Who is Renault’s “Witness X”?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

A fourth member of the Renault team knew about the conspiracy
A fourth member of the Renault team knew about the conspiracy

The FIA has formally published the widely-leaked evidence relating to Renault’s Singapore trial, along with various other documents including a 76-minute recording of the discussion at yesterday’s World Motor Sports Council meeting.

The material can be downloaded from the FIA website.

Although there isn’t much in the documents that hasn’t already been made public, there is one interesting revelation about a fourth person at the team who knew what was going on:

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.

30. 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. Renault also agreed to put forward Witness X for interview by one of the FIA?s external counsel, Mr Paul Harris. To protect his identity Witness X is not identified in this decision.

31. With Renault?s cooperation, Witness X was subjected to detailed interview and examination. The interview established to the satisfaction of the FIA?s legal advisers that Renault F1?s description of the evidence of Witness X in Renault F1?s written submissions of 17 September 2009 was accurate. As a result of the interview, the FIA put a number of additional questions to Renault F1?s lawyers.

On 19 September 2009, Renault F1 made a third and final set of written submissions. In those submissions, Renault F1 stated as follows: ??Renault F1 has concluded that the following had knowledge of the conspiracy to cause a safety car: Nelson Piquet Junior, Pat Symonds, Flavio Briatore and [Witness X]. [Witness X] was told of the idea suggested by Nelson Piquet Junior by Mr Symonds, whilst in the presence of Mr Briatore. [Witness X] objected to the idea. He did not know the plan was to be carried into effect until the crash happened. As a result of the evidence, including Mr Piquet’s admission, Mr Symond’s responses and [Witness X?s] evidence, Renault F1 concluded that they and Mr Briatore must have known about the conspiracy.??

32. 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 conspiracy and that, indeed, he had objected to it and sought to distance himself from it.

This raises several questions – first of all, who is the mystery ‘Witness X’? A race engineer? A mechanic? One of the people who questioned Alonso’s strategy of Pat Symonds on the pitwall during the race? (see pages 46-63 of the evidence dossier).

Furthermore, why was Nelson Piquet Jnr’s evidence needed if this witness had already come forward and the FIA had access to the incriminating Renault telemetry? And why was this witness allowed to conceal their identity while Piquet’s identity was published?

Please share your thoughts below on this or anything else in the evidence supplied by the FIA. If you’re listening to the WMSC recording you can hear Fernando Alonso’s testimony at 15:48 and Nelson Piquet Jnr’s from 17:59.

Update: FIA vice-president for Mohammed bin Sulayem has described the Renault verdict as being ‘negotiated’. He said: “We did our negotiations before and everybody is happy with the result. The verdict is fair and everyone is a winner.” Is he admitting the FIA verdict was a sop to Renault? Incidentally, Sulayem crashed a Renault F1 car at a demonstration run earlier this year.

Renault Singapore crash controversy