The identity of the hitherto mysterious 'Witness X' has been revealed by a British newspaper, with the fourth member of Renault F1 privy to the 'Singapore-gate' conspiracy widely held to have provided the vital evidence that earned Flavio Briatore a lifetime ban from all FIA-sanctioned motorsport.
According to the Daily Mail
, the whistle-blowing Witness X was in fact Alan Permane, currently chief race engineer at the Enstone-based outfit and a respected longstanding member of both the team and also the F1 community.
Witness X's existence came to light on the eve of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing into the race-fixing scandal that saw Renault handed down a two-year suspended exclusion from competition, former executive director of engineering Pat Symonds a five-year ban from any involvement in the top flight and the colourful and controversial Briatore an effective lifetime ban from any aspect of the sport, including his driver management business.
The documents released by the WMSC following the trial stated that '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'.
'When the FIA's advisors 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 release continued.
'Witness X confirmed that Mr. Briatore had known of the deliberate crash plan before it had been put into effect. [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...and sought to distance himself from it. 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. Symonds' responses and [Witness X's] evidence, Renault F1 concluded that they and Mr. Briatore must have known about the conspiracy.'
Up to now, Witness X's identity had been known only to FIA President Max Mosley and a small team of key legal advisors, with many suspecting that it was in fact Fernando Alonso, who benefitted most from the 'fix' by winning the race from 15th on the starting grid, but who has always fervently denied having had any knowledge of the plot. It now appears those suspicions can be put to bed.