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

Advert | Go Ad-free

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

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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…

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

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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…

  14. 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?

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

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

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.