The full transcript of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing into the Renault 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal has revealed that Flavio Briatore confessed under questioning that he might have discretely said thank you to Nelsinho Piquet for crashing during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix – 'as a joke maybe'.
Having already stepped down from his role as managing director of Renault F1 in disgrace in the wake of the allegations made by Piquet – who was sacked by Briatore earlier this summer, prompting a bitter war of words between the pair in the full glare of the global media – the flamboyant Italian was banned by the WMSC from any involvement in motorsport at all for an indefinite period, including driver management.
That has led to the 59-year-old threatening to take legal action against the FIA for loss of reputation as he continues to protest his innocence [see separate story – click here
], but following the materialisation of a fourth member of the team aware of the conspiracy – dubbed 'Witness X', and a figure whose identity is known only by FIA President Max Mosley and a few key legal advisors [see separate story – click here
], the WMSC professed itself convinced of Briatore's guilt in the matter.
According to the transcript, when interrogated by stewards over the weekend of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps late last month, 'he insisted that as far as he was aware, the crash had not been deliberate and had not been part of a plan; he accepted that a meeting took place on the Sunday of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in his office between himself, Mr. Symonds and Mr. Piquet Jnr; he denied that there had been any discussion at that meeting of a deliberate crash; [and] he denied any knowledge of the short follow-up meeting at which Mr. Symonds was said to have instructed Mr. Piquet Jnr to crash at Turn 17 on Lap 14.'
He told the stewards: “I never talk with Nelsinho, I never talk about to crashing the car, he's never coming to me tell me 'Flavio, Jesus Christ, I crash the car, you won the race, can you renew my contract?' You know if somebody do you a favour like that I just you renew the contract.”
The transcript adds that Briatore's explanation of the pre-race meeting was to 'encourage Mr. Piquet Jnr to focus on the race instead of his recent contract negotiations', and that the QPR co-owner had been adamant 'that he was not involved in deciding race strategy either in general or at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix'.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, however, is the revelation that Briatore 'initially denied having discretely said “thank you” to Mr. Piquet Jnr after the race, though then suggested that he might have said it “as a joke maybe”'.
Last week, it emerged that Briatore's first reaction to Piquet's accident – in which the Brazilian fortunately escaped injury – had been: “F***ing hell...my every f***ing disgrace, f***ing, he's not a driver.”
To read the FIA WMSC transcript in full, click here