Renault investigation hots up as Symonds is offered immunity

Renault F1 LogoRenault’s director of engineering Pat Symonds has reportedly been offered immunity from punishment in return for further information about the events of the Singapore Grand Prix last year.

Symonds has conceded that prior to the race he was part of a “conversation” with Nelson Piquet Jr and Flavio Briatore, in which it was suggested that Piquet crash. He has insisted that an instruction did not come from either of the two senior management figures present, himself and Briatore.

But at an interview with investigating FIA stewards at last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, Symonds declined to answer certain pointed questions about the pre-race Singapore dialogue between the three. It is thought that he has been offered an amnesty in return for truthful replies to the questions.

The questions include asking Symonds if he met Piquet with a map of the circuit in order to decide where the best place to crash was, if he then chose a place with Piquet to raise the strongest possibility of a Safety Car being deployed, and then if he issued a direct instruction to Piquet to cause an accident.

It is as yet unclear whether Symonds has opted to take the offer from the investigating powers. If he does, it means that team principal Flavio Briatore alone will face the World Motor Sport Council on 21st September. If he does not, and is found guilty, the consequences could be more severe for Renault.

The story is significant because if Symonds accepts immunity from sporting sanction it would suggest his and Renault’s guilt. If he does not, it suggests either innocence or an extremely strong sense of loyalty on Symonds’ part.