Disgraced former Renault F1 executive director of engineering Pat Symonds has revealed his 'eternal regret and shame' at the 'misguided devotion to my team' that has earned him a five-year ban over the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal – whilst continuing to insist that the idea was that of Nelsinho Piquet.
The hitherto highly-respected Englishman was named by Piquet as one of the two key protagonists – the other being Flavio Briatore, who left his post as Renault F1 managing director at the same time as Symonds – who instructed him to deliberately crash out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, thereby prompting a safety car period that enabled team-mate Fernando Alonso to leapfrog the opposition and unexpectedly triumph in the top flight's inaugural night race from a disadvantaged grid position.
Like Piquet, Symonds was promised immunity by the FIA should he provide the governing body with a full and honest account of the incident, but the 56-year-old refused the offer and declined to attend the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing on Monday, at which the French manufacturer and those implicated in the latest controversy to afflict F1 – described by FIA President Max Mosley as arguably the most serious breach of the regulations in memory – learned their fate.
Whilst Piquet claimed that the architect of the conspiracy had been Symonds, however, the Brazilian's accused refutes that allegation, adamant that it was the driver who came up with the plan. Symonds has subsequently written to the WMSC to express his remorse over his actions.
“I would like to acknowledge my role in this incident,” wrote the man who worked for Renault for almost three decades, for much of that time under Briatore and initially in the team's former guises as Toleman and then Benetton. “I was the one who, when the idea was first suggested to me by Nelson Piquet Jnr, should have dismissed it immediately. It is to my eternal regret and shame that I did not do so. I can only say that I did it out of a misguided devotion to my team and not for any personal gain whatsoever.
“I consider the role I have played in bringing the team to where it is today to be my life's work. I started the nucleus of the team 28 years ago with only 19 other people. Today it has grown to an organisation that directly employs over 500 people and supports innumerable local and international businesses. The last thing that I ever wanted to do was to jeopardise that team and the many people to whom I had an overwhelming responsibility. In a single action, I have destroyed the high reputation I have built up during a 33-year career in motorsport.
“I am a competitive person who worked in a high-pressure environment. This can, at times, cloud one's judgement. I have always tried to be an honest person, a fact I hope you will give me credit for by witness of my statements to the stewards in Belgium. On that night in Singapore last year I made a mistake, the consequences of which I could never have imagined at the time. For that mistake I can only offer all of you, and all those touched by the action I was involved in, my profound apology.”