“WITNESS X’ TAKES BRIATORE / SYMONDS DOWN!

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The FIA has released the evidence used to render a verdict against Renault F1, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds yesterday at the extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council. Among the evidence is a majority of the documents the FIA felt compelled to leak to the press a week or so prior the meeting and some charts/graphs of the telemetry from the car of Nelson Piquet Jnr (NPJ). Pit radio communication was transcribed and offered as evidence as well.

Upon reading the documents, I must say that the evidence seemed marginal and while telemetry showed excessive throttle used during the turn, it is no secret that NPJ had a history of excessive throttle and crashing. At best, the evidence was marginal and mainly consisted of a war of accusations and denial from both parties.

I don’t envy the Stewards for the job they had of sifting through the evidence to fashion a grand conspiracy. In a court of law in America; there is no way this would ever stand as enough evidence to convict a person of a crime.

However, there are two documents that are pivotal to the investigation and the WMSC’s verdict. The first is a letter from Renault F1 to the FIA regarding their internal investigation and the findings that prompted their “no contest” position. The second is a confession letter from Pat Symonds that was read to the council in his absence.

Ultimately the crux of the Renault F1 internal investigation provided ample defense of the allegations and I suggest they were printing these repudiations as evidence that they could have fought these allegations and justified their position. More importantly was the testimony of a person known as “The whistle-blower” or “Witness X” or”Mr. X”. We know it was a “he” as the representative of the FIA slipped during the conference. That’s all we know at this time but there are a handful of people within in the FIA that know the identity of Witness X including Max Mosley, FIA president.

Renault F1 did agree that Flavio Briatore was involved in this conspiracy during the council meeting. They offered that in writing as well. Witness X also suggested that the idea of a purposeful crash was discussed in a meeting prior to the actual meeting between Piquet, Briatore and Symonds. This is critical evidence as well as there were apparently two meetings; one on Saturday evening with Mr. X, Briatore and Symonds and then another meeting on Sunday prior to the race with Piquet, Briatore and Symonds.

The Pat Symonds confession was just that; a total confession of his part in the conspiracy. It was proffered just prior to the meeting of the council. Symonds was very adamant that the idea came from Piquet himself and this was also corroborated by Witness X/Mr. X.

Listening to the audio of the WMSC hearing I was intrigued by how quickly Mosley jumped in to defend Piquet when challenged on the point that Symonds alleges Piquet came up with the idea. Also intriguing is Mosley’s quick denial of Alonso’s possible knowledge of the conspiracy.

The audio version of the conference, which you can listen to here, also including a grand apology from Piquet’s attorney Mr. Phillips. In short, “I am sorry and I will never do it again”. Mr. Phillips also used the word “order” when describing the directive to crash his car. When challenged on the use of the word, as well as a scolding about being a F1 driver and not saying “no” to the “order”; Mosley offered the Piquet his defense by suggesting that Briatore was his manager and team boss and that presented pressure to say yes.

Mosley did ask a pointed question as to why it took Piquet over a year to come forth with the information to which Piquet said he was still employed with the team and didn’t think it was the time to bring it forward.

Mr. Ali Malek, representative for Renault F1, made a profound series of statements regarding their involvement. His dissertation was a very well spoken piece of mitigation and did a decent job of placing Renault F1 as a victim in this episode. He made a very good case in all considerations (5 in total) they brought forth to the WMSC. A compelling argument and case study in mea culpa.

Mr. Malek did mention the criminal suit filed by Renault in French court over a week ago. The suit was for blackmail and false allegations. Renault withdrew the complaint but Briatore has not. I am not an expert in EU law but irrespective of Briatore’s guilt or involvement in the conspiracy; blackmailing him over this incident is still illegal isn’t it? If Briatore can prove that the Piquet’s were attempting blackmail, regardless of Briatore’s guilt with respect to the crash conspiracy, might have legal grounds for a law suit.

It will be interesting to see if Briatore’s attorney’s will pick through the evidence and build a case of appeal with the FIA Court of Appeal or if he will continue his quest of litigation within the criminal courts system in France.

I am compelled to suggest that the evidence, as far as American law is concerned, seems thin. Pay Symonds confesses but places the original concept squarely at Piquet’s feet. Witness X/ Mr. X/ Whistle-blower also places the idea as originating from Piquet. Piquet denies that the idea was his and Max Mosley offered mitigation on Piquet’s behalf (to justify the immunity offered perhaps) that as a minnow in the organization, Piquet couldn’t have been expected to come up with an idea like this or construct the entire teams strategy for the race weekend.

It is a good point but what about Piquet Snr? Nelson Piquet Snr is no minnow and could have concocted the idea. He is a former champion, understands track layout, safety car issues and knew the precarious position his son was in. If Briatore is correct, he could have offered this as bait to create a blackmail situation with which to hold Briatore to the fire with.

All this is complete and outlandish supposition on my part but three years ago I would have had a hard time believing that espionage and race-fixing would raise their ugly heads in F1. We will keep an eye on the proceedings but I doubt this is over yet. There is a strong push for Briatore to be removed from his ownership role in the Queens Park Rangers football club as well as his GP2 and driver management programs.

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