It has been revealed that after assuring Nelsinho Piquet of immunity from sanctions provided he tells the truth in Formula 1's damaging 'Singapore-gate' scandal, the FIA has now made a similar offer of a lifeline to Pat Symonds – placing Flavio Briatore firmly in the firing line ahead of the critical World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing on 21 September.
Late last week, the governing body confirmed that Piquet – who contends he was 'ordered' to deliberately crash his car on lap 14 of last year's Singapore Grand Prix, thereby prompting a safety car period that led to Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso winning the sport's inaugural night race having begun just 15th on the starting grid – will be protected against any legal proceedings as long as he supplies investigators with a full and honest account of the incident [see separate story – click here
The promise of a similar guarantee to Symonds of safety from punishment in return for a full disclosure of information means managing director Briatore – who is continuing to deny all knowledge of the alleged race 'fix' – could be without allies heading to Paris on Monday, should his executive director of engineering elect to accept the offer and give evidence against his boss.
According to British newspaper The Times
, a detailed interview at Spa-Francorchamps late last month between the Englishman and FIA investigators led to the resolution that it was 'reasonable, on balance' to surmise that Piquet's claims are not unsubstantiated. That conclusion was reached following Symonds' repeated refusal to answer key questions and 'highly unusual' telemetry data from Piquet's car immediately before the accident [see separate story – click here
“I have no intention of lying to you,” the 56-year-old said when pressed about whether he had instructed Piquet to crash and even gone so far as to pinpoint the exact part of the Marina Bay street circuit where the Brazilian was to do so to best effect. “I have not lied to you, but I have reserved my position just a little.”
has also published sections of the transcript of the pit-to-car radio communication between Piquet and senior Renault team members both before and after the hefty impact that tore two wheels off the #6 machine, with the 24-year-old reporting: “Sorry, guys, I had a little outing.”
An engineer subsequently enquires as to whether Piquet is alright, to which Symonds urges 'ask him if he's alright' and the son of former triple F1 World Champion Nelson Piquet replies: “Yeah, I hit my head in the back. I think I'm okay.”
Perhaps more tellingly still, in response to an exclamation from an engineer – understood to have known nothing of the conspiracy – that 'f***ing hell, that was a big shunt', Briatore intervened for the first time with a torrent of abuse towards his driver, rather than an expression of concern regarding his welfare, blasting: “F***ing hell...my every f***ing disgrace, f***ing, he's not a driver.”
With few seeming willing to come to the rescue of the famously colourful and outspoken Italian, it is indeed Briatore's successful 20-year career in the top flight that hangs most tenuously by a thread, with a lifetime ban from F1 one of the possible options available to the WMSC should Renault be found guilty of bringing the sport into disrepute. The 59-year-old has initiated legal proceedings against the Piquets for what he argues is a plot to blackmail him.