Who is Renault’s “Witness X”?

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

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233 comments on Who is Renault’s “Witness X”?

  1. Witness X is still an employee of Renault, and therefore protected by whistle-blower provisions in English law. NPJ is no longer associated with the team, and therefore those provisions don’t apply. (Although NPJ was not strictly an employee anyway, but a contractor.)

    The FIA really need to learn how to black out lines not suitable for public consumption, like NPJ’s home address…

    • Nelsinho-Fan said on 22nd September 2009, 22:03

      You are totally right about the last point what you make. I was really surprised that this is still on the documents what everyone can read…

      And Witness X, It’s definitely not Piquet Sr. Jr. told it to his dad a few days after the crash and they didn’t speak with each other for about 2 months.
      I also don’t think that witness x is Phil Charles (Nelson’s former engineer). There was an engineer who asked Nelson after the race if the crash was ‘planned’. I guess that this was PC. But who Witness X really is, wait a few weeks and we will know!

  2. This excerpt is verty interesting:

    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.

    The point is: Who would be in a position to question that kind of strategy? The following suggestion that Witness X didn´t “know the plan” until Junior crash the car, suggests for me that Alonso is the man!

  3. ‘Witness X’….. these gentlemen of FIA are the kings of humour…

    Obviously is Alonso, that evil guy. And if he isn’t, he should be.

    • S Hughes said on 22nd September 2009, 23:37

      Well, they seemed at first to not know whether to call him (or her, a la ‘Life of Brian’) Witness A or Witness X. I suppose Witness X sounds more intriguing than Witness A.

  4. steph90 said on 22nd September 2009, 21:57

    Alonso cleared of any wrong doing, even if he did know he didn’t want to be a part of it. If he did know then he was just guilty of not revealing the crash and the meetings which is wrong but for me less wrong than what actually happened. Fernando also has so far only repeated that he knew nothing, if he is witness x of course he’ll have to say that and keep his identity protected but I still like to believe in the innocent until proven guilty otherwise I’m no worse than Mosley who uses the mask of justice to carry out vendettas as he has no regard for the morals and justice system.

  5. I’m really intrigued…

  6. The FIA lawyers interviewed the whistleblower. So they know who it is.

  7. Wasn’t there a statement from Piquet Jr. that one of the race engineers questioned him about the crash following his retirement from the race.I think I read it on Autosport.I will try to find it.

  8. Mike "the bike" Schumacher said on 22nd September 2009, 22:11

    why was this witness allowed to conceal their identity while Piquet’s identity was published?
    Ofcourse Piquets idenity is going to be published, he is the one who delibrately crashed, obviousy we all knew he was involved. As for witness “x” identity maybe sense he was not directly involved and didnt know it was going to happen he was allowed to keep his idenity secret but you would have thought he’d have said something straight after the race.

  9. obvious_innit said on 22nd September 2009, 22:11

    Bob Bell was at the Singapore G.P. He could be seen in many photos in the background. Who else would be at that high level before, during and after?

  10. What about Charlie Whiting ?

    • Concrete Cyanide said on 23rd September 2009, 18:26

      Yes, because Renault were really going to inform the guy in charge of enforcing the rules at the race what they were going to do. Would you go and tell the Chief of Police if you were about to rob the bank?

  11. I’d say one of the race engineers.

  12. Nelson Piquet Jr.:

    “In my own team, the engineer of my car questioned the nature of the incident because he found it unusual, and I replied that I had lost control of the car. I believe that a clever engineer would notice from the car’s telemetry that I caused the incident on purpose as I continued accelerating, whereas a ‘normal’ reaction would be to brake as soon as possible.”

    From Autosport (great piece that covers how the whole thing started)

    • A clever engineer may have noticed that the telemetry showed that Piquet caused the crash and that is why he asked Piquet about the crash. The engineer probably then decided to believe his driver rather than think that anyone would stoop so low as to crash on purpose, also given Piquet’s general performance in F1 he may have thought Piquet keeping his foot on the accelerator was just another mistake from him.

  13. Mike "the bike" Schumacher said on 22nd September 2009, 22:20

    Hey Keith, I’ve just seen on auotsprot Williams are planing to use KERs next year, geting the feeling they’re going to be kicked out of FOTA again.

  14. neracer said on 22nd September 2009, 22:21

    i remember talking about it at the time, that alonso looked awkward on the podium whilst rosberg & hamilton were celebrating. i think alonso has to be witness X.

  15. Patrickl said on 22nd September 2009, 22:32

    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?

    Witness X stepped forward during Renault’s own inquiries. I guess his confessions resulted in Renault not contesting their guilt.

    They offered Piquet immunity well before this witness X was heard.

  16. Who else but Alonso fits the description below?

    “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 Alonso said, he knew nothing…and when it actually happened, he didn’t make the connection? Funny.

  17. Hallard said on 22nd September 2009, 23:00

    I think the fact that “Witness X” was only revealed to, and questioned by, a very select few people like Max himself, is interesting. I find it hard to believe that they would work so hard to conceal the identity of a nameless renault staffer. It seems that the identity of the witness in question is VERY sensitive…perhaps a two-time world champion? Just speculation. My question though, is what does Ferrari think of “witness X”, being that they still havent confirmed Alonso…

  18. obvious_innit said on 22nd September 2009, 23:03

    How come Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer, isn’t mentioned in the list of interviewees?

  19. Funny that two people now – Witness X and Symonds claim it was Piquet idea. So it is two peoples word’s agains for one.

    Do they give immunity for UNTRUE statements now?

    • Witness-X testified about a meeting on Saturday night between Symonds and Briatore. That was the day BEFORE the meeting between Piquet, Symonds and Nelson.

      So, Briatore knew about that, and was discussed between Symonds and Briatore BEORE they asked Nelson.

      • Well, please, read the files. Piquet says it was on Sunday, and Symonds says it was on Saturday that Piquet approached him with the plan. So, someone is telling a lie here. And anyones right now is to decide – who.

  20. Ned Flanders said on 22nd September 2009, 23:11

    I doubt that ‘Witness X’ is something boring like an engineer or team manager. Given how crazy this whole episode has been, I believe that Witness X is probably either a ghost or a robot.

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