F1 Winter Break
Mystery Renault insider confirmed Briatore was in on crash plot
Mystery Renault insider confirmed Briatore was in on crash plot
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Sep 2009   |  10:44 pm GMT  |  134 comments

The full explanation of how the World Motor Sport Council reached its decision has just been published and the really interesting point is that Flavio Briatore was betrayed by a Renault insider who demanded anonymity in return for detailed information about Briatore’s involvement in F1’s most notorious cheating scandal.

After their initial investigations, neither Renault nor the FIA were sure of the extent of Briatore’s involvement. As a result, according to the report,

“The FIA considered that it was imperative to conduct further enquiries in order
that all available facts could be presented to the WMSC. The FIA’s further
enquiries led to an additional set of Renault F1 written submissions dated 17
September 2009. In those additional submissions, Renault F1 referred to the
existence of another member of the Renault F1 team (“Witness X”) who, although
not a conspirator himself, knew of the conspiracy at the time of the 2008
Singapore Grand Prix. Renault F1 stated in its submissions of 17 September 2009
that Witness X had confirmed that Mr Briatore had known of the deliberate crash
plan before it had been put into effect. ”

Witness X, it turns out, was present at a meeting where Briatore discussed the crash plot with Pat Symonds,

“Renault F1 submitted that Witness X was a ‘whistleblower’ within its team and
that if his identity were to be revealed it may discourage other similarly situated
persons to come forward in relation to this or other matters. The FIA considered
this argument to have some merit, given that Witness X was said not himself to be
a conspirator. However, the FIA considered that this argument had to be balanced
against the requirements of the FIA’s investigation and the requirement to put the
full facts before the WMSC. The FIA therefore agreed with Renault F1 that the
identity of Witness X would be made known to the FIA’s President, and certain of
the FIA’s legal advisers only.”

It goes on, “When the FIA’s advisers interviewed Witness X, he expressly confirmed that Mr Briatore was involved in the conspiracy because Witness X had been personally present at a meeting shortly after qualifying on Saturday 27 September 2008 when Mr Symonds had mentioned the possibility of a crash plan to Mr Briatore. The FIA’s advisers were confident that Witness X himself played no active role in the

So who is the mysterious witness X? The FIA report goes on to say that Fernando Alonso did not know about it, so it cannot be him, but it could be one of the other senior Renault engineers, like Alan Permane or James Allison. Whoever it is, Briatore will know their name because he will recall the meeting.

Another interesting point is that Renault has its own internal whistleblower policy, to try to weed out problems. But it failed in this case, for obvious reasons,

“It appears that Renault F1 had policies in place, including internal whistleblower policies, which would normally have prevented the occurrence of these events. These policies were not effective in this case because the very people to whom the events would have been reported under those policies, had anybody known, were themselves conspirators. ”

The conclusion to the report highlights Briatore’s conflicting roles as team principal and manager of drivers working for that team, something that F1 people had got used to, but which newcomers to the sport always found puzzling,

“Not only did he hold a responsibility to the team, he had a responsibility to guide and assist Mr Piquet Jnr in his career and to offer advice as needed. The WMSC regard it to be unsatisfactory that any Team Principal should manage any driver as it can lead to the kinds of conflicts of interests that plainly arose here. In this case Mr Briatore manifestly did not guide Mr Piquet Jnr appropriately and indeed allowed and
seemingly encouraged him to engage in potentially ruinous and life-threatening

“Taken together, the above factors, and the complete absence of any mitigating
factors, lead the WMSC to conclude that Mr Briatore is not a person suitable to
participate in any way in any motorsport activities under the FIA’s control.”

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It's crazy. There's 3 people and 2 of them are still lying. Briatore still saying he was not involved, looks like he was very well known about it.

Then we have Symonds saying that Piquet Jr. was the one with this crashing idea. Piquet Jr. saying vice versa. Basically can't trust nobody anymore. It doesn't matter actually who lies the less, they are all the same.


So this new revelation still begs for an explanation why "Witness X" wasn't able to go to any other Sr. Management to blow his whistle.

Flav needs to report to Renault, he's not the top of the food chain. So there was still alternative personnel to report too.

"Witness X" should be persecuted as well. He's known about the plot for the past year. He's guilty by association.


Jeremy I think you mean 'prosecuted'.

....but then with the FIA you never know!!


Surely the implication of this is that once again, Nelson Piquet has been proved to be correct in that it was not he who suggested the crash as PS suggested. This is because this meeting took place after qualifying.


See Jr's supplementary statement of 25 August, point 8. He name's the person who called him to the meeting with Flav and Pat ..... Witness X?

Just A Bloke (Martin)

Well I simply do not believe that witness x will remain unknown. Surely the majority of the Renault team, if not most the pitlane would know who would attend that sort of strategy meeting, bet its a short list.

I am glad they are coming down in the conflict of of interest between team mangement and driver management.


The statements about Briatore as manager of Piquet Jr. are exactly why I am willing to extend a little symphathy for Jr. It doesn't excuse Piquet Jr. for not having the stones to say "no", but it does highlight the very difficult position he was put in. As one poster pointed out in a previous thread, I think Piquet Jr. was very much in a similar mental position as an abused spouse.

I would also say that this new information makes the investigation a lot less of a "witch hunt" for Briatore.


If there is any truth to what Pat and Witness X are saying then Piquet was under NO PRESSURE to crash because it was his dumb-ass idea!!!

Lets stop trying to find excuses for Piquet as a poor little child with no alternative but to follow through with this conspiracy. He is a spoiled rich kid who has a very successful father in F1. He couldn't live up to the Piquet name in F1 and he was smart enough to know that the only way to save his bacon was to do something for the good of the team. He suggested the crash and he followed through with it. No one made him! The only issue I have with Pat and Flav and this witness is that they went along with this stupid idea.


"... conclude that Mr Briatore is not a person suitable to participate in any way in any motorsport activities ..."

Too right. With the obvious conflict of interest shown to both exist theoretically *and* taken advantage of, they could reach no other conclusion.

If Witness X was in a meeting where the crash plan was discussed, does (s)he have anything to say about where the plan originated?

You'd think the kind of words used would point the direction that the plan was arrived at.


Witness x may not have been involved in the administering of the fix, but having knowledge about it at the time and not acting on it or alerting anyone to it is what's known as being an accessory after the fact. He can't post an anonymous tip to the FIA? That's not a whistleblower, it's disingenuous of Renault to offer the term, for the FIA to accept it and to claim that their judgement is made on just principles.


Witness X is constantly referred to in the tapes of the WMSC meeting as 'he' or 'him' so we can probably conclude it is a man.

He also seems to say that the idea came from NPJ.


It most probably is a man, but where gender is indeterminate, you would use 'he' and 'him', so it's not certain.


Hence my use of the word 'probably'.


Witness X - Alonso?


No way. He would be incriminating himself.


Bet you a million pounds Alonso gets accused of being Witness X and that the FIA made its statement in regard to his non-involvement in order to protect him and obfuscate the situation. Inevitable as the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning.


Completely agree.


Benneton's illegal traction/launch control and refueling(Interlagos) very well could have contributed to Senna's desperation and fatal accident at San Marino. Briatore's team was excused from the more serious cheating charge, traction control, on their word of honor that they did not use it, although there was plenty of evidence that they did. Briatore's ethics are certainly no longer in dispute, so he should consider himself lucky to have gotten away with as much as he did for as long as he did. Personally, I have cherished memories of watching Senna's mastery, but I won't give Flavio another thought, unless of course he finds some way to return.


To me Witness X must either be Alonso, or the presence of Witness X in this meeting must at least suggest that Alonso knew about the plot. Why would Piquet, Flavio and Pat have been in a meeting on stratergy with some other witness(possibly witnesses) at which Fernando was NOT preset??

As other teams have said, that would be impossible in ANY other F1 team, along with the the fact that only 3 people were involved. It still doesnt add up at all, there is so much we will probably never hear from this saga.


Except that the FIA's conclusion is that Alonso knew nothing, so he couldn't be Mr X


The FIA have history in protecting their valued commodities. Only yesterday they ensured Renaults continuation in the sport, by effectively letting them off.

Issuing a statement saying that Alonso wasn't “in any way involved in Renault F1’s breach of the regulations” doesn't, in any way, rule out the possibility that he is Witness X. IF it is Alonso and it came out that he knew/was involved it would be the end of his involvement in F1. They would have had to have banned him considering his previous misdemeanors at McLaren. Considering that, in the FIAs eyes at least, he must the most important man in F1 at the moment i can see why they might want to keep any Alonso involvement very quiet and Alonso out of trouble. Especially considering he has already threatened to leave F1 once this season.

I've followed F1 all my life and have learnt an incredible amount about the sport and i find it almost impossible to believe that a driver as good, competitive and with such a will to win as Alonso wouldn't have been aware of why the strategy Renault picked had been considered their best chance of a win. Shumie, Prost, Senna would all have demanded to know exactly what was going to happen. Also surely Alonso would have had to have known the plan in detail for it to have worked as without a safety car to make the statergy work Alonso would have had to have taken some massive risks overtaking people.

I also think Piquet would have been 100% certain of whether or not Alonso knew about the plot and would have told his dad, who has said that Alonso knew about it in the press.

Then there is the point in my original post, a statergy meeting was held in which Flav, Pat, Nelson plus at least one other person were present but the FIA are claiming that the 2 time World Champion, Reanult Number 1 driver, who is widely acknoleged to be the best driver in the field at the moment wasn't there. From what we all know of Alonso, that is very difficult to believe.


... Or thats what they want you to believe James, in order to protect him.

More FIA smoke and mirrors?


This might be nitpicking, but the wording of FIA's decision isn't that Alonso knew nothing, rather that he wasn't "in any way involved in Renault F1’s breach of the regulations". In a way this still leaves room for theories.

If the FIA could be considered a trustworthy source, we wouldn't have to keep going over this, but unfortunately they've shown themselves to be far from that and I think therefore we've every right to doubt and speculate.


I think Piquet makes it clear who the fourth person was (witness x) who knew about the meeting.... just read his supplementary statement.

Flav also mentions the same person in his letter to Sr ..... why would that person know what Sr was going to do unless Jr had told Sr who else was in the room (during the fateful meeting) and who could therefore put pressure on Flav.

Not saying the person was part of the plot, but it seems logical that they could/might have known about it. They are the only person that Jr puts in the right place at the right time.


well there you go, no appeal from flav i assume then!


So what of Flavs frivolous lawsuit now? Surely there is no way any form of litigation over alleged blackmail could continue?

I would also imagine there are a number of people within the Renault pit that would also determine the identity of 'X'. Wonder how they will treat him now?


'So what of Flavs frivolous lawsuit now? Surely there is no way any form of litigation over alleged blackmail could continue?'

Why not? - what has been established is that Flav was in on a deliberate race fixing plan. If Nelson than used this to Blackmail Flav into keeping his job then that is that not absolutly textbook blackmain?

If you rob a bank, and I threaten to inform the police unless you give me £10,000, them Im guilty of blackmail, even though you are guilty of robbing the bank!


should we now look at saying sorry to NPJ who life was hell under the so called guidance of FB.The man was a bully and made a very vulnerable boy crash his car. If i were a team owner i would be interested in seeing how the lad went in a few races, a smile a pat on the back and a well done could give the lad a half a second a lap.

P.S James any news on my beloved Lotus :-0)


the crazy thing about this is that even more people in the team were aware of it than first was thought... how many more on top of this guys therefore knew about it? thus, the whole idea could have been throughout the company as much as, or more than, did the mclaren team about the ferrari dossier scandal.

as ever, shines an even worse light on mosley and the fia.


gosh. Make an acronym out of Mosley and FIA and it spells mafia. How curious.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

Where did the extra "A" come from?


"and". I know, this spelling stuff is tricky...


So, 'witness X' was not a conspirator but was present when others conspired, didn't feel the need to 'blow the whistle' at the time and wants to remain anonymous (although clearly FB must be able to identify him). I would be very interested to see the FIA's test for witness credibility. But then they chose to believe Piquet Junior lock stock and barrel too, even in the light of PS's apparently sincere statement that it was all Piquet's idea in the first place.

I have enjoyed motor sport for decades both as a spectator and in a small way as a mechanic. I have never been much interested in the politics of it, some of the posts I have read concerning MM and vendettas struck me as fanciful, bordering on paranoid. But I am beginning to feel some sympathy for FB, and that is a very unexpected outcome as far as I'm concerned. It goes without saying that PS is the greatest loss here as far as the sport is concerned.


Same here re FB. Given that FIA waited til suited a personal agenda to look into this and the leaks, I hope FB still has some cards to play.


Does this mean the Nelson lied and perjured himself under oath? According to his testimony it was only him Flav and Pat who knew about the conspiracy. The reason that he was given immunity is he was the only one who can put Flav and Pat at the scene of the crime. apparently, Mr. X was there too.


It's not a criminal court, so I don't think you take the oath - and technically can't perjure yourself... it's more of a quasi-judicial court? The court has no powers outside the sport - so even if Nelson lied, he had immunity relating to this event.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

He had immunity so long as he told the truth.

IMHO Nelson has distorted the truth to make himself look more of a victim. IE that it was all Pat & Flavio's idea and he was "ordered" to crash the car.

If Pat's version is true, that Nelson himself suggested the crash, then immunity should be revoked for lying and punishment applied.


even if he is not appearing before a court, he must have submitted a sworn statement. I cannot imagine that the FIA would convict anybody on unverified/unsworn statements. The document containing his statement has to be duly notarized. Any untruthful statement in a duly notarized document is a criminal act


Whistle-blowing is a much misunderstood situation. I was an internal investigator for some years and made recommendations on actions to Chief Executives and other senior figures.

The idea is that employees can come forward with knowledge of serious misdemeanours; and that these will be gratefully investigated. The reality is that, unless rigorous and independent procedures are in place, the people to whom the whistle should be blown are often complicit accessories or, in the case of the public sector, are senior civil servants or politicians who would rather be lied to so they can claim nothing is rotten in their states of Denmark. Acknowledgement of wrong-doing lays them open to accusations of failure and at the very least requires them to take potentially controversial action. Much better to ignore it all and subjugate the accuser.

I can sympathise with Witness X. The external investigation may have been their first safe opportunity to cleanse themselves. Without these pressures, would the Renault board have ousted Briatore? Witness X would have doubted that as much as I do - and had more to lose.

What is worrying from an F1 perspective is how many other team members were aware. I still feel a lesser punishment for Renault F1 is appropriate but this view becomes increasingly questionable the more people that knew.


Surely Witness X was under a duty to report what he knew to the stewards? He could conceivably have believed that it was just a suggestion and not something that would be carried through at the time, but once the crash took place he must have known it was deliberate. By not coming forward he became complicity in the conspiracy. Indeed it makes me think that a lot more people within Renault knew about it and consequently one has to question whether Renault has received an appropriate punishment.


There have been few cases of whistleblowing in F1. The only one I can think of was Stepney with regards to Ferrari's imaginative interpretation of the regulations.

For one to work in F1 there would need to be some wholly independent procedure, especially independent of the FIA itself as there have been suggestions of bias against it throughout its history. I’m not sure how that would work.

But whistleblowers are a last-gasp policy, when all else has failed. What should be present is a procedure where cheating is policed initially. Such enquiries as this show that the system is at fault. We all know of channel 13 traction and launch control. We all know of the fuel rig that was doctored so that the flow of fuel was faster. We all know of Norberto Fontano’s confession. But nothing was done in any of these situations.

You have to accept that cheating will go on if the temptation is there. What puts people off is not the penalty but the probability of being found out. If team managers think, for whatever reason, they can get away with it then with the sort of sums we are talking about in F1 some will give in to it. The problem with temptation is that it is so very tempting.

The stewards system has proved itself ineffectual. It needs to be changed. And possibly taken away from the direct control of the FIA.

I was in the pits reporting on a team that was competing in a non-FIA race, a very long race. It was apparent that, despite very grumpy stewards turning up at every pit stop, if you were a back marker or struggling with your car, the minutiae of the regs were seen as inconvenient. The show was the thing.

It was all very open. A propshaft was taken out of the truck and inserted down the overalls of a mechanic who then had to walk a mile or so with a pronounced limp. The pit crew next door enjoyed the team’s discomfort.

I asked a steward, I his own language, if I could stand in one particular spot for a photograph. It wasn’t allowed. But I was. When his boss came along (after I’d taken the picture) the steward became quite agitated and actually pushed me, wagging his finger. I would have prostrated myself in front of him had I not been in the pit lane. He came to my pits later on and I showed him the picture. No apology of course from him. He acted as I expected.

Despite the regs being ignored in some case, the procedure seemed to work. I feel sure there were as many abuses as there are at any F1 race but stewards concentrated on the lead cars and all but ignored those, like ‘my’ team, who were hoping just to be a backmarker at the end of the race.

If we had overstepped what was reasonable bending of the rules, I feel sure that the teams in adjacent pits would have mentioned it to the stewards. We would have done the same I’m sure. Whistleblowing as it should be, to the standards set by the competitors.

During a particularly fraught pitstop, I drifted over to a next door pit and discussed our problems with their crew. They told me theirs. When we began catching their car I made myself scarce until after their splash and dash made us decide a more circumspect lap time was called for.

I really did enjoy that race.

It is a shame that F1 seems to have moved away from such casualness.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

Where do you draw the line between interpretation of the rules and cheating? Especially since teams have run ideas past the FIA and been told they were legal only to later be told they were not?

I personally believe the flexible surfaces and wings were a gross violation of the rules, (IE Cheating) Williams stated as much when asked why his team didn't use the materials. Ferrari went so far as to put a shroud over the join of the front wing and nose because it showed quite clearly on the nose camera that the wing moved at speed. Movable aero devices were illegal. Cheating or liberal interpretation of the rules?

Most technical directors will tell you they have to push the rules right to the edge to win. If they don't they are off by miles.

McLaren & Ferrari engines being "improved" for reliability and just happened to pick up 20 plus HP. Renault sticking to the letter of the rules falls behind in power. Interpretation or cheating?

It ain't all black and white.


Indeed. I agree with your point.

It is a difficult call. It is beyond my ability to suggest a viable way of improving matters in F1. Whilst the ACO method of 'graduated' enforcement works well in LM and LMES I can't see it being transferable to F1. Thee are many critics of the ACO, apart from Peugeot fans of course, but from a fan's point of view, the entertainment is what matters.

With regards to the mechanic with a limp, no one wanted to see a car removed from the circuit just because of a damaged propshaft, even one so far down the field. No one complained and the marshall earned himself a momento, a buckled propshaft. The fans for that particular marque, of which there were thousands, were given a respite from misery.

The ACO seems to think that the results are not that important. It's the show that counts.

There are lots of arguments against this philosophy, especially suggesting that the best drivers/car/team combination might not win. And that is undeniably true. However, with the likes of channel 13, moveable devices, bargeboards oversize and such (I'm not deliberately picking teams a certain driver frequented) the same goes for F1.

I suppose it is all down to your question: where do you draw the line? I apologise for not even attempting to answer it other than saying that the line is in the wrong position in F1.


You are describing the culture at Le Mans. About as far removed from F1 culture as it is possible to get, thank heavens.

But if you are suggesting that F1 could aspire to a similar culture, then dream on. All the time F1 has to contend with Bernies, Max's and their ilk, not a chance, and sadly, once a path is trodden, it is very difficult to go back.

By the way, I always enjoy your posts.


Thanks for you comments.

I have to agree with you as well on the matter of Le Mans, or rather the ACO run events: the atmosphere at LMES races was just the same. F1 has gone too far along the path you mention.

A bright spot of the dreaded Singapore race was the cheering of the various pit crews as the red army ran along the pitlane. It felt like the sort of thing that would happen at Le Mans. And look at how all that ended.


Does it really matter anymore. All through F1 history there has always been cheating, but the fame words are "don't get caught". Can we move on with more news on racing. This episode is getting rather nauseous. Sorry James.


Wow. Just... wow. So we now have another whistleblower who was party to (and did not report, so hence assisted) the cheating - and this one not only gets off scot free, but even gets away with his/her reputation completely untarnished.

Piquet's immunity was distasteful, but at the same time understandable since his was the first on-the-record statement (albeit far too late in being made). There's also basically zero chance any F1 team will ever consider running him now. Piquet won't get away scot free - he'll just be punished by his peers, rather than the FIA.

This though, it goes too far if you ask me. Here we have somebody most likely at a reasonably senior level in the team, who knew Renault were cheating and did nothing to stop it - and he/she escapes any punishment whatsoever. It's like the situation with Alonso at McLaren where he escaped unpunished after being directly involved in cheating, and then continues his career as if nothing ever happened. It's worse though, because in this situation even this individual's peers and fans won't know what he/she did.

Frankly, all this refusing to answer questions (Symonds), refusing to answer without immunity (Piquet), refusing to answer without protection (Witness X), failing to follow up on allegations (Whiting), etc. needs to stop - and pronto - if F1 wants to continue borrowing my eyeballs every couple of weeks.

In future, we need to start following up on allegations immediately, interviewing those alleged to have done wrong, and requiring them to be suspended pending the result of investigations if they refuse to answer all questions first time around. No running off to agree stories first, no demands of immunity from anybody other than the initial whistleblower - and if your story doesn't match everybody else's, your license to participate in the sport is revoked.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

I disagree. Rumors and allegations need to be investigated to determine if there is truth to the matter and should be followed up in more depth. If you suspend people for every rumor of misdeed a rival team or even a knowledgeable fan could have a senior team member removed before a crucial race just by circulating a believable yet false rumor.

And don't say it wouldn't be done. I don't think any of us are that naive anymore.


I didn't say they should be suspended pending any investigation. I said they should be suspended if they refuse to answer upon first questioning. There's a reason for that - it prevents those being investigated from getting together and agreeing a story first.

If the allegations are false, it's quite simple. Answer the questions honestly, and your story will match those told by your colleagues. The only reason to refuse to answer questions is because you know you'll incriminate yourself - in which case refusing to answer is every bit as troublesome as admitting you've done wrong.


Interesting the witness X says the plan was mentioned to Briatore, and not suggested by him. And Symond's letter re-iterates that the idea came from Piquet.

Would be interesting to know what the FIA made of that suggestion as it seems there is some evidence that it is true?

Also whether there is anything in the report about Piquet Sr. telling the FIA last year. One wonders why he would do that?


Oh great, now we have a mysterious star witness hidden from the public view. F1 couldn't make itself look any more corrupt.


Totally agree with you Matt

The FIA are so corrupt it hurts, but in their little fiefdom, which must largely controlled by Mr E, commercial interests completely take over from common sense or the fans best interests.

Once again F1 has shot itself in the foot

Personally, (don't shoot me) i think the whole idea of fixing a race was quite exciting - naughty, but exciting

However, the FIA have once again shown how unfair and inconsistent they are (i.e. corrupt)

If this had come to light last year, before Honda & BMW had quit, then Renault would have been either kicked out or fined more than $100m

Also, could you imagine the outcry if Alonso was found guilty of knowing and kicked out for a year????? One of the most popular driver globally? On his way to Ferrari? Isn’t it strange that he’s whiter-than-white again?

I take my hat of to Max - who else has this sort of power AND gets away with it? He really is a genius and I can’t wait to read his biography!

Shame about Flav – he was a hell of a promoter. Very similar to Mr E in the late 70’s. Not that Brabham ever bent the rules in the mid to late 70’s though……

Who will take over from Mr E now??

The politics of it all to intrigue me, but I’m a die hard fan - but to your average viewer - the people F1 need to embrace - this is total anarchy.

Such a shame that another of the best title shoot outs is being tarnished with this

We never have such political turmoil when the Championship is boring and won by someone with 6 races to go.


That all seems a little too convenient to me.


Wow, serious stuff all this. I must admit I wrongly doubted all of this being true. It's great to get hold of the details on all of this. Great work James, no idea how many times I check this site on a daily basis.


James, either now or later, I'd appreciate your thoughts on why there's not more questioning of the FIA and MM, given the (alleged, admittedly) comment of NP telling C. White about this last year. Thank you.


I had raised the question of conflict of interest due to dual role Briatore played. It was quite evident when he was said to have scuttle possible talks of JPM moving to Renault in 2007, when flavio was convincing his client webber to join Renault instead. Of course frustrated on no possibility of good drive the Colombian finally decided the Nascar switch

Opposite Lock (Ken)

Hmmm, it would seem that there were indeed other members of the Renault team that knew about this race-fixing event. Kinda puts a lie to the statements that no one else knew or participated in the scandal. The fact that this mysterious Mr. X did not report it and helped to carry it out would make him complicit. Once again, the offender only came forward when the event was brought to the attention of the FIA and investigated. What a sham.


According to the transcript Mr. X opposed the idea and only knew they followed through once the crash occurred. He did not help carry it out.


Every time you think and hope, the case cannot get more disgusting, there's always a new information which makes it even more disgusting.

There have been far too many scandals in F1 lately... It's worse than the cheapest Mexican or Brazilian soap-opera.

I wonder, how many former and current F1 drivers and other people opened a champagne last week... 😛 😉


That is not serious:

"Witness X, it turns out, was present at a meeting where Briatore discussed the crash plot with Pat Symonds...."

It was said that only 3 people were involved, how come there is somebody else?

Of course you cannot do it with just Pat, Flavio and Mr. Innocent - you need to involve a lot more people.

It doesn't look like the crash gate investigation, it looks like an execution over Briatore.


This is so funny....if there were 4 people in this crash preparation meeting, than it is easy to know who Mister X is and Briatore will know. If there were a lot more people, than FIA and Renault are telling lies that noone else was involved.

Isn't that strange, James?


"“Taken together, the above factors, and the complete absence of any mitigating factors, lead the WMSC to conclude that Mr Briatore is not a person suitable to participate in any way in any motorsport activities under the FIA’s control.”

Yet it's perfectly acceptable for a high FIA official to engage in [mod] themed orgies, and not to step down when his personal life brings shame and disrepute to

the FIA and his office.

I think more of the last thing I flushed down the crapper than I do of the FIA, at this juncture.


Max's desire to stay in the job, die in it if possible, and the sheer arbitrariness of the FIA and WMSC "judiciary" make him the Mugabe of motorsport. I think his sexual preferences, exposed to public glare, are more to the ridiculous than shameful or disreputable, but he doesn't like to be ridiculed, especially because it gave his opponents leverage to engineer his demise. Like Samson, he's pushing over as many columns as he can before he goes down.


Could Flavio be the man that Max has known set him up in his dungeon???

Christ - what sweet revenge this must be!

I wouldn't have put it past ol' Flav either!


Does this mean that we'll see lots of Renault employees looking over their shoulders from now on, or is the identity of this person known within the team..?


I was pleasantly surprised to read in the Fia report that alone among other F1 competitors Frank Williams wrote a letter in support of the Renault Company.

Some will say he did it because he hopes to get Renault's engines for next year, that might be partially true but I am sure that Frank also and more importantly remember the success his team had in the past thanks to Renault power and also he is well aware that the livelihood of 600 persons working for Renault F1 was at risk and they were just innocent victims in that whole affair. Full mark to Frank for thinking of them. This is typical of Frank.

It looks from the report and Reanult'w own investigation that Flavio was NOT the one who came up with the idea of the Crash. His own, very big in itself, personal error was that he failed to stop it happening and he rightfully paid the price for that as the most senior of the 3 persons involved.

He does not look either, contrary to Nelsinho's allegations, that he put any particular pressure on his young charge during the period leading to the race.

That Nelsinho felt under pressure due to Flavio's behavior toward him until then surely played a part but from the evidence in the report nobody can tell Flavio explicitly asked Nelson to do what he did. In my view Flavio is far less guilty that many people are saying as the pressure on Nelson Jr was mainly self inflicted at that point in time. The Renault investigators reserved their judgement on Flavio's action which seems fair.

Flavio can be blamed for various things like putting too much pressure on his drivers and failing to veto the crash idea when it was put to him but not for inspiring the idea nor than for coercing Nelsinho in doing it.

This is my reading on the situation, other might disagree indeed. For me Flav made some mistakes but he his not mister nasty.


“ Witness X had been personally present at a meeting shortly after qualifying on Saturday 27 September 2008 when Mr Symonds had mentioned the possibility of a crash plan to Mr Briatore. ”

So, according to this and Smonds letter, the sequence of events semms to be: a) Piquet comes up with the idea b) He talks to Symonds c)Symonds talks to Briatore.

So the guy who initiated all this is the only one who gets away with it. Knowing Piquet Sr, I would not be surprised if it was always a scheme to make sure they had something up their sleeve later on. Which is exactly what happened.

I am still amazed a seasoned navigator of F1 rough seas like flavio would let himself be in this eminently ransom-prone position. As i said before, he must have known that doing the deed would mean he could never fire jr., not without Sr.'s consent anyhow.

And the anonymity to the Renault whistle blower smells very bad. Whistle blowers are protected, yes, but not kept secret.

Is this guy gonna come out when all this gets to a REAL court of law?

Finally...".. Mr Briatore manifestly did not guide Mr Piquet Jnr appropriately and indeed allowed and

seemingly encouraged him to engage in potentially ruinous and life-threatening

activities..." the text is very vague (allowed and SEEMINGLY encouraged) so they must not have a lot of proof... will be interesting in a real court.


You can't publish an anonymous letter. It puts it into the public domain without any chance of Briatore being able to refute it.

I've no sympathy for Briatore. However, he is still entitled to proper treatment and I would suggest that blackening his name without any form of redress is outrageous conduct. If the FIA are certain of its veracity then they are entitled to take it into consideration in such matters, subject to proper procedures, but not to publish it.

This is outrageous conduct.

On top of that, what are the chances of the author’s name not being known to everyone in the pitlane by first practice at Singapore? I bet you know who it is, James.

So the only reason it is being kept secret is to stop it being published in the media. And that’s a pretty good option to me. The whistleblower’s wishes should be considered. But so should Briatore’s rights.

I’d say my estimation of the morals of Mosley/FIA dropped when I read this but that would be dishonest. All this does is reinforce it.


Briatore had the opportunity to attend the hearing on Monday and present his side of the story as a non-Renault employee. He chose not to and instead said "can't make me, I'm not a licence holder"

He had the full opportunity to present his view and defend his name. He chose not to. Everyone is drawing their own conclusions.

Either way, I'm looking forward now to Mr M retiring so that he can get on and write the book that he must be itching to write...


Interesting that Flav will know who this person is. I wonder is there any legal ramifications if Flav publicly names him.


Whistleblower policies nearly always fail to function. They are, in the main, corporate windowdressing.

I have always suspected that most of the team must have become aware at some point, that something irregular had taken place. Including of couse, Teflonso.


This whole business is staggeringly dodgy.

There evidence against Briatore comprises the testimony of one hostile witness and one last-minute anonymous witness.

Now for the FIA that was evidence enough, as they suspected Flavio already. But would this case seriously stand up in a court of law?

I don't think so. And that means Flavio will sue and win.


From mystery source to Mosley/Ecclestone, from Mosley/Ecclestone to the Times, from the intrepid, award-winning Times to my ear ... a virtuous cycle if ever there was one. After all, isn't that how ALL Formula 1 stories "break" in the UK these days?


A small point, and I'd see why a moderator might want to bin this as of no particular merit, but Witness X was not a whistleblower. It demeans the term to class this chap or woman as one. What they are is a witness, pure and simple.

The anonymity is a bit problematical as well. Why should any witness not be named?

Another point: why Witness X and not Witness B or Witness C? Or, of course, Witness A?


Because there are probably Witnesses A to Z that we're yet to hear about! I was going to post yesterday, that other people must have known about this bar Briatore, Symonds and NPJ. And sure enough, it looks like one person at least did. I don't think we've heard the last of this.

If Briatore takes this to court for whatever reason, all hell's going to break loose. I don't think the FIA have covered all the bases on this one at all. It's been made to look more and more like a witch-hunt between Mosley and Briatore. I expect legeal repurcussions...


Dunno about Britain, but here if you have one witness it is X. Do you have two or more the convention changes to Witness A, B, C and so on.

Actually you can hear Renault's lawyer calling him Witness A and then rapidly changing it to X in the hearing.


Why witness X ? 'cause F1 wanted to have the X factor !!!


They used up A to W in the "Liegate" and "Spankgate" affairs.

But surely Briatore has a strong case for the courts now given he wasn't able to cross-examine his accusers? Then again Max is a barrister so one would hope he knows his stuff.

My guess is we'll see Flavio take this to the courts, by which time Max will be gone and his successor will agree an out of court settlement consisting of a statement on the courtroom steps and a reduction in the ban for Pat and Flav to two years.



So Piquet, contrary to what he originally claimed, was not "asked" to crash by Symonds and Briatore, it is more that Symonds did not try to prevent it from happening.

"Witness X" must be someone senior, otherwise why would he/she even be in a meeting alone (i.e. without more senior people present) with PS and FB discussing anything to do with strategy at all? Yet the investigation suggested that Symonds was the only engineer to have any knowledge of the scheme (i.e. it can't be PK's race engineer). And they've already cleared Alonso (one of the others who could conceivably be legitimately present in such a meeting) of any involvement.

So the validity of this "witness" story smells more than a little fishy to me.

Either way, the case against Briatore in particular would surely have been thrown out of a regular, legal courtroom out of a lack of convincing evidence - yet it is he who gets the lifetime ban, when the originator of the scheme (PK Jr - who has admitted coming up the idea) gets off scot-free!


Many thanks James, for this excellent site. As per the Times yesterday, and Damon Hill's (who did very well thank you, thanks to Renault engines!)comments as well, there is a consensus that Renault was too lightly punished! What are your views on that?

Also, based on the comments above re-Briatore managing Piquet, and the influence such a person can and perhaps did have over a driver; has the FIA taken the view that F1 as a sport is partly to blame, by allowing such management arrangements to prevail, and that this may have also led to what is being perceived in some quarters as a lenient sentence for Renault?

I agree Piquet got off lightly! He seems to have picked up where his father left off! Or is he being manipulated by another person again...!!?

Thanks again for this site and your excellent insight into the sport we love!

Nick Meikle.


Good riddance to the w**ker, (Flarviatory) I've never trusted him, (& I've been following F1 since the Stirling Moss era), Renault deserves better. Bring on Ari Vatenen!!




I can't quite believe this. Renault got off lightly because the FIA claimed that it was just Flav and Symonds who were in on the plot. But Witness X proves that it was a wider team conspiracy. Mad mad mad.


Harveyeight and Werewolf,

There have been reports that Briatore is considering legal action in the EU courts as regards the FIA having effectively taken away his means of earning his living. Does he have a case?


When Indycars first left American shores, the FIA, tried to exert pressure on drivers through its component national federations, threatening to withdraw their FIA licenses if they participated in Indycar races. Real courts ruled it restraint of trade, monopolistic behaviour illegal in WTO member countries . If Briatore's case proceeds, it would likely be along those lines. The FIA can probably legally apply their extreme sanction to him, but he might use the case to effectively be re-tried, with normal civil standards of evidence having to be applied, rather than the FIA being able to choose who to selectively believe, and very real differences in immunities. Potentially very interesting if it comes to anything.


Werewolf, the thing about Briatore's proposed suit is that the FIA's witnesses are mooted as defendants in a blackmail prosecution. Can't help thinking that witness X is the FIA sabre-rattling to encourage Briatore to reconsider.


I agree, and the fact mentioned several times above that Briatore has many other sources of income is completely irrelevant.

I have no time for Briatore, but someone has to bring the FIA down. I hope he sues, and I hope he wins.


My legal training relates primarily to UK employment legislation and related areas, so it would be dangerous to attempt a definitive reply. Restraint of trade, however, is a serious matter and is normally considered either illegal or at the very least unreasonably disproportionate.

In Briatore's case, I would venture the opinion there has been no significant restraint because of his numerous other business interests and the fact he is not banned from motor racing, only FIA-sanctioned events. I seem to remember an athlete who was banned for drugs use losing a similar claim a couple of years ago (perhaps somebody can elaborate).



As the pro in all of this, although I accept the limitations of your speciality, can you point us in the direction of Briatore's options with regards the hearing?

One assumes he would not have been aware of all the evidence before the hearing, would have not been able to mount a 'defence' as a plea had already been accepted, and would have been left with just a bit of mitigation.

My feeling is that his legal advice would have been to stay away and fight on a ground of his choosing. The suprise Witness X would have been quite a shock.


Ex-pro, Harveyeight! I have to start by saying that, as you know, Briatore was not employed by the FIA, so employment legislation is of no relevance. This will be decided under broader civil law

If this was an employment matter, however, Briatore would be onto an absolute winner in any unfair dismissal case (tribunal or court) because the FIA has failed to observe the principles of natural justice, never mind any questions of procedure, proportionality or law. He wasn't even the defendent at the hearing!

I would expect any case by Briatore to be a damages claim to a civil court based on such matters as the FIA's failure to provide a proper opportunity for defence/reply, procedural failing, lack of transparency, potential/probable bias, unfair treatment and leaking of sensitive and damaging documents to the press. There is also the question of whether the effective ban falls within the FIA's authority, as it has not revoked any license but threatened third parties with sanctions if they employ Briatore.

I still see the restraint of trade case as fairly weak (though by no means unarguable). The IndyCar analogy referred to by Murray does not hold in my view because the FIA's actions in that instance were born out of a rivalry between two commercial entities and preventing drivers from plying their legitimate trade with a rival outfit was very clearly an abuse of its power. Briatore's 'ban' is a punishment for wrongdoing (much as athletes can be banned for doping) but is questionable for the reasons in the last paragraph.

A commercial or sports lawyer with knowledge of international law would have a better insight. Anyone out there?


If you were asking me as part of the team that wanted to represent him, then I'd say yes. Resoundingly. If you were asking me to put money on the outcome, then I've got to say that things are less clear.

From what I can understand of the procedures adopted by Mosley/FIA then there is probably a strong defence of him not being able to defend himself. The action of the Renault team, that of agree no contest effectively keeps him out of the procedure. Whilst he could be asked to attend, and there seems some suggestion he might have been, without full access to all the items being adduced, then he might well feel that it would be unfair.

Mosley made a joke about the procedures in France differing to those in this country. Extremely poor taste of course. However it does tend to indicate that French procedures might well differ considerable from those in this country. But one thing I do know the French have and that is restraint of trade.

They are by and large taking Briatore’s income away from him. That can only be done in extremis. If this is such a heinous crime one wonders why Piquet, seemingly the instigator, ‘gets away with it’.

He has drivers, lots of them, contracted to him. By banning him from any income from these drivers the FIA is hitting him with a very big stick. They can’t use the justification of it being improper for one person to have a monopoly as they were happy enough with the situation before the court case. Also this might be considered as part of the financial side of the sport and, although you might not believe it, Mosley was roundly criticised for interfering in such matters some years ago.

It won’t, I am willing to bet, come to a court case. There are too many questions that might be asked, some of which might well be answered.

You might remember the shaking hands with Ron Dennis on the steps of McLaren HQ post Stepneygate. Whilst that was a tremendous climb-down for the FIA it received little coverage in the papers. A similar reduction of the penalty in this case will, in all probability, get as many column inches. It will no longer be news.

Whether there is a case in law will be of little concern I think.


Firstly I don't believe he needs to work at all now having amassed far too much from his various agencies salaries and commissions.

Secondly F1 is not his only source of income, I believe he runs GP2 which is not an FIA regulated series (please correct me here if I am wrong). Whilst Bernie has said that most of the tracks and people fall under FIA jurisdiction, in fact it is Bernie's that they fall under, not the FIA's. Please note that Bernie and the FIA are separate, one makes massive amounts of money having paid the other very little for the privilege.


Take away his living.... £110m net worth, a Billionaires Club, pharma company (apparently), QPR + umpteen other things.

I suspect the court will laugh him out.

If it was his only profession and only qualification then maybe. But then Doctors can't sue their governing body if they are struck off....


Surely the only reason why FB would not now name witness X is if witness X was Alonso?


With this new witness and it seems highly unlikely that Briatore knew nothing of the race fix plan.

I think Symonds missed an opportunity to undo more of the mess he helped to create by coming clean about his knowledge of Briatore's level of involvement one way or another. One wonders why the FIA didn't ask him directly about Briatore's involvement.

This indicates a level of loyalty to friendship but one can't help feeling that from now on Briatore's billionaire jetset lifestyle won't have much time for a retired F1 technical geek who used to be part of the same team.


James, Thought you might like to here this.

I have a friend of a friend who works for Williams, and he has told us today that Rubens is due to attend a seat fitting at the factory.


I've heard he's signed also, from a friend of a friend so to speak. We shall see soon enough I guess


Sorry, I mean in the near future!!


That will be difficult considering Barrichello has been in Singapore since Tuesday (22/09)!

Unless you are talking about another Rubens... or Williams have a factory out there... hehe 😉


What we may all be forgetting is Max's investigation into who set him up for the News of the World expose into his private life.

I think now that Briatore has been wiped off the face of the F1 earth, we may have found the source.....discuss.


I've been thinking the same thing for a few days now.

According to an article on Pitpass today, Mosley does now know who it was that set him up, and Pitpass' editor speculates that revenge will be taken at some point in the future...but some of us think it already has been.

Christian Hepworth

My theory is that witness X is actually Pat Symonds. The FIA only wanted Flavs scalp here, and Symonds clearly didn't want to implicate him in public, so they 'let him off' with a 5 year ban after admitting his part in it, and his statement, under the name of 'Witness X' would give the FIA enough evidence to ban Flav for life. It's possible...


No it's not. The FIA have just about zero cred. as it is. If they were to twist the identity of the witnesses as you imply that would finish them if it came out.

Max may have odd tastes, but he's not that stupid.


What I can't believe is Briatore cheated when he knew the car was potentially a winner. Alonso won the following race in Japan, so I wonder how Briatore felt then?

I didn't get up to watch the Singapore grand prix but the next morning I logged onto the internet and looked at the result. My initial reaction was, 'how the hell did Alonso win that from 15th?' I watched the grand prix and for the first time ever I thought 'this is a fix'. Alonso should not be allowed the win. Rosberg won as far as I'm concerned.


Witness X - likely the rest of Renault team.


Hi James,

As its now been confirmed that Spore GP result was fixed, is there any ground for say ferrari or anyone els to ask for these results to be excluded? Thanks.


I believe Alonso is Witness X, I also believe he will stay at Renault for next season as part of "The Deal".

We will see.


I haven't had time to read through all the comments, but here is mine:

I find the appearance of Witness X a little too convenient. One thing is that the timing of the appearance is a little odd. But what role does he have?

- He hammered the final nails in Briatores coffin.

- He draws a line of guilt around Flav, Pat and Nelsinho, and for some reason assures that no other Renault-employee knew about it. And for another some reason everybody believes him.

This is all very convenient for both Mosleys quest to nail Briatore, and for Renault's wish for damage-limitation. And hence that for Bernie's wish to keep a manufactorer in F1.

He was like the final important part for the puzzle to fit. But he fits just a little too good in my view.


Witness X, if he exists, is NOT ALONSO. Simple reason being the Piquets would've known as jnr was supposed to have been at that meeting and i am sure the Piquets would have 'informed' us this fact a few times.


Piquet senior has said 'Alonso knew' at least once in the press.


No, Piquet Senior made only an assumption that Alonso should have known.


James, does this mean alonso/renault will keep the win/points [my mother used to say cheaters never prosper]?


We should make a poll for Witness X.. 🙂

For me, it's clear that Witness.X is actually Witness BB.. Bob Bell..

He's 2nd to PS so he should know about it..


I agree Paparazzi, me too thinking it's Bob Bell, seems most logical.

Also I think it's clear now that it was Piquet Jr. with the plan to crash, right thing to do, would be to take his immunity, as he has been lying and punish him aswell. But I'm afraid, it's not gonna happen, they have got rid of Briatore, that's all they wanted. Altough it feels so wrong, when the guy who came up with the plan and who did it and is still lying about it, gets away with no harm.


If Witness X is telling the truth that he was in a 3 person meeting with Symonds and Flav then surely a few other people from Renault must have seen him going to attend the meeting, who in turn will gossip about it with a few other people now, and so on... by Friday his name will be out, and the anonymity is kind of pointless... unless the whole Witness X episode thing is a fabrication by the Renault management ...

But why?

Well if we take Symonds' version as the truth that it was Piquet's idea to crash all along, (and I tend to believe he is not lying since he could have easily pointed the finger at Flav along with the rest of the ppl and got immunity, but rather chose to stick to his version of the story and be banned for 5 yrs) then the Reanult management would be very scared that Flav/Symonds could present evidence to the WMSC to such effect. At the meeting, they can easily add that they were opposed to the idea and told Piquet not to proceed, but Piquet did it on his own anyway. At that point it would have put the FIA in a jam: since they offered Piquet immunity, Flav/Symonds tried to stop Piquet but could not, which would leave them with no choice but to punish Renault heavily. Now Renault could not have taken that risk could they? So they invent a Witness X, to confirm that Flav/Symonds knew about it, get rid of those two to prevent them from presenting their case, negotiate a settlement with FIA, case closed and most everybody is kind of happy. I mean, is there any one who does not believe that this whole thing is just made up drama around a very simple storyline that Max wants Flav's scalp ?

This is really twisted because FIA chose to administer their own brand of 'justice' by handing out immunity protection to Piquet. That has really prevented the truth from coming out and I hope this gets taken up in the real courts and we will see whether Piquet will still feel that it is 'better that the truth be known'


I'd love it if Mr X was infact Mr Ecclestone.


I agree; he gets my vote as Mr X.


Think FredEx.


everyone dont blast me now! lol

do you think ferrari can get the results voided for that gp?

FIA knew before Hamilton became champ that Renault cheated..

Maybe theres more to come??


If witness x wanted to remain anonymous so that briatore didn't know who he was then there must have been more than one additional witness. It also can't be pat symmonds unless there were muliple additional witnesses as fb would know it was him. So, Hastings, by deduction there were multiple witnesses which means it a team effort. Mon dieu!!


Can we get back to racing now?


No, *this is the fun part!


'Witness X' is easy to identify when you know where to look for him.

It was not Alonso. He was kept in the dark.

I'm not going to reveal the identity of this mysterious person though, just keep guessing.


I find ver acquard that up until "judgement day", nobody said anything about a 4th person present in the famous meeting. When the issue arise it was always mantained that, PS and NP jr. were the only people present and with knowledge of what was discussed inside Mr`s FB office.

I haven`t read anything about either Symonds or Piquet Jr. acknowledging that this 4th person was present and why he wasn`t mentioned before by Piquet?.

I my mind there are 3 option of qwho this person is:

A) Another Senior Manager

B) Fernando Alonso

C) The Cleaning Lady


Re. Teflonso, I have yet to see any one try and make anything of the fact that he was unexpectantly summoned to the WMSC at the last minute.

I believe, but stand to be corrected, that whilst the FIA said he was not part of the conspiracy, did they ever say he knew nothing of it?



Yes, i think i could be him, how on eath you make that strategy work without the other driver beig informed.


With option A) you are on the right track. Not quite, though.

Piquet didn't mention him because he was not there when Witness X was informed of a possible 'plan'. He probably didn't even know there was another person involved.

That he wasn't mentioned before seems to be mysterious indeed. But from listening to the records, witness X only came into play during the interviews in Spa- maybe he got worried what others (Symonds and Briatore) would say about him, and decided to contact the stewards.

The cleaning lady is a funny option- but i assume you know that witness X stated he distanced himself from the plan and didn't want to have anything to do with it. Counts out said lady, i guess.


I'm not from Spain, if that is what you think. And i'm counting out option B) for several reasons.

Well keep guessing. James already ruled out Alonso as well, but don't take his word for it, or mine- you are entitled to have your oppinion, of course.


Which leave us with option B and somewhere around option A, But looking more deeply at your reply you didn`t mentioned anything about option B, thus maybe your mindset is right now in Oviedo, Spain.


Based on what did the FIA consider that what Mr. X is saying was the truth? What if someone from Renault wanted to bring Flavio down? And we don't even know whether it's true some X guy approached the FIA.

Jorge Moreira da Costa

Can someone explain me the logic which rides in the brains of the people that decided both the McLaren §100mil fine - punishing a "possible" use of know-how stolen by a Ferrari insider - and the two year probation for Renault - punishing an actual cheating by actual Renault employees?


Renault got punished more for leaving a wheel loose for gods sake!


Witness X - Some say he has 3 testicles, some say he has no eyebrows and once got arrested for stealing ducks from a lake.....all we know is hes called the Stig!!!


So here is yet *another person that knew of the plot and failed to speak up at the time! How can such people be condoned to remain in F1??

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