Should the FIA have offered Pat Symonds immunity – and will he take it?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Pat Symonds will go unpunished if he reveals further evidence
Pat Symonds will go unpunished if he reveals further evidence

A surprising and quite telling development in the FIA’s investigation into the Renault Singapore crash came today as the governing body extended its offer of immunity to Pat Symonds.

The clear implication is the FIA believe Symonds know more than he has told them so far – and suspicion will inevitably fall on the next man up the chain, Flavio Briatore.

Already there have been various comments on this site and others suggesting Mosley has it in for Briatore. As James Allen wrote recently:

This situation offers the opportunity for outgoing FIA president Max Mosley to settle a few scores with Briatore before he leaves office in two months time. Briatore has been in Mosley?s cross-hairs for many years, since writing an open letter of no confidence in the FIA president in 1994.

Perhaps, but if this is the case then why did Mosley pass up an opportunity to exact his revenge two years ago when Renault were found guilty of using McLaren’s intellectual property, but went unpunished?

Further information about the timing to the investigation came to light today with the publication of a letter from Flavio Briatore to Nelson Piquet (Snr) dated July 28th. It included this passage:

I was extremely shocked to learn from Mathieu Michel, and from Bernie [Ecclestone], as a matter of confirmation, that you would have declared that Nelsinho was asked by Renault to cause an accident in the 13th lap in the Grand Prix of Singapore, 2008.
Flavio Briatore

Given the timing of the letter, should we be more doubtful of the Piquets’ position? Prisoner Monkeys offered an interesting alternative take in the comments yesterday:

The FIA may not be going after Briatore. They may no longer trust Piquet; his story changes with each re-telling. Firstly it was that they were going to stage an accident. Then they were going to stage an accident and even picked out a corner. Now Piquet Snr. has said Alonso had to have known about it.

Piquet is trying to bring Briatore down, to ruin him, and he?s trying to get the FIA to do that. If both Piquet and Symonds testify and their stories conflict, one of them is clearly lying. And Piquet has more reason to do so.

Whatever the FIA’s reasons for offering immunity in this fashion may be, the decision to do so raises difficult questions. Should Piquet and Symonds be immune from punishment just because the roles of others who may have been involved has not yet come to light?

While ‘plea bargains’ increase the speed of the process of gathering information and holding a trial, they may encourage guilty parties to work the system to their advantage in order to shift the balance of punishment towards innocent or, at least, less guilty parties. (I’m sure any lawyers who may be reading can enlighten us further on their benefits and shortcomings.)

We will likely only understand the FIA’s purpose in offering Symonds immunity when the details of the case become clear next week. Why do you think they have done it? And how should he respond?

Renault Singapore crash controversy

97 comments on “Should the FIA have offered Pat Symonds immunity – and will he take it?”

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  1. Max has won the war!!

  2. All those doubting the tactics of the FIA in leveraging Briatore admission by offering Symonds immunity, please stand up!

    1. I must admit that I for one was against that immunity tactic. I think this is more of a result of Renaults own interpretation of the information presented to them by the FIA. There must be some damning evidence there. Does this mean that the case against the Piquets is dropped, because by persuing them will do them no favours at the hearing on th 21st.

    2. I also think that immunity to only one is not fair, because they could have also offered immunity to Flavio, or to someone else… if someone is guilty, has to be punished.
      I still don’t get why only Flavio would be the responsible of the strategy, since according Piquet words, he doesn’t know anything about F1.

  3. Robert Silvestre
    16th September 2009, 12:54

    Does anyone know whether the 13th team slot announcement was due this week? I’d find it suspicious if not… same with the BMW Sauber situation… now the FIA will ask the other teams if OK to have 14 participants next season? Got the feeling that the outcome of this whole thing is already known… Renault will be banned for a few years and the involved parties sent to a civil court. That way we start 2010 fresh with 26 cars on the grid and (almost) everyone is happy.

  4. its irrelevant. renault will leave f1, this is the perfect excuse. glad to see the back of Briatori though, what an oily tick he is. Its a shame for Pat Symonds but he must’ve known.

    Seems ALonso is trying to out Schumacher Schumacher off the track as well as on. How now will ferrari view him after he has been around blackmail, deception, cheating….actually he sounds perfect for them!

    1. yes, renault wanted to leave F1 already some years ago…

    2. Yes the perfect match! Montezemolo must have the horn so much right now.

  5. I wonder if public opinion will be on the side of NPJ as the poor driver bullied into doing the wrong thing, or whether they will think even less of him for only coming clean when shopping the team that cut him loose?

    The irony would be if NPJ was such a bad driver that Britore and Symonds only wanted him to “crash”, whereas he couldn’t do that properly and it ended up as “…CRASH!” :-)

    It doesn’t dilute my honestly-felt seriousness about what they did, it’s just part of me imagines Briatore seeing the footage and slapping his hand onto his forehead as he realised NPJ had done even that wrong!!

    Anyone want to open the book on whether Alonso knew?

  6. I’m sure Alonso must have realised something went on at some point, but there has been no evidence that he was complicit in the actions of Flav & Symmonds at the time.

    They needed to get a result to keep Renault in F1. Alonso already had a contract with Ferrari. None of us know if he was aware at the time, but his motivation would have been very minor compared to Flav & Symmonds – for him another win – for them continuation of their team.

    Please leave out the anti Alonso remarks
    until we know more about this!

    1. You need to look at the history following this guy to understand the ant alonso comments. He was in the middle of the mclaren debacle, and he is in the middle of this and who knows what else. The fact he was given immunity to help bring down mclaren shows he is a cheater also. I belive that if they dig deep enough that he will be implicated as well. I am not an alonso hater but I am no longer a supporter either.

  7. Robert Silvestre
    16th September 2009, 13:14

    Irrelevant? Well, that’s your opinion. Maybe you are right and Renault was planning to leave anyway. Just interested in knowing if the announcement was scheduled for this week. FIA bracing for impact? Life goes on… we are still good with 13 teams for next season, etc.

  8. It’s official – Pat and Flavio have parted company with Renault…

    1. Yep, though parted company is probably a nice way of putting it! Wise decision by Renault.

  9. I find it strange that Alonso is so close to yet another scandal…

    The guy is a cheat, and encourages those around him to do the same.

    He is only going to Ferrari because of the McLaren scandal. Driving for Ferrari is his reward for nearly bringing down McLaren team.

    Just think about this, Ferrari is the team that has lied and cheated it’s way to many a world championship, and now it will have Alonso driving for it, I feel bad for the other drivers and teams… you wait!!!

    1. I echo your sentiment.

  10. it certainly puts a new spin on the whole immunity thing the FIA offered Symonds. If he comes clean next week, he may be out of a job at Renault, but at least he has a wealth of potential new employers with the boatload of new entrants lining up. That is, if he isn’t considered tainted goods. but hey, even stepney got working again for some time, even if it was only for that rather dubious serbian F1 venture.

  11. A few lessons:
    1. Don’t spoil the carreer of a spoiled guy to make another spoiled guy look good (remember: Piquet Jr. gave Lewis a hard time, Lewis gave Alonso a hard time, thus, supposedly, there would be no reason for Jr. not to give Alonso a hard time – other than being given a quite different equipment).
    2. Don’t cheat. If you can’t resist doing the former, yield when blackmailed – a few years getting the results Piquet Jr. was having and his carreer would be finished anyway and you wouldn’t lose your job.
    3. Never be on the wrong side of Piquet Sr.

  12. Alonso out right cheat yet again botton of other scandle he is the one that should be booted to “he knows nothing about it ” MY ASS

  13. It seems like this issue is dead now but I don’t think they ever should have. It’s unfair to target one man (Briatore) we all moan when it’s Hmailton

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