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September 24, 2009

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Mystery 'Witness X' emerges in Renault F1 plot

A MYSTERY whistleblower identified as 'Witness X' gave evidence against former Renault boss Flavio Briatore in Formula One's race-fixing scandal, according to documents published on Tuesday.

At the same time, the governing body said Renault's former engineering head Pat Symonds had written to express his "eternal regret and shame" for the conspiracy at last year's Singapore Grand Prix.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said a fourth man inside the team had known on the eve of that race of a plan for Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr to crash deliberately and help teammate Fernando Alonso win.

Former champion Renault was handed a suspended ban from Formula One on Monday while Italian Briatore was banished from the sport indefinitely. Symonds was barred from involvement for five years.

The conspiracy had been thought to be limited to Piquet, Briatore and Symonds with the FIA declaring on Monday that double world champion Alonso had not been in the know.

However the documents published on the FIA Website ( showed that another team member, not himself a conspirator but identified as a "whistleblower", had been aware of the plan before the race and had opposed it.

Crash plan

The FIA said Witness X had told their investigators he 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 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," added the report.

The governing body said there was no evidence anyone else in the team had knowledge of what it called a "secret conspiracy" apart from the four individuals.

It noted Piquet had said Symonds proposed the crash plan to him while the engineer had said the idea came from the driver, and reached no conclusion about who had been responsible.

Symonds was offered immunity by the FIA if he cooperated with the investigation but declined to provide the necessary evidence.

While the flamboyant Briatore shunned the Paris hearing, Symonds wrote to the world motor sport council to express his remorse.

"I would like to acknowledge my role in this incident. I was the one who, when the idea was first suggested to me by Nelson Piquet Jr, should have dismissed it immediately," said the Briton.

"It is to my eternal regret and shame I did not do so," added Symonds, who has been with the same team from the days when it was Benetton and Toleman before that.


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