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. It’s not Piquet’s engineer, because Piquet said he questioned the data after the crash. And the number of people who would be in a meeting including FB, PS and no one else is pretty small. Yes, it’s Fernando Alonso.

    As far as expressing disagreement with the plot, I owuld surmise he was actually expressing disagreement that it would work. Otherwise, it’s pretty odd that he took to the track without an understanding that the plan was off, which was not the case. And we are told he didn’t learn of the plan until it happened—the same one he objected to that afternoon? That makes no sense. What it does say is that when the crash happened he knew that a tremendous fraud had occured and that it would implicate him if it became public. Unless of course, he ratted out his team in exchange for immunity, which we know he has some experience with.

    The statement inserted that the plan was NPJ’s idea is pretty devious and ludicrous. Alonso had no way of knowing who broached the idea, except from what Symonds told him. That is a nice little bit of self-serving BS from ALO which he imagined or was told was the chit required from him by his agent.

    • The ‘Nelson Piquet suggested this’ clause in Witness X’s statement is not self-serving, given that whatever information provided to him would be from Symonds. Truth or not, Symonds wouldn’t be inclined to take responsibility when retelling it to another party, so it’s perfectly natural for Symonds to have said that Piquet suggested this. Thus it appears in Witness X’s statement in the same way.

      It’s not the word of two against one. It’s Symonds x 2 vs Piquet, sort of like a deadly echoey voice of doom thing.

  2. S Hughes said on 22nd September 2009, 23:21

    Thoughts on the tape:

    Just listened to the entire tape on the FIA website, and Alonso’s testimony is a load of bull in my opinion. No way would he not have questioned the insane strategy. I’ve heard him on the team radio before and he is quite proactive re. strategy. This testimony was designed to bluff to the world that he wasn’t involved. I’m afraid that although there will be those who say there is no evidence so you can’t say he’s involved, that won’t stop the many many people who are convinced he knew from the off.

    As for the “court”, it sounds really amateurish and unprofessional. Max is very domineering. It sounds like it was Briatore and Symonds who concocted it all, and poor Nelson, feel sorry for him.

    Does sound like Max is very dictatorial and doesn’t truck any objections to his conclusions.

    No idea who the whistleblower could be but he must have been pretty high up – maybe another engineer. Knowing the internet, I doubt his name will be a secret for long.

    Keith, I’m not clear if Witness X only made the statement after Nelson’s in order to confirm that what Nelson said was true. Nelson’s name would have to be known as it was him that crashed.

    Max is very protective of Nelson – he says it is not for him to mitigate for Nelson, but that is what he does throughout.

    Must say that we can’t accuse the FIA of not being up front and open about this – having the entire hearing on tape for the world to hear.

    “Acting on a frolic of their own” – what a choice phrase. Renault’s lawyer is very forthright. The criminal proceedings re. blackmail of the Piquets have been withdrawn by Renault, but NOT by Briatore. That man is just a real piece of work.

    • Knowing the internet, I doubt his name will be a secret for long.

      Well, Pat Symonds and Briatore can make his name public tomorrow. They must know who is this Mr-X.

    • Wesley said on 23rd September 2009, 0:07

      I can’t understand how anyone can feel sorry for Piquet Jr,do you have any morals?…..HE is the trigger man in all of this….HE made the final decision to put the car into the wall!!!
      Poor Piquet my a**!I hope he never gets another race seat again.

      • The reason is that many fans dislike Briatore, intensely. It doesn’t help that he looks like a sleazy git.

        Also, there are those who seek only to implicate Alonso in any way, before solid evidence has surfaced (which may or may not anyhow). Hence this whole feeling sorry for Piquet Jr bs.

        But there are very valid reasons for feeling sorry for the guy. Just watching Junior drive is enough to make any mother and her attendant offspring sorry for him.

      • Martin said on 23rd September 2009, 2:04

        he wont..he is plutonium to the rest of the f1 crowd.

      • My thoughts exactly bud- hope all is well down south!

  3. For sure, it is Alonso. If it wasn´t him then it must have been John Fota… Alonso without a doubt. He should have come forward exposing the whole thing right away…

  4. Some of you seem too “holy and honest”. Witness X (be it Alonso or anyone else) didn’t do anything wrong. He/She found out about the immoral plan and objected, seemingly directly, to the team principle and tech. director. Thats it, the ball stops there. If it went through its on the shoulders of the bosses. He/she should not be expected to write a letter to the FIA and journalist revealing the teams mischief. He is part of the team and did what was in his power to prevent the cheating. It was the head bosses that went ahead with it. So based on that we should back off of Witness X.

    Here is the most disgusting quote:

    [Witness X] was told of the idea suggested by Nelson Piquet Junior by Mr Symonds, whilst in the presence of Mr Briatore.

    It was Nelson’s IDEA!!!!!! Old cheating Flav didn’t come up with it. He just went along with this ******** desperate plan of appeasement. So is Nelson lying to the press in his apology and plea for understanding?

  5. Carl 27 said on 22nd September 2009, 23:40

    Alonso of course, bla, bla, bla, getting bored of this witch hunt. all the best

  6. Prisoner Monkeys said on 22nd September 2009, 23:44

    My guess: someone Briatore would have overlooked. If it were Alonso, he’d have no reason to keep things a secret, and if he knew of it, he probably would have given up his win voluntarily.

    So my thoughts are that it could be someone like a mechanic or a PR representative, someone Briatore would cosider minor and not at all essential to the organisation. Their desire for anonymity is what I’m basing my hypothesis on: they are someone who values their job, but who Briatore would move to silence if he found out Witness X knew about it. As Renault co-operated with the FIA, Witness X had no need to remain anyonymous. But as long as Briatore was in charge, his identity had to remain secret. I’m guessing he found out about the conspiracy by overhearing it or if Piquet let something slip to him. The only way he would have had any credibility as a witness was if he had found out directly from one of the parties involved.

    • S Hughes said on 22nd September 2009, 23:51

      If it were Alonso, he’d have no reason to keep things a secret, and if he knew of it, he probably would have given up his win voluntarily.

      You have just GOT to be joking right?

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 23rd September 2009, 0:51

        No, I’m not. Because I have a fundamental belief that people can do the right thing. And when I said Alonso had no reason to keep things secret, I mean he had no reason to keep his identity a secret. Witness X values anonymity, and when someone does that, it’s usually for a good reason: because they don’t want to be found out. Because if they get found out, they get fired. But if Alonso spoke out and was fired for no reason, people would notice and question it. He had no reason to keep his identity a secret.

      • I’m not Alonso fan and frankly it would thrill me if he was ‘Witness X’, however I fully agree that he would have given up the information (and through that the win) voluntarily last year had he been ‘Witness X’. Because of the points scored by the win Renault’s option on Alonso’s contract was automatically exercised, which was something Alonso did not want to have happen. Even if you believe that he could not have joined Ferrari this year, he made it very clear that he wanted out of Renault and at that time would have much rather have been able to avoid his option being exercised so that the could go to a different team. As much as Alonso’s past makes me think he would be capable of being part of this, his past also shows that he would only be part of it if he had something to gain. While he did gain 1 victory from this, he cost himself the opportunity to move to a team he would have seen as more competitive in 2009. Given his ego he would have seen this as costing him more victories in 2009 than the one ill gotten victory in Singapore in 2008. For that reason I am convinced he is not ‘Witness X’.

  7. S Hughes said on 22nd September 2009, 23:48

    I must say the intention of the WMSC hearing to allow Alonso to give “evidence” in order to eliminate him from any further suspicion doesn’t seem to have worked too well does it?

  8. the thing I’m most suprised about is that mp4-19b hasn’t spammed his usual one billion posts with “it’s Alonso it’s Alonso”

    In any case the obvious choice is Alonso, he would need to remain anonymous in order to retain any value in the driver market and the PR front as well.

    Either that or what Prisoner Monkeys has said, someone who is in a position that can get hurt badly, possibly a counseller (doctor/patient privilege etc).

  9. Witness X can’t be Alonso. Alonso is mentioned by name elsewhere in the documents, and the investigations/questioning involving him are documented to. Furthermore the FIA concluded that Alonso had no prior knowledge of the conspiracy, which they could not have done if Alonso was Witness X.

    It’s amazing, the amount of backward reasoning that this has brought about. “Well, Alonso MUST have been involved, so let’s twist all the facts we can to fit….”

    • Wesley said on 23rd September 2009, 0:11

      At least we can count on Red Andy to be the voice of reason around here.

      Cheers Andy

    • your pagan logic is not welcome here andy! :) Alonso was the man on the grassy knoll.

    • Finally someone who is taking what the FiA is saying at face value! I too agree with you, but after reading all the comments I can’t but feel very narrow minded. It would certainly be disgusting if “Witness X” is really Alonso, because even in a court hearing the FiA seem to lie and twist the facts around! Would they have the audacity to lie about Witness X to others while he, himself, is sitting in the court of law right there with them? If it was really him, maybe they could have at least avoided calling him to court..

      If it really was Alonso then they have allowed him to deliberately lie to everyone in that session that he didn’t even suspect that anything went wrong, while in fact he did hear about it the night before? This way too complicated and sinister.. How would the FiA accept the fact that he went on to accept his win even after knowing that it was a set up?! If it was really him I don’t think he should’ve been let go of this easily..

      For my own peace of mind I would like to believe that Witness X somehow is someone other than Alonso until further notice lol

      • The real question is, why would the FIA go to such lengths to protect Alonso? If he was guilty, I don’t see why the FIA would have any reason to conceal it. So there is no real reason to take the FIA’s statements at anything other than face value.

        • Hallard said on 24th September 2009, 20:11

          Because Alonso being implicated would be MUCH more commercially damaging damaging to the sport than Flavio and Pat’s guilt. Not that that means alonso IS guilty…

  10. MacademiaNut said on 23rd September 2009, 0:09

    At least we can be sure, that Witness X is male.

    “To protect his identity Witness X is not identified in this decision.”

    • S Hughes said on 23rd September 2009, 0:15

      That narrows it down – there aren’t that many women in motorsport. :)

    • Bartholomew said on 23rd September 2009, 2:20

      Witness X is Terminator X, the producer of Public Enemy records, with Chuck D and Flavor Flav.
      Terminator X quit the hip-hop scene in 2003 and has been running an ostrich farm in South Carolina. I hear Flav is an investor in the business. Now all the pieces are coming together.

    • Lol I thought that too when I heard that segment.. Not that there are many women around..

  11. MacademiaNut said on 23rd September 2009, 0:17

    “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.”

    From the above statement, I am guessing Witness X is Alonso. They probably pitched this to Alonso, Alonso said he wanted no part of it. He will drive his race, whatever they wanted to do, it’s up to them. Piquet crashed, Alonso took the win. Once the incident happened, Alonso knew he got the win because of that, but he chose not to disclose it. Fair & simple.

    I am fine with Alonso not blowing the whistle on this. At least there’s no “Good Samaritan” law equivalent in F1 by which you could implicate Alonso.

    • good point. let’s assume mr.x is alonso. imagine if he hadn’t agreed with with the plan when it was pitched to him. what could he do? convince fb and ps? i’m sure he tried. tell cw on sunday morning (well, evening) before the race, when it was still a conspiracy? tell the fia right after the race? that would have put him in a very bad situation (it would have been the second time he blackmailed his own team about illegal stuff being done). if he is mr.x, i think he chose the best he could do. he cann’t feel bad for his win or for his moral principles. and fia should understand that. what would any of you ‘posters’ do in his situation? alonso is a wise guy and an optimal driver, able to design, build and prepare cars. i’m sorry mclaren preferred hamilton over him. now he’ll be driving for ferrari, and hamilton (and mclaren) will (surely) not be able to beat the ferrari-alonso duo :(

      • IF witness “X” was Alonso, then he should have informed the FIA of this plan. Contrary to what Mika has said it wouldn’t be blackmailing his team. He would blackmailing his team if he said to Renault “I’m going to tell the FIA, unless you give me a pay rise, or a new car”.

        Simply blowing the whistle on dodgy practices is not blackmail! It’s the correct and moral thing to do.

        It seems that Witness “X” didn’t do anything about attempting to correct the situation. If so he is just as guilty as the people involved in the discussions to fix the race.

        • “i’m going to tell the fia, unless you forget about doing it” is (to my oppinion) blackmailing.

          the answers to what is correct and to what is moral do not always coincide. also, who knows what is correct or moral? it is so relative…

          maybe the only thing mr.x could do is to quit, and maybe everyone would ask the real reasons for leaving.

      • Martin said on 23rd September 2009, 2:47

        I dont believe alonso ferrari can beat hamilton mclaren. Ferrari is is a slight down turn right now and yes they have been more competitive with kimi in the last 2 races but they are kind of behind the curve right now. mclaren was also there at the start of the season but they are catching up quicker.
        If things dont change soon ferrari will be the new renault and alonso will be no better off.

        • the fact that we dont want alonso ferrari to beat hamilton mclaren does not mean we should not believe it.

          • Martin said on 23rd September 2009, 5:41

            It has nothing to do with want, I am basing this on the performance of the cars at this moment. Ferrari had the edge but I think that mclaren has made the difference and gained some. They still arent quite with brawn but they have pretty much everyone else under control.

      • Firstly I don’t think Alonso is Witness X, but if Alonso did know about the plan apart from trying to convince Briatore and Symonds not to go through with it he could have also spoken to Piquet who was the key man in all of this, or just plainly said to them if you go through with this plan I will retire from the race so you will still not get the win anyway.

  12. Witness X….how mysterious.
    Could it be…..Murray Walker??!!!
    The current FIA administration is so BS.

  13. Chris P said on 23rd September 2009, 1:17

    I find it hard to believe that it’s Alonso.

    Anonimity is a fairly standard provision for whistleblowers within most corporations/businesses. It’s not at all sinister, it is simply a way of protecting the whistleblower (i.e. the person who is doing the right thing) from any personal repercussions from the acquaintances/allies within the organisation of those deposed of by the whistleblowing.

  14. Actually for all the talk that it Alonso won because of this conspiracy… is there a blow-by-blow record of the race somewhere to check? It was, after all, lap 17 and many other accidents happened as well. It gave him an advantage for sure, but there couldn’t have been a fuel-rig conspiracy, etc etc.

    He couldn’t have won without this happening, but he could have not won with this happening too.

    • I hear ya, it was hardly race fixing..lol
      More like race assisting, to have a team mate wreck so early on really doesnt mean the team mate will now win…!

      It helped Alonso but had Massa not had a pit incident then Alonso was never going to win.
      So to sum it up the crash didnt make Alonso win.

      Race fixing is when the team forces the No.2 driver to pull over a few feet from the checked flag to let the squeaky clean “champ” to win.

      • So letting your teammate pass is worse than a deliberate crash?

      • Yeah absolutely aree with your definition AP.

        No, Maciek, crashing is worse. But AP’s example of stopping before the checkered flag for a teammate really fixes the result, whereas Piquet’s early crash affected the result, but had no way of making sure of anything. If he crashed within the last 10 laps, say, and took out a frontrunner (by allowing himself to be almost lapped, for example), then that would have really fixed the result.

  15. inc0mmunicado said on 23rd September 2009, 1:27

    Witness X is someone still on the team who is being protected by the FIA so that he wouldn’t be subject to prosecution in Singapore in the future (ie this weekend)… Do you think Flav, Pat or NPJ would even dare set foot on that country ever again? I wouldn’t be surpised if Alonso and other Renault personnel were taken for questioning by the police in Singapore this week…

  16. MtlRacer said on 23rd September 2009, 1:38

    You all should read through the full documents before commenting….

    – Alonso is not Witness X. He just isn’t.

    – Symonds letter mentions Schumacher parking on the track at the 2006 Monaco Qualifying. Maybe Briatore expected Piquet Jr to park his car like Schumi had, and that is why Briatore can be heard calling Piquet a “******* disgrace” when viewing the crash replay.

    • Or he’s a great actor :)

      No but interesting stuff.. If the plan was not to really crash, it’s less evil as they don’t harm anybody physically.
      But then again, if they did that it might have looked really stupid :)
      I’m curious what flav en pat will be saying in time…

      And witness X isn’t Alonso, no point in keeping his identidy quiet!

  17. bwells said on 23rd September 2009, 2:08

    I’m seriously glad that I am not on trial in this kangaroo court… all you people that “know” Alonso is Witness X are just crazy… yes it’s your opinion and you’re allowed it… but man alive… I’m sure one day the identity will be made known and my feeling is it would have to be Jr’s race engineer… he would have to know what his driver is up too… anyways enough of the lynch mob… I hope the day the name is made public we have an apology thread… and if it comes out that Fernando is Witness X… I’ll eat some crow… :)

  18. paxdog57 said on 23rd September 2009, 2:26

    Great research Keith, I have not read this Mister X on any other websites!

    I look forward to Singapore and watch racing not read the (in)justices after races.

  19. Fer no.65 said on 23rd September 2009, 2:55

    Why did they asked Alonso to be at the meeting if they had no evidence at the moment of the meeting and hardly any question about the matter?

    I’m listening to the audio and im amaized Alonso barely talked more than a minute and didn’t add anything to the matter!

    • alonso was representing renault, wasn’t he?
      but while there, he was asked some questions. why, if he wasn’t there for that?

      • See para 65 of the FIA documents – the FIA allowed for the possibility that Witness X might point towards Alonso knowing about the conspiracy:

        Mr Alonso was invited to appear at the WMSC meeting of 21 September 2009 for two main reasons. First, at the time of the investigation, the FIA’s investigations were continuing (particularly with regard to Witness X). As such, it was not clear whether any additional allegations would be made regarding Mr Alonso. Second, the FIA considered that, in light of the nature of the rumours regarding Mr Alonso’s state of knowledge regarding the conspiracy, it would be of assistance to the WMSC and Mr Alonso for him to appear and answer any questions the WMSC may have.

    • patrickl said on 23rd September 2009, 9:54

      He was there so they could clear his name.

    • Alonso had to be at the hearing so he could say on the record that he knew nothing. We already have people querying why certain people were not questioned, and considering it seems a lot of people assumed as soon as it became public that Alonso was involved can you imagine the reaction if he wasn’t even questioned.

  20. burgerking said on 23rd September 2009, 3:07

    A lot of speculation going on here. And a fair bit of self-righteous indignance too it seems.

    Just put yourself in this mystery person’s shoe (whether it is Alonso or not) — would you, if it was you in that position, have blown the whistle, knowing it would put you in the full glare of the media spotlight, that you would have Renault and FB and FIA breathing down on you, that the whole world would be reading about you?

    If you were Alonso, would you want to be embroiled in yet another controversy — or would you keep quiet about it for as long as possible and let discretion be the better of valor?

    If you were a staffer, would you want to have the world’s eyes on you, and the implications for your private life, your family life?

    A lot of “should have done this and should have done that” views expressed here. Would YOU have done it?

    • i completely agree.
      the problem here is that for (almost all of) us, f1 is something like a virtual world that is built for our imagination to fly, and no true concerns about reality are present in our (or in almost everyone’s) mind…

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