The Daily Mail has reported that the mysterious â€œwitness Xâ€ or â€œMr. Xâ€ as referred to in the FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing is none other than Renaultâ€™s well-respected chief race engineer Alan Permane. According to the Mail, Permane was the 4th witness to the race-fix meetings or plan and it was his testimony that the FIA used to bury former employees Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore.
The article also quoted F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone as suggesting that Briatore should appeal the decision via the FIA Court of Appeals and that the life ban was too harsh.
â€˜Go to the FIA court of appeal and get it overturned. Certainly, the bit about him not being a driver-manager. That should be looked at.
â€˜It was quite harsh on Flavio. I donâ€™t think it was necessary but I was on the commission so Iâ€™m just as guilty as anyone. A yearâ€™s ban is enough in my view. The sport needs colourful characters. Flav was one of those. Now weâ€™ve lost Ron Dennis (from McLaren) and Flav. Itâ€™s a great shame.â€™
It has been an interesting week with support coming from many in the industry for defamed Briatore and it seems that even Ecclestone has had reservations about the punishment that the Council meted out (although Ecclestone is on the very council that rendered the verdict).
Should Flavio be allowed to come back? What can be made of Permane’s involvement? Many had suggested that Alonso was the mysterious “Witness X” and was given a free pass for his testimony but protected from the scrutiny of the world by calling him Witness X.
If you listened to the audio of the WMSC meeting, FIA president Max Mosley made a strong case for the anonymity of Witness X. Primarily because they would like to encourage whistle-blowing and employees would be more apt to whistle-blow if they knew they would be protected from the scrutiny. What does this do to that initiative? Is no whistle-blower safe from the inevitable exposure?
Briatore suggests that he will fight the decision and it may be just the beginning of the struggle that has galvanized the world of F1…once again for all the wrong reasons.