for entertaining reading, it further detracts F1 from being a sport for for me. Max said he didn’t want F1 to be like wrestling, well, unfortunately thats route its going down at the moment. Having being made redundant last year, I can’t help feel sorry for all of the engineers and their families at Renault F1 who don’t know even if the team will be allowed to race this year.

    2. Opposite Lock (Ken) says:

      I do wish people would quit throwing around the term “fix”. Teams do things all the time to influence the outcome of a race. From timing of pitstops to having a car slow and run interference to hold up the opposition.

      He only improved Alonso’s chances of moving to the front of the pack. The outcome was NOT fixed. Many things could have happened to prevent Alonso from winning. Fixing is when a favorite is slowed to prevent a win to the benefit of gamblers. (Ferrari telling Rubens to let Michael win?) Or having a boxer take a fall to “fix’ the match results.

      I can’t help but think that this is similar to Schumi’s botched attempt to block the track at Monaco to slow Alonso’s run.

      In this case, Piquet put himself, other drivers, course workers, safety crews and the spectators at risk. We have seen what can happen with and errant tire or part from a car. Imagine one of the tires that had come off of Piquet’s car being hit by a following racecar and then going into the stands…

      That is why this is so much more egregious.

      BTW, I don’t mean to pick on Schumi or Ferrari, those were the events that first came to mind.

  18. rpaco says:

    Well this carries on directly from JA’s last.
    So my comment from last page applies still.

    This seems directly targeted at Flav, although
    a lot of people must have known something was up from the small starting fuel load, including Alonso, or he would have kicked off at an obvious error by the team. This means that it was planned before or during quali.

    In the UK justice system, immunity seems to be offered to most criminals now automatically, unless they have done something really trivial, when they will be persecuted ruthlessly. The French system seems fairer. (that was until I started watching Spiral).

    No one will touch the Piquets again and Pat’s reputation is already destroyed. (That really hurts because I always thought he was one of the good guys)

  19. TifosoVero says:

    What makes no sense is the FIA offering immunity to the two people that have so far admitted the deliberate crash was discussed. This suggests that either a)the FIA know something that hasn’t been made public yet and they want somebody involved to go on record with it or b)the FIA is off on a witch hunt similar to the one that befell a certain Ron Dennis in 2007 and 2008.

    The sad thing is that very little of the truth will come out. Since everything is a subject of negotiations the full truth will never come out.

    And a curious observation, with Piquet and Symonds having immunity, what’s to stop Pat from saying “Yes I did it, I alone ordered Piquet to crash the car on lap 13, nobody else was involved.” … cover everybody else that may or may not be involved, get a handsome payout from Renault and retire to some Carribean island? I mean Piquet’s version suggests he and Pat were alone when the actual crash instructions were given …

  20. Kay says:

    Ultimately does it matter to the sport if they are given immunity from prosecution?

    If they are found guilty, yes they won’t be punished legally, but they will all surely lose their careers. None of them will ever work in Formula One, or possibly any motorsport again.

    Their reputations will be in the toilet, and for someone like Symonds, that would be the biggest punishment.

    Piquet will struggle to get a drive in any FIA series, as few would want to take on someone of such dubious character. For someone whose life has been racing, that’s going to seriously hurt.

    For Briatore it’s not such a big deal. If he can’t manage an F1 team again he’ll still have QPR, his many millions, his beautiful wife… I’m sure he’ll be able to shrug off any damage to his reputation in his unique exuberant way. Maybe this is why he has not been offered immunity, prosecution would be the only thing that would punish him severely enough.

    Or maybe it’s just what Rubens said, “Someone wants Briatore’s head”!

  21. Harveyeight says:

    Thanks for everyone’s comments. I’ve written for years (in crayon, I want to be true to type as ex plod) and non negative comments are received with pathetic gratitude so the very pleasant ones are wonderful. Gillian, I think I love you.

    Snail, I take your point. I should have prefixed the paragraph with: It is my experience that . . .

    I have to confess to being a major rugby union (the only rugby) fan and my team, apart from the one my lad plays for – Worthing – is, inevitably, the Quins.

    It has been a difficult summer.

  22. Peter Jones says:

    James,
    I suspect this a case of score-settling between Max and Flavio. Max is on the way out, he’s got nothing to fear and he’s going to take Flavio with him. I think what could happen next week is a McLaren type result, i.e. Flavio is out at Renault the way Ron Dennis is at McLaren, but the team escapes punishment.

    What do you think about this scenario?

    Thank you,

    Peter Jones

  23. Kirk says:

    Well, this is not a criminal proceeding (not yet anyway) so to treat it like one is a bit excessive. Draw similarities as you wish, but in the end it has to be treated in the sporting sense, in the same way a football player dives in the penalty area, scores a goal with his hand, stamps on another player, or even a tennis player that swears at the officials… And F1 has many recent cases to use as a guide for this kind of thing, like Spy-gate and Lie-gate – none of these unmasked thanks to the goodness of any individual’s heart, but instead due to the interest these individuals had in the scandals.

    The point missed here is this: without the imunity offer/deal NOTHING would have been done about Singapore 2008. We would be none the wiser about what happened, and the evidence leaked so far makes it crystal clear something DID happen. It’s simply a matter of pinning the tail on the right donkey now. Is that an acceptable option?

    The case is and will always be about what was said in the pre-race meeting, and unless someone had the Renault office bugged, only the 3 people involved could come forward and blow the whistle.

    So the lesser of two evils: take a deal with one (or two) of them and finally get an insight into what happened, so you can then have a basis to dig further, get some clues into how the jigsaw of radio conversations and funny/dumb fuel strategies fit in, have a chance of getting to the bottom of seems to have been a big fix and punish someone for it.

    Or… when approached about the incident, you offer nothing except the further threat of a lifetime ban from the sport, severe sanctions, scare off any potential whistle blowers, now and in future, end up with a very clear idea that something disgusting did happen in that race (you were approached after all), but with no evidence to do anything about it. And watch as the people responsible laugh, joke and spray the champagne for years to come as if that was all good and proper. They might even do it again, who knows.

    Make no mistake, Piquet Jr. may get imunity from action coming directly from the FIA, but his dream has been chattered, and his racing career has been damaged, he will pay for this one way or another down the line when a job he wants is not even given a thought by prospective employers. And yet he could have just chosen to keep quiet, carry on as if nothing had happened…

    1. Kirk says:

      Still awaiting moderation?

  24. Luke Robbins says:

    Interesting point about Piquet Jnr going free etc compared to the loss of jobs for the guys in the factory if Renault are shut down after this.

    Piquet should be banned from F1. Simple as that. Even if he was told to crash, what is he doing crashing? He clearly has no character or self respect for his own ability. He had the car to get points that day. Complete idiot. Not only did he put himself in danger, but the lives of the marshalls who are often volunteers.

    I read that Brundell reckons nobody in their right mind would hire Piquet now because of this. However with more new teams joining the grid it wouldn’t be unlikely if they opted for someone like him with financial backing and F1 experience – even if he is rubbish.

  25. Randal says:

    My Prediction:
    Symonds will take the immunity and say it was all his and Piquet’s idea. He will claim Flavio and the team knew nothing about it. Symonds and Piquet will both be banned from the sport and the people at Renault’s F1 team will be able to continue business as usual, though with much lower advertising revenue.

    Granting Symonds immunity allows for one man to fall on the sword and for F1 to keep the status quo.

  26. Budvar says:

    The word Kangaroo springs to mind. Three parties, two of whom are offered ‘immunity’. That does rather suggest that the FIA are asking two parties to give them enough evidence to incriminate the other. It so happens that that other party is a man that Max and Bernie have come to loathe as a result of his role in FOTA’s rebellion.

    This so called hearing will be a sham and the agenda is one of personal vendettas and the settling of scores. Sadly if Todt ‘replaces’ Mosley, we can expect more of the same for years to come.

    If this case were to be judged in a court of law, Renault would sleep easy. The evidence is circumstatial at best, but the FIA require very little evidence if the right person is in the dock.

    Just as an aside. Piquet may have accepted immunity from any punishment from the FIA, but what if an injured party were to sue him for damages caused by his criminal activity in a real court? Prize money is awarded for points scored and as he admits to have played a key role in race fixing, surely there is a very good case against him. I am sure Ferrari and Massa would consider themselves victims of this fraud, and they are not afraid to go legal if required.

    Hopefully the real world will catch up on this vile bunch, not the circus that is the FIA.

  27. Roberto says:

    So far the only coincidence between the parties is that the “crash” was propossed either by one side or the other. Which at least makes ground for an investigation

    Let´s think Piquet Jr. propossed it because he wanted to gain points with senior management and secure a renewal of the contract:

    Why Renault didn´t came forward and after the crash expelled him from the team?.

    How Nelson Piquet who even didn´t now what lap he was in, knew exactly at what turn of the circuit to crash and make the SC go out.

    I think there is more than meets the eye and maybe the whole thruth won´t come out, but certainly as james points, neither the company/team (Renault) and his employees should pay for any mistakes made by 1, 2 or 3 people.

    One final thought… Even if Piquet said the Alonso didn´t know anything, how is that Fernado Alonso is always involed in big problems.

    Once again something is not right, there is more than meets the eye.

  28. hamilton fan says:

    The second immunity FIA offers does not work in favour of Flavio Briatore.

    The more of the involved are cleared of their guilt, the harder the punishment will be on the ones left.

    Interestingly enough, as if the scandal is not big enough, today I think Piquet Snr clearly said that “Alonso should have known about the fix”.

    I am very sceptical on Flavio and Renault surviving this fiasco.

    Too bad for formula 1 if they are kicked out.
    Honda, Bmw and Renault is too big of a loss for one year.

  29. Phil says:

    Great post James.

    Couldn’t agree with you more.

    I find it incredible that Piquet can be given immunity for an act which he was central to it’s execution.

    And does he go to the FIA about this when it happens? No, he does this in retribution for his sacking.

    I never could understand why Renault kept him for as long as they did, since he’s been pretty much useless. Well, this explains it.

    Of course, does he think about all the innocent people that he’d affect with this. No.

    I think he’s shown himself to be of extremely low character.

    Now, the FIA does there usual bull in a china shop act. And, I can’t help but wonder if Mosley’s animosity to Briatore is influencing some of these decisions to grant immunity.

  30. MartinWR says:

    Clearly, having to grant immunity from punishment to two of the actors in this drama is unsatisfactory. Everyone surely must agree on that point. On the other hand, the FIA needs to ensure that teams do not indulge in blatant cheating, and blatant cheating which involves purposely crashing cars in order to rig the results of a race. I do not suggest this actually happened in this case, that is yet to be decided. However, it is a possibility which absolutely has to be investigated. Even at the time many suspected it had happened (I did so myself although I dismissed that suspicion out of hand as unbelievable). Until insiders were prepared to talk the authorities’ hands were tied, they simply could not progress the investigation further.

    Deliberately crashing the fastest cars in motor sport is not a practice that can be remotely tolerated by the authorities because it puts lives at risk, those of spectators, and those of support staff. Again, I would have thought that there can be no argument on that point.

    So it comes down to choosing the lesser of two evils. Either attempt to get to the bottom of this unsavoury business by the only way possible, i.e. the plea bargain route, or possibly allow a team to get away with the worst and most dangerous example of race-rigging in the history of F1 (if that be proven).

    I know which I’d choose, because the only way forward is for the insiders to tell what they know, and be judged on their testimony, and on all the supporting evidence.

    Then there is the question of punishment. I think the careers of those involved will still suffer, even if they are not punished by the FIA. And they may be disadvantaged in other ways as well, who can say.

    Also, much has been made of the leaks of information in this affair. However it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that there might well be representatives of at least one country on the World Motor Sport Council who could see an advantage in doing everything possible to discredit this investigation by leaking, and so discredit the FIA itself.

  31. David says:

    How much does this “immunity” actually mean? It can only refer to the FIA not taking any further action against Symonds or Piquet (if any wrongdoing is established by them). But the FIA is not above the law and cannot protect anyone from any criminal action of the state. If anyone is indeed found to have “fixed” the race, it would seem apparent that criminal charges could be brought. Surely therefore any lawyer advising someone who has received immunity from the FIA would advise that they should watch what they say – whilst the FIA might not be able to get them, the state might. Or am I missing something?

  32. Phil says:

    One question for you James… if Symonds did testify against Briatore, do you think he’d ever work in F1 again?

    I already think Piquet’s cooked his goose, but I’m wondering what would be likely to happen to Symonds.

    Let’s say with the offer of immunity, he’s not open to any FIA penalties, that of course cannot (and should not) stop Renault from firing him. As a senior executive, I would expect them to hold him partly responsible and to fire him promptly.

    Agree?

    But, after that, do you think other F1 employers would be interested in him?

    Thanks,
    Phil

  33. Robert says:

    I’m surprised to see Pat Symonds granted immunity given that it’s doubtful it will be enough to extract ‘the truth’ from him. There are other factors obstructing him from talking. Spilling the beans to implicate Briatore and himself would make his position at Renault untenable for a start. FIA immunity won’t help him one iota when he has to answer to Renault for bringing the company into disrepute.

  34. Robert from Texas says:

    It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Singapore government does. The FIA has no say over their laws and the ‘crime’ was committed on their soil. Remember that a special allowance for the drivers to toss their visor liners had to be approved or they could face arrest.

    Intentionally wrecking a car may be a high crime in their country and I wouldn’t be surprised if the government there had everyone on the team detained for questioning to sort everything out even after the FIA gets done with them. If I were Symonds, I’d come down with a bad case of the flu that prevents me from going there. No matter what happens, he’s already as much as admitted to being in on it.

  35. Amritraj says:

    (Assuming whatever evidence in public knowledge is key evidence with the prosecution)

    Apart from the interview with Pat Symonds, wherein he declined to answer key questions, no further evidence has come to (public) view which can incriminate Renault. No documented explicit instructions. Just the word of a disgruntled father-son duo. Excerpts from the radio conversation don’t reveal anything extraordinary to enforce the idea that the “plan” was being executed. Telemetry data suggesting that NPJ had kept it on the throttle when he should have eased off? Well, Renault can say that is the reason they fired him; he is a lousy driver, doesn’t know which foot to use when! It can’t be the pivotal evidence in this case, or can it?

    The leaks of key details of prosecuting evidence have only worked against the FIA. Publicly, this evidence has created the perception that Renault are guilty. Now the FIA need a concrete testimony of one of the key accused, Pat Symonds, to bolster these perceptions and to hand out a severe penalty to the perpetrators. Flavio has already stated that there was never such an inane and outrageous plan to secure a safety car deployment to favour Alonso’s race. Symonds hasn’t agreed to anything in whatever evidence made public. FIA don’t really have a case to judge and punish Renault, until they have something from Pat, to the effect, expressly owning-up to the wrongdoing. They can’t adjudicate a biased verdict similar to Mclaren-Spygate just basis what has come to light thus far: Simply because of the gravity of the incident and because of the repercussions of any adverse judgment towards Renault would be just too great.

    Most people feel Renault are guilty. However, judgements cannot be pronounced based on one’s feelings and hunch. They are to be based on proper evidence which can stand-up to a thorough investigative scrutiny. The FIA may think that Renault are guilty but they don’t have enough circumstantial evidence to prove it. The FIA, if unable to get something out of Symonds, will rue their mistake of leaking evidence and given this situation, it’s actually the FIA which is between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Maybe this is the reason to hand-out immunity, to ensure in return they hear what they want to hear and secure their stance.

  36. F1 Kitteh says:

    I have yet to find conclusive evidence that Piquet was pushed to do it from any of the leaked materials. While it might be a deliberate crash, there is no damning evidence for Symonds or Briatore, when one looks at the evidence objectively. Not saying whether they did, or not, or Piquet chose to do it himself, just that the presented facts doesn’t seem sufficient to incriminate those two and it would be wrong for the FIA to utilitze public opionion to influence the outcome.

  37. Rizzrazz says:

    hi there everyone,hello james! I am quite new to this blog, ive been avidly following f1 for the last 12years,and this blog for a number of months, and this current spate of scandals has truely been an eye opener into the direction this sport has turned to.

    Im here mainly to ask if anyone knows of the entire FIA renault dossier has been leaked, i was suprised to find it in this tabloid newspaper and am unsure of the validity of said documents but due to various other key pieces being leaked and confirmed by the FIA, it looks pretty legit.And quite lengthy!!
    here is the link if you would allow me to post and scrutineer at your leisure!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-1213688/REVEALED-The-dossiers-evidence-going-Nelson-Piquet-crash-gate-hearing.html

    dont know how to make the link clickable but i was wondering if you could take a look james as i havent found details of this on any other websites as of yet.

  38. Brace says:

    If there is one person in this case (if it really was deliberate, remember it’s not proven yet) who shouldn’t be offered immunity it’s the person who actually crashed the car on purpose. I mean, it just shows that Piquet wasn’t any better if not even worse that the other two. He can say they told him this or that, but:
    1. No body could have forced him to crash the car because he was the only one in that car.
    2. The fact that he got the drive this year (meaning they upheld their part of the bargain), the fact that he kept quiet about it for 12 months and the fact that he spoke out only when he was ousted shows that his (and his father’s) only goal in this is to harm others out of pure malice regardless of consequences to the sport, other employees, and everybody else who is going to be affected by this.
    If they had any honor and genuine human virtues they’d appreciate the fact that junior was given the second chance and he blew it.
    And the thing about not getting equal equipment is just rubbish. If you have just one new part it’s only common sense you’re going to give it to the better driver. It’s not bad it’s not good it’s common sense.

  39. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Vive la time difference! And the ex-prosecutor puts in his two cents…

    Immunity is sometimes necessary. As I said in an earlier post, your witnesses are who they are. Sometimes they are themselves criminals, culpable in the crime at hand or in some other incident. But you don’t have to make that immunity a free pass, as the FIA has apparently done here.

    In my experience, the most common form of immunity occurs with respect to Grand Jury proceedings. In New York, by statute, a defendant has the opportunity to appear before the Jury so that the Grand Jurors can consider his statements (and answers to their questions) in their decision to indict or not. If he does so, except as described below, he automatically gets what we call “an immunity bath,” complete immunity for such matters he may testify to, whether they are related to the case at hand or not. To illustrate, suppose a defendant testifies before the Grand Jury in a felony car theft case:

    The ADA: “Sir, isn’t it true that at 6 p.m. on Friday, you were on Pitkin Avenue standing next to a blue Ford sedan?”

    The Witness: “No. At 6 p.m., I was on Sutter Avenue killing my wife. I didn’t get to Pitkin until 9 p.m.”

    The defendant has now confessed to a murder for which he is immunized from prosecution.

    To prevent this absurd result, the same statute conditions this opportunity to appear before the Grand Jury on prosecutorial consent. In turn, that consent is conditioned on a defendant’s waiver of the immunity he would otherwise receive. If he doesn’t waive immunity, he won’t be allowed to appear at the Grand Jury. Of course, in the event of indictment and trial, the defendant has the absolute right to testify and present evidence in his own defense.

    In cases prosecuted with the testimony of someone involved in the crime (hmmm, like conspiracy for instance: The fact that I can even remotely apply criminal law experience to the FIA seems to be an indictment of the organization in itself, but I digress…), using a crook to get other crooks, a typical case might go as follows: In exchange for his co-operation, Defendant enters into an agreement with the prosecution in which he pleads to the top count (a felony) and the bottom count (often, but not always, a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail) of his own indictment. Mr. Defendant is now on the hook for perhaps a decades-long felony sentence if he gets on the stand and perjures himself or otherwise ceases to co-operate in an investigation or prosecution. Sentence is held in abeyance by the Court until these matters are concluded. If the defendant has lived up to his end of the agreement, he either gets a reduced sentence on the felony or the plea to that count is vacated, and he’s sentenced on the misdemeanor. In short, a defendant never gets a one-way free ride when he receives immunity.

    Actually, organized crime/mob/Mafia cases are slightly different, as where a mob boss gets convicted primarily on the testimony of one of his principal lieutenants, himself a walking catalog of murders. The Lieutenant won’t do time. But he will be given a new identity and put into the Federal Witness Protection Program, a sentence worse than prison, as you have to give up your prior life knowing that The Organization will take permanent steps to satisfy themselves should you reappear.

    As relevant in the Piquet situation, he should NOT get the immunity bath he’s receiving. What’s to stop,

    The FIA: “And you haven’t deliberately crashed before, isn’t that right Mr. Piquet?”

    The Witness: “No, but I’ve been so afraid of losing my seat that I have blocked other drivers on my cool down laps during qualifying to help my team. I do that all the time.”

    With his immunity bath, he has now confessed to a crime for which he can’t be prosecuted.

    The reality is that the FIA should refer this entire matter to prosecutorial authorities in Singapore and allow them to proceed as they see fit. Whether it comes under some fraud statute or their equivalent of reckless endangerment, an admittedly deliberate crash took place on their soil.

    If the FIA insists on continuing with this quasi-criminal prosecution, then they need to do it right or not at all. There is absolutely no reason why the FIA can’t condition whether Piquet cooperates AT ALL on a lengthy (five year?) revocation of his Superlicense, for example, versus the permanent ban he would presumably otherwise face. Even a large fine (if not on the scale meted out to McLaren) would serve the same purpose. He should not get something for nothing. Nor should the FIA be left with room to say that “truthful” means “we get a conviction.” To say that it doesn’t matter because this is not a criminal prosecution merely begs the question, why the grant of immunity then? Why even import the concept from criminal law? Is it merely FIA grandstanding, a means by which Mosley and his allies can say, “see, we’re being serious here?”

    If that’s all it is, then they are wasting time, resources and livelihoods to no purpose. In which case they should go off in their blazers, smoke their pipes and have a Coke and a smile.

  40. Casey says:

    Thank you James for your writing and for sharing the thoughts of a professional like Harveyeight. He really lays it bare. I so hope you get a wider audience James.

  41. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Lest I forget, given the news and transcripts regarding Pat Symonds (the leaking of what amounts to Grand Jury proceedings? Bad, bad, bad. Don’t get me started on THAT one. Yet…), all that I said above regarding Piquet goes fully for him, as well.

  42. Hi James, great article and nice having a non-F1 angle on the story too (Re: Harveyeight’s contribution) :)

    You mentioned in “The Edge of Greatness” that there was a conspiracy theory going around that Benetton copped a lot of flak in 1994 for technical infringements because Flavio had sent an open letter of no confidence in the FIA leadership.

    Do you think granting immunity to the others is just Max’s way of finally getting rid of Flavio from the sport before he leaves office? It was well known that he disliked Ron Dennis and he managed to get rid of him, so is the same thing happening here?

    1. James Allen says:

      That’s where it all started, in my view

  43. stepen says:

    yet again another Brit in the centre of the latest controversy. Seems lately that Brits are always involved in every unsavoury incident in F1.

    Are you guys so desperate to have a british champion or championship team that there is no lows that you guys wont stoop to to get it??

    sad really…

    1. " for sure " says:

      Whilst I’m all for the freedom to comment I’m astonished that racist posts are permitted here.

    2. Joe says:

      That’s because F1 is primarily a British industry, its where most of the team personnel, factories, test tracks and drivers are based. The sheer number of British employees in the business means a majority of senior positions will be held by them.

      With the exception of Ferrari, if you want a decent F1 team you need British talent.

  44. Charlie says:

    “They are being given immunity for saying what the prosecution wants to hear. A difference, and not a subtle one.”

    If you take this view, then you have to question Alonso’s evidence against McLaren in Spygate ’07. No one questioned that at the time, despite Alonso clearly having massive grievances against his then employer and therefore having motive to lie. I guess there was other supporting evidence as well in that case, but simply saying that evidence given under immunity is de facto biased is logically wrong, though I can see the point. It isn’t a reason to dismiss Piquet’s evidence at least, and probably not Symonds’s either.

  45. David says:

    Sorry – I’m being stupid and just seen that it’s up there – ignore me! Good work on this website – definitely my favourite source to keep up with F1 these days. Very insightful and intelligently written.

  46. shaun says:

    great article and thanks to Harveyeight.

    I have always had the upmost respect for Symonds, but little for Flav and none for Piquet.

    If Symonds takes the immunity all the above is true; the evidence cannot be trusted and it adds up to a personal vendetta against one man.

    I would hope that Pat has the integrity to turn down the immunity. This would in some way recover his reputation by showing he can accept responsibility and shows loyalty to the team as a whole.

    And I hope the whole team do not suffer for the action of three men. The FIA need to tread carefully because they can crush many lives in their pursuit of ‘the truth’.

  47. The Kitchen Cynic says:

    Max always wins, doesn’t he? Flavio will be gone, and another kick for Ron as no doubt there will be much high rhetoric about how the incident cost Massa the championship.

    Expect to see Piquet Jnr berthed with one of the FIA’s new blackleg teams next year.

  48. David Hodge says:

    Thanks for this excellent post James. And also, thank you to the valued contributors to the blog. Some very interesting and informed comments to add colour and background to James’ analysis.

    One thing sticking in my mind. For sure, there are legal procedures and we have heard from those qualified in both the UK and US jurisdictions. We must not forget that this is the FIA, a private club in effect, which makes up its own rules and implements them depending on which way Max wants the wind to blow. I can’t help feeling that whatever happens, this is Max gunning for Flav. I also ask myself why Max has not had a pop at Luca di Montezemolo.

    Nobody will win out of this. Nelson will go back to his priviledged life in Monaco. Flav will go play with his nice friend Mr. Berlusconi, Pat will fall on his sword and I dearly hope the Renault team stays in F1. Last but not least, F1 continues to be more entertaining off track than on…

  49. Paul says:

    James

    Without wishing to sound like a conspiracy theorist…

    Renault clearly heading for adverse publicity (guilty or not guilty), coupled with rumors of at least one more manufacturer wanting to leave.

    Grid now full with Lotus but the ex BMW team clearly waiting in the wings.

    Could this be a Renault exit moment as a manufacturer (either banned, or withdraw and blame the bad publicity) – and allow the ex BMW team to fill the places

    Presumably Renault might be allowed to remain as an engine provider even if they were banned as a manufacturer?

    This would keep their ongoing participation, allow them to be seen to be punished, and keep the grid full?

  50. P Byrne says:

    Mosley said in the interview with Jake Humphries (who BTW, against all expectations is a fantastic anchor-man) that Piquet Snr. approached him.

    I dunno, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mosley got the ball rolling on this by offering Jnr. immunity and a chance for revenge. The more I see of this (esp. the immunity for Pat Symonds) the more I am convinced that this is 100% about getting rid of Briatore. Remember Max’s scathing comments about Flavio being a Bernie-pretender at the height of the FIA/FOTA wars?

    Max got Ron and now, at the 11th hour, he has everything he needs to bury Flavio. That’s what it’s all about. Simple.

    Otherwise it would all have been swept under the carpet and remained one of those stories F1 insiders and journos gossip about but dare not publish. Just another pitlane legend.

    The Piquets are a piece of work though aren’t they? – from Snr’s wife-insulting driving days, the spoiled son who has only raced for daddy’s team, to the unbelievably bitter and vitriolic backlash after 18 months of abject failure…

  51. Owen Hayes says:

    The whole affair really is starting to stink. First the leaks which make Renault look bad without being able to offer their defense first and now both Piquet and Symonds given ‘immunity’ if they both tow the FIA line.

    My question is, what if Symond’s accepts the immunity, tells the truth but it isn’t the ‘truth’ that the FIA wants to hear?

    Finally, if we’re throwing immunities to the guy who committed the crime and supposedly the engineer who ran the whole deal why wasn’t Briatore offered the same deal?

    In my mind this has become a witch hunt against Briatore and Mosley wants his scalp, and it really shows that the FIA can not be trusted as an independent adjudicator for matters as serious as these. I would rather see the whole thing played out in front of a real court than the inquisition that Mosley is running.

    What angers me the most about Mosley and the FIA is that they have acted in the most unprofessional and disgraceful manner to prejudice this case against Briatore and Renault yet the press are letting this whole farce continue.

    This case stinks to me and it stinks bad, whatever the outcome the FIA has only made the whole debacle even more hurtful to the reputation of Formula 1.

    This case needs a real court and a real jury.

    1. " for sure " says:

      Agreed. This is being orchestrated by Max for his own ends.

      When Renault are kicked out I hope they take the FIA to the highest court in France and bankrupt them, and sue Max in his personal capacity for vindictiveness.

      PS. Thanks Harveyeight. I always perk up when seeing one of your posts.

  52. David Smith says:

    Great article and great comments everyone (best F1 site around).

    Every time I read the Symonds transcript I keep thinking this – He REALLY wants to talk but cannot. His constantly saying I don’t want to answer that question, is not the same as “No Comment”. His comments on the likely FIA interpretation of his non-answers are also illuminating I feel. Basically Pat appears to be making a very serious attempt at between-the-lines communication. His comment about not always agreeing with Flavio is also pertinent I think. The text doesn’t give any indication as to body language or other non-verbal indicators that might have gone on in the interview.

    Having said all that – a deliberate crash… If true, I struggle to see how they are not all damned. It’s a truly terrible, terrible thing to consider, let alone carry out.

  53. MartinWR says:

    I would have thought that any immunity from sanction offered to Symonds and Piquet by the FIA wouldn’t affect possible criminal proceedings which the authorities in Singapore (or elsewhere) may decide to initiate against any or all of the participants in this business following on the evidence which is now becoming available. I hinted as much in my letter above, when I pointed out that this pair may be disadvantaged in other possible ways at the end of this, even if the FIA doesn’t punish them.

    I feel that the compromise over immunities that the FIA have inevitably been forced to adopt will be handsomely vindicated if the ring leader, at least, can be brought to justice. As Renault, the parent company, must decide today whether to put up or shut up, to side with Flav or not, we should know the outcome pretty soon.

    Maybe.

  54. adrian says:

    Just had a quick look through the ‘dossier’ available on the Daily Mail website. Had a chuckle to myself at this para. in the Stewards’ report: [para. 37] “Mr Briatore’s position is perhaps best summed up by the following excerpt from the transcript ‘I never talk with Nelsinho, I never talk about to crashing the car, he’s never coming to me tell me ‘Flavio, Jesus Christ I crash the car, you won the race, can you renew my contract?’ You know if somebody do you a favour like that I just you renew the contract’. Am I right in detecting a bit of dry humour on the author of the report’s part?!

    1. Adrian says:

      You know I just read your post and was trying to remember when I wrote it before realising that I hadn’t…!!

  55. Zadrav says:

    Great post but… As Rudy Pyatt says, “immunity is sometimes necessary”. and especially in this case. What we have here, what kind of evidence?
    1. Piquet’s statement
    2. Symonds statement
    3. Briatore’s statement
    4. Telemetry data
    Thats all! Let’s say, first tree evidence can be false or true. Theoretically, forth evidence, telemetry data cannot be false either way. They should reveal driver behavior – it was the same or significantly different than in other laps? If there’s no differences in telemetry data FIA can forget all – Piquet accusations are obviously desperate act of an desperate looser. But I presume that telemetry data are in favor of Piquet statement. So, in this case result pro-contra is 2:2. FIA must confirm any outcome, and there is no other way than offer immunity to Symonds.
    It’s not question here if they are Piquet and Symonds guilty. If FIA found that crash is deliberately planned, all tree are quilty. But, there is only one team principal – Briatore. Every F1 team is a bunch of professionals, ruled on strong and clear hierarchy principles. Nothing’s gonna happened without team principal knowledge. There’s no way that Piquet deliberately crashed without Briatore’s permission or at least knowledge. Even if crash was Piquet’s idea (what I doubt), Briatore didn’t react, so he was in agreement with his driver.
    I’m a former military person and there are some universal patterns in military, as well as in any other hierarchy based organization. Commander can delegate his own task to subordinates, but responsibility is always upon him. If subordinates act independently and wrong, and commander didn’t react immediately, he is 1. guilty, and responsible for all consequences (legally) 2. bad commander (morally).

  56. Matt Tuplin says:

    An excellent, insightful article. Thank you for keeping us so well informed on what has become my first stop for F1 news.

    Keep up the great work!

  57. Scott says:

    How can this “trial” be legal or fair?

    All the evidence against Renault has been leaked, the FIA are talking like Renault are guilty as sin, the fact that people have been offered immunity has been leaked and it clearly indicates its a witch hunt and a lack of real evidence, the Piquets are freely slinging mud like its going out of fashion, yet there will still be a trial – the result of which I’m sure is pretty obvious to all – and I’d imagine nobody will question the legitamacy of the result? How can this be seen as fair and legal? Even if Flavio is 100% guilty, how can this be seen as a fair trial / process?

    I still don’t understand why McLaren didn’t appeal their fine – even if just to get it reduced to something more justifiable and comparable with punishments that had previously been given.

  58. Simon A says:

    James, always a pleasure to read whilst enjoying a tea break.

    I agree with the sentiment that all should be punished, I have absolutely no sympathy for Piquet Jr, in this case no end justifies the means. There is no circumstance or scenario where a deliberate crash is the correct course of action. Do you feel perhaps that this is a spiteful powerplay from a spoilt child, with the help of an overbearing father, as retaliation for his sacking. It’s too late now to “out” the team, he said nothing when he was taking the coin for doing it. I for one would not trust a word any of them says from this point on, there will be 3 truths depending on their perspective. It’s just firefighting and trying to save face/future income now.

    I hope all of those involved are told to stay away from the sport in future. They’ve had their substantial pounds of flesh and have now bitten the hands that feed. Hit their pockets by stopping their income, try to find a way for the team and it’s employees to continue. These 3 will not starve!

  59. Adrian says:

    Would yo uagree that IF the allegations are proven true, Piquet Jr and Pat Symmonds’ careers in F1 (if not all motorsport) will probably be finished anyway?

    In that case, what further punishment could the FiA impose anyway?

    I think the FiA has offered this immunity (and we don’t know whether there are any conditions attached to that do we?) to 2 of the 3 people involved because without it, they certainly wouldn’t be able to prove the case. With the immunity, they get the testimony of 2 of the key participants – they do not know what Pat Symonds’ will be, but as I say above, if the allegations ARE true, I would be very suprised if either Piquet Jr or Symmonds would be welcomed by any other F1 team anyway…

  60. Ben G says:

    If the crash was deliberate, it led to:

    Massa losing the championship (through the rushed pitstop);
    A risk to Nelson’s safety, and that of the other drivers;
    An ill-deserved Renault victory;
    A loss of prize money to other teams;
    Significant damage to the sport’s reputation across the world.

    How can anyone who contributed to the above be offered immunity?

    Furthermore, imagine if Massa’s flailing fuel hose had seriously injured one of his pit crew, or even killed someone, which it could quite possibly have done. Who would talk of immunity then?

    1. Kirk says:

      First of all, what happened during Massa’s pitstop was Ferrari’s fault alone – and their flawed traffic lights system. It doesn’t matter how the SC came about, they were responsible for it going wrong, and they had a warning in Valencia that their system wasn’t perfect. They could have taken 1 or 2 seconds more and done it properly.

      As for the immunity argument, think of it the other way: without the FIA offering Piquet Jr immunity he may not have given evidence, and none of these quotes/facts we now have would have come out. You would be eating your cornflakes today thinking last year Alonso won the race fair and square – and yet now we see that may not have been the case.

    2. " for sure " says:

      Massa’s pit stop is utterly irelevant in this context. Ferrari screwed up. Their error. Fullstop.

    3. Amritraj says:

      I don’t agree with the first point you have mentioned in your comment. Massa didn’t lose the world championship because of the accident as he didn’t sustain any damage to his car from the debris of the accident. Key fact one needs to bear in mind is that the accident triggered the deployment of the safety car; Massa lost the race because Ferrari botched his pit stop. Period. Many teams pitted under the SC, but I think all of them, barring one, having completed their pit stops, continued to have the refuelling rig in their garage and not at the exit of the pit lane attached to one of their cars. If he was released properly he could finished 1st or 2nd (considering Hamilton, who was behind Massa before the accident, had finished 3rd). But we all know how that went. And to suggest that this is the only reason Massa lost the championship is inane. Lewis Hamilton won the championship fair and sqaure. He would have gone onto win the championship more comfortably than 1 point if he wasn’t handed some of those contentious penalties. And it is equally logical for anyone to argue that LH would have revised his target – his target was to finish 5th or above – for the Brazilian GP to secure the championship had the points table been any different to what it was at the time.

      1. Ben G says:

        Calmez-vous, ladies. I didn’t say Piquet’s crash caused Massa to lose the Championship; merely that it ‘led to’ the botched pitstop that ultimately cost him a probabl ten points, and thus the championship. It is an unarguable fact that Piquet’s crash contributed to the decision to release Massa too soon, not least because Kimi was waiting directly behind in the pitlane.

  61. Pete says:

    Good point of view, just as mine. Thanks!

  62. Jojo says:

    If I’ll be given the chance to as just 1 question to the PIQUETs, I would ask this simple question:

    If Junior is still driving that Renault, would they still come out in the open and accuse Renault of foul play???

    1. Joe says:

      He has already said his confession is a result of losing his seat. His claims are that it was agreed he would crash to secure his drive and its the reason his immunity is a joke.

      Jnr is no innocent bystander, he is just trying to take the team down that sacked him and managed to protect himself in the process.

      I think there appears to be a case to answer but the way its been managed by the FIA – immunity to a co-conspirator, continuous leaks, targeting one person in the team now makes it very hard to accept this investigation is (i) unbiased and fair and (ii) in the interest of the sport.

  63. swayze says:

    In my opinion the immunity could well become a moot point as it is only relevant to the FIA proceedings.

    When it comes to the satellite litigation that will certainly follow then i know of no criminal or civil court that will offer the same immunity.

    I am certain the Symond’s interview was e mailed to Piquet’s defense lawyers in the “blackmail proceedings” as soon as it became available I would imagine they would have stopped becoming defense lawyers there and then(Briatore’s main witness has just confirmed that Piquet is telling the truth) and become claimants lawyers for “defamation case” or similar.
    Holding a press conference announcing you are suing for blackmail may well cost Briatore a lot more than he bargained for.

    I am also certain that the blackmail litigation will be quietly withdrawn on the advise of Briatore’s lawyers.

    Not certain what Renault’s position is in that litigation so would not like to comment on their position

    The opinions floating around that the Singapore results should be altered accordingly will for the reasons above never happen. The litigation would be horrendous and Mosley as a trained barrister knows this.

    If found guilty Renault will be stripped of the points and prize money all other results left as are.

  64. Spyros says:

    The problem for Symonds is that if he takes up FIA’s offer of immunity, then presumably he would have to contradict himself, regarding the statements that he has already made.

    If Renault of Flav’s lawyers are confronted with such evidence from FIA at the hearing, I’m sure they’ll be very happy to point this out, discrediting Symonds’ credibility as a witness. And after this, he may share Piquet Jr’s fate and never work in F1 again.

    Based on this, and his long relationship with Flavio, I think he’ll stay loyal to him, UNLESS…

    What are the odds that Renault’s top brass will say “Enough is enough” and ‘eject’ Flavio from the team? Is that even possible, contractually?

    Such an outcome could make Symonds choose to side with Renault (and FIA, presumably), instead of Flavio and keep his job…

  65. Dan says:

    Fresh from the RenaultF1 web site:

    “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”.

    Sadly this was predictable.

  66. Derek Lorimer says:

    James,

    If these allegations prove to be true then Formula One should lose it’s status as a Sport.

    If reflects very poorly on the current status of Formula One for such a accusation to be even considered credible. Can you imagine Clark, Moss, Fangio or Hill would ever contemplate a deliberate crash to win a race?

  67. Anthony says:

    Although we can probably agree that ‘the FIA’ is motivated mainly by bile and personal vendetta, there may be some rational justification in there as well. They were faced with an allegation, strongly supported by circumstantial evidence, but no total proof. One accused denied everything and one refused to answer. Had things been left like that, the outcome could easily have been either that nobody was convicted or that only the one who refused to answer was convicted.

    That would have been unsatisfactory. Not just because men who were possibly guilty may have walked free, but also because everybody would have seen that the FIA had not got at the truth. The smell of corruption would persist, the sense that something bad had happened, but provided you deny everything you can cheat all you like and get away with it.

    But the fact is that, in refusing to answer, Symonds was refusing to lie. He was also indicating that he was not in a position to tell the truth. And hinting that he wished he were. In those circumstances, offering him immunity, even though he was guilty, can be seen as the lesser of two evils. In the final analysis, the FIA has acted in accordance with Patrick Head’s advice that maintaining the integrity of the sport is paramount – i.e., more important than the details of how it is achieved.

  68. Dave Walker says:

    Wow, Renault are not challenging the allegations. Briatore and Symonds have left!!!!!! Statement on the website!!

  69. Jonathan Chan says:

    **OFFICIAL**

    Briatore and Symonds leave Renault

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78668

  70. Crispin says:

    Well, it looks like the allegations are true, Flav and Pat have gone, and they won’t dispute the events at the FIA hearing.

    I suspect Renault will pull out of F1 as a result of this…

  71. Paul says:

    Nice opportunity/excuse for Renault to quit and a great ooprtunity for Sauber to take their place. Watch this space Bernie!

  72. MartinWR says:

    Mail headline at 1241 hrs: “Renault accept race-fixing charge as disgraced Flavio Briatore is forced out of F1″

    The link to this story is at:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-1213878/FORMULA-ONE-Renault-accept-race-fixing-charge-flamboyant-Flavio-Briatore-leaves-team-boss.html

    If this doesn’t vindicate the FIA’s handling of this affair, nothing ever will. They have finally exposed the nastiest piece of dirty dealing in the history of modern grand prix racing, and it did need to be exposed.

  73. Racing not politics says:

    Falvio has resigned then

    scapegoat or witch hunt?

  74. Racing not politics says:

    and Pat gone and Renault accept guilt
    OMFG this is awful

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8258987.stm

  75. Madhu says:

    James this is for you,

    I can see your point about Piquet which i absolutely understand. Then the same must have happened to Alonso in 2007 for blackmailing Ron dennis to get status in the team.

    All the while (during winter testing, during the first few grand prix’s in 2007), he knew there was a mole and he used information from that mole but they gave him amnesty just because he came out with it.

    If you think Piquet should not be given any amnesty! Don’t you think Alonso deserved a bigger bigger punishment. He knew something for 3 months and He used it to his and his team’s advantage. Piquet’s crash is atleast one event and finished in a day!

    Whats your honest opinion?

    And now more on Alonso in this case. To begin with i assume Alonso did not know anything to start with in this case(I might be totally worng though). I really doubt if he did not even get a small doubt on all this, given the facts that starting 15th in the grid in a street circuit (where you can hardly overtake) is given 15 laps of fuel, asked to pit 3 more laps before his in lap, his team mate crashes and brings on safety car, and he wins. Won’t he go and atleast ask pat symonds in the post race briefing why he was called in 3 laps earlier?

    The reason this incident had to happen was to fernando win! If Renault winning was the case, they could have asked Alonso to crash and piquet to win! But that did not happen! Renault have gone winless in a year so many times in the last 10 years! Forget piquet, nobody cares about him if he gets amnesty or not. He is not going to drive anyway in F1 anymore. The Question is about Alonso. Guess what he might be driving a Ferrari next year!!!

    I donno if there has been a coincidence here, but the 2 biggest scandals in the last 2 years and the 1 common thing in both of them is FERNANDO ALONSO!

  76. Rugbytown says:

    I think its a bit much to say that Ferrari screwed Massa’s stop because of Piquets crash. The FIA would be very hard pushed to alter the outcome of the championship. With the latest news (resignations of Flav and Pat) surely a lifetime ban for both and penalising Renault financially for 2008 winnings would be a suitable sentence. I guess if Fernando’s involvemnt, if any, will become apparent after Monday but Piquet Jr was complicit no matter whos idea it was.

    Jojo poses a very interesting question.

  77. Werewolf says:

    Outstanding post, James. Harveyeight’s insight was excellent – and Rudy’s separate response was interesting, too. I always admire experts/commentators in any field who seek the views of those with knowledge in a different specialism when they need it.

  78. JohnBt says:

    Nelson might kill someone for real the next time if he’s granted immunity hence keeping his superlicense. First of all he’s a thoroughbred idiot for agreeing to crash, whose idea does not matter anymore. An utterly selfish boy at all cost to keep his F1 drive and now causing stress to innocent employees whom might lose their jobs. Yes, Flav and Symonds are as guilty, but if Nelson is man enough he shoulda gave them the “**** YOU! You crash it yourselves”. Any team who hires him will, for sure, be a ‘paid drive’ by daddy. I don’t feel one bit sorry for Nelson, his daddy will have more than enough to feed him for the rest of his life. GOOD BYE NP!!!

  79. JohnBt says:

    But losing Pat Symonds will be a huge blow as he has contributed 30 years of his life to F1. This I feel SAD.

  80. JohnBt says:

    As for Alonso, deep in my heart I hope he’s innocent. If found guilty it will truly be a humongous loss for F1. What a GREAT DRIVER Alonso is and will always be.

  81. JohnBt says:

    Flav has also contributed to F1 in his own way. But sometimes he’s a just JOKER.

  82. Keith says:

    Excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly with the CID gentleman.

    If Mr Piquet had any strength of character he would have told Pat and Flav how high to jump if they had approached him with such a ludicrous suggestion.

    Renault should not get off scot free. They have a responsibility to ensure that their team is playing with a straight bat. Its no good to simply blame the troops no matter how culpable they are.

    Did any one else have trouble accessing the blog yesterday – the biggest news in years and no blog to read. Tragic…..

    1. Harveyeight says:

      If one had a peurile sense of humour, one might ask James if the site crashed, and if so, was it on purpose.

      Thanks goodness I’m above that sort of thing.

  83. Kirk says:

    Well, this is not a criminal proceeding (not yet anyway) so to treat it like one is a bit excessive. Draw similarities as you wish, but in the end it has to be treated in the sporting sense, in the same way a football player dives in the penalty area, scores a goal with his hand, stamps on another player, or even a tennis player that swears at the officials… And F1 has many recent cases to use as a guide for this kind of thing, like Spy-gate and Lie-gate – none of these unmasked thanks to the goodness of any individual’s heart, but instead due to the interest these individuals had in the scandals.

    The point missed here is this: without the imunity offer/deal NOTHING would have been done about Singapore 2008. We would be none the wiser about what happened, and the evidence leaked so far makes it crystal clear something DID happen. It’s simply a matter of pinning the tail on the right donkey now. Is that an acceptable option?

    The case is and will always be about what was said in the pre-race meeting, and unless someone had the Renault office bugged, only the 3 people involved could come forward and blow the whistle.

    So the lesser of two evils: take a deal with one (or two) of them and finally get an insight into what happened, so you can then have a basis to dig further, get some clues into how the jigsaw of radio conversations and funny/dumb fuel strategies fit in, have a chance of getting to the bottom of seems to have been a big fix and punish someone for it.

    Or… when approached about the incident, you offer nothing except the further threat of a lifetime ban from the sport, severe sanctions, scare off any potential whistle blowers, now and in future, end up with a very clear idea that something disgusting did happen in that race (you were approached after all), but with no evidence to do anything about it. And watch as the people responsible laugh, joke and spray the champagne for years to come as if that was all good and proper. They might even do it again, who knows.

    Make no mistake, Piquet Jr. may get imunity from action coming directly from the FIA, but his dream has been chattered, and his racing career has been damaged, he will pay for this one way or another down the line when a job he wants is not even given a thought by prospective employers. And yet he could have just chosen to keep quiet, carry on as if nothing had happened…

  84. Peter says:

    Dear James, forgive me for saying this article fell below your usual high standard. I was unconvinced by you quoting with implicit approval a lengthy comment from HarV8. For me one problem was that (as the beginning of the article actually explained) the FIA process is just not equivalent to the UK criminal process, which I assume is your correspondent’s background. And of course Pat Symonds is a known quantity to the FIA, not some anonymous defendant. My other problem was that your correspondent – let’s give him a name, say “Mr Smith” – has his own axe to grind and so an interest should have been declared. For Mr Smith, Max Mosley and the FIA can do no right; in “crashgate”, as in the Mclaren “liegate” saga, MM/FIA must still be some of the bad guys as far as Mr Smith is concerned. Another observation: I was curious why you declined to comment for several days on the leaked evidence, which I think was first in the public domain a week ago? Apologies, I feel someone must have asked this before … Peter

  85. Jonathan says:

    In a different set of circumstances, for example if NPJ had crashed and a marshal was hurt or killed, there would be a serious case of attempted manslaughter/manslaughter.
    No immunity should have been given.

  86. john g says:

    quel surprise… pt1) max hates ron. ron is out.

    pt2) flav is the ring leader in getting max to stand down in the recent FOTA / FIA war. in these cheating allegations, piquet and symmonds get random immunity (granted by teh FIA). flav is out.

    watch out for the demise of di montezemolo next :D

    i think a behind the scenes documentary of bernie and max over the last 20 years would be totally fascinating. would be a very long film tho…

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