In the latest development in the Crashgate scandal, Renault’s head of engineering Pat Symonds has been offered immunity from any penalties or sanctions that might be imposed by the FIA in return for his full cooperation in the ongoing investigation. Whether or not Symonds has accepted the offer is unclear.
It is quite clear, however, that Symonds has been less than candid in his interviews with the FIA. An official interview transcript recently published in The Times quotes Symonds as refusing to give concrete answers several times when questioned on specifics of the alleged conspiracy behind Nelson Piquet’s crash at Singapore last year. The only detail he would offer regarding a pre-race meeting during which the plan was supposedly hatched was that the crash had been Piquet’s idea.
When pressed for further details on whether he’d had specific knowledge prior to the race as to the precise time and location where the crash was set to take place, Symonds refused to answer. Likewise, he refused to confirm or deny the charge that he had actually provided Piquet with a map to illustrate where the crash should occur.
Interestingly, the FIA interviewer at one point made clumsy use of a “good cop” ploy to encourage Symonds to implicate Renault team boss Flavio Briatore. As quoted in The Times, the FIA adviser prompted Symonds by saying, “Can I say that if Mr. Symonds you’d been put in the position where you were made to ask Mr. Piquet Jnr to crash it’s much better, it would be much better for you in the long term to tell these stewards to hear that today?”
Although the adviser’s syntax is a bit garbled, the key phrase here is, “…if…you’d been put in the position where you were made to ask Mr. Piquet Jnr to crash…” In other words, things will go more easily for you if you finger Flavio as the brains behind this mob.
Symonds acknowledged that he understood the implication of what the FIA adivser had said. To his credit or not, depending on your point of view, he added, “I have no intention of lying to you.” He refused to offer any further details, and the interview was concluded.
Image by Bert Van Dijk, licensed through Creative Commons.