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Pat Symonds returns to Formula 1

‘Silly Season’ is approaching. Formula 1’s August break is usually the time of year when rumours start to fly; with no racing for close to a month, our minds begin to wander about which driver will end up where and what it all means.

This year it might not mean much. The futures of Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa may be up for debate, but Hamilton will likely stick with McLaren and the latter two’s fate will almost certainly be decided at season’s end.

What could be interesting, however, is the return of Pat Symonds to the pit lane. Coming back from an enforced sabbatical after the ‘Crashgate’ scandal, the man who was race engineer to Senna and Schumacher could make a huge difference on any team. As part of his ban, Symonds has been unable to attend races in an official capacity, but since the start of 2011 he has acted as an advisor to the Virgin/Marussia team.

f1  Pat Symonds returns to Formula 1

Symonds is the subject of this month’s Lunch With… and in the feature he talks candidly about Singapore 2008 and his involvement in the incident in which Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed; putting team-mate Fernando Alonso in contention for a victory – which he duly took.

“My big mistake was, at that point I should have just said, ‘don’t be silly. No way are we doing that.’ But I didn’t. Under competitive pressure, I suffered from what we were saying [previously in the article] Michael [Schumacher] occasionally suffered from – a serious error of judgment in the heat of competition.”

The ban was originally for five years, but an agreement was reached with the FIA whereby Pat could work as a consultant before returning to the sport full time in 2013.
“Next year I can go to races, and I’ve had offers already from several teams. I’ve worked really hard throughout my career. Then I made a mistake, a big mistake, and it’s almost as though that negated all I’ve done.”

f1  Pat Symonds returns to Formula 1

It’d be hard to believe that any team wouldn’t jump at the chance to have someone with Symonds’ experience on board: he was a key figure behind three Constructors’ and four Drivers’ Championships for Benetton and Renault. The question is where could he go?

Perhaps a reunion with Schumacher and Ross Brawn – with whom he enjoyed so much success in the early ‘90s – could be on the cards. Or maybe a return to his former team, now Lotus, could be what they need to push them into contention for regular wins or the championship.

This year, new additions to the technical team have brought Mercedes and Williams unexpected success. Yes, ‘Silly Season’ is nearly here, and although the driver market might remain fairly static the most interesting addition a team could make has been flying under the radar.

Add your comments

19 comments on Pat Symonds returns to Formula 1

  1. Michael Spitale, 26 July 2012 15:14

    As a Kimi I would like to see Pat back at Renault/Lotus… No doubt the man is at the sharp end of the pit lane technically.

  2. Elusive American F1 Fan, 26 July 2012 15:48

    So we are to believe that Mr Symonds was not the originator of the crash plan? Who would have been, then?

  3. Ed Foster, 26 July 2012 16:01

    Elusive American F1 Fan – you’ll have to read the magazine to find that one out! He’s very open about it.


  4. Chris, 27 July 2012 01:01

    Seriously?! Why give a forum to a cheat like that?

    “…it’s almost as though that negated all I’ve done.” No Pat, not almost.

    “It’d be hard to believe that any team wouldn’t jump at the chance to have someone with Symonds’ experience on board.” Come on author! It’s easy to believe that a team wouldn’t want to be associated with such a cheat — or is the entirety of Formula One so rotten they won’t know the difference — or care?

  5. David smith, 27 July 2012 07:03

    I think the guy has served his time and it will be great to see him back.
    Good luck Pat

  6. Alex Harmer, 27 July 2012 08:56

    Apart from his admitted mistake, the F1 world knows he is a man of character, talent and experience. Should one error in judgement remove the right to a second chance?

    Food for thought: if everyone who has ever ‘cheated’ in sport was cast aside, the list of participants would be very sorry indeed…

  7. hamfan, 27 July 2012 10:14

    ALL Nelson Jnr’s idea? So Nelson apparently thought suggesting writing off an expensive chassis and risking serious injury to himself and innocent others in order to gift FA a win would endear him to the team (all without FA ever getting a whiff that anything dodgy was going on, we are expected to believe, what with them sending him out on fumes, ludicrously underfuelled – so much for all that ‘sharpest driver in the paddock’ guff we’ve been hearing this week, eh?) A team which, by the way, was allegedly about to lose 500 staff – which is what Pat says he had been led to believe – not by Nelson this time, you understand, by someone else, left unnamed. (I wonder if anyone from Renault, the car manufacturer, that is, can corroborate this?) Anyway, a perfect storm of coincidences – the team’s about to be axed (despite 2 championships just a couple of years earlier and FA coming back on board) when along comes a surreal suggestion from a driver with a death wish. And the icing on the cake – both Pat and Flav were dumb enough to buy into the demented ‘masterplan’.

  8. shade, 27 July 2012 10:34

    We could say that cheating is a part of the game in F1 since basically every entity involved in it has done it. But this wasn’t an ”ordinary” case of cheating, this was blatant race rigging.

    Not only that, but it involved one of his drivers deliberately crashing in a wall! Which could have had serious consequences and could have ended the career of a young driver. And it almost did, whatever you might think of the said driver…. or his father.

    Nobody is denying that Symonds is a brilliant and vastly experienced engineer, but that only makes his ”error of judgment” worse.

  9. Michael Spitale, 27 July 2012 13:31

    I notice many of you are attacking Pat which is well within your right. With that said, anyone worth their salt who thinks Alonso knew nothing of this is CRAZY. I have never known a driver more aware of everything with himself and others on track like Alonso. To go to the grid that day with so little fuel all the way back where he was starting and not question it is laughable to me. He knew all but was very well protected by Renault as well as the FIA.

  10. IM, 27 July 2012 13:55

    All those who think the Singapore thing was anything other than normal in F1 are kidding themselves – the whole history of top level racing (and indeed most other sports) is littered with instances that were a lot worse. I give you parking on the racing line to get races stopped, deliberately taking out competitors, patently illegal fuel, hydraulic brakes (aka running underweight), setting off the timing beam with pit boards (a certain senior official…), illegal launch control, fan cars, nitro in the fire extinguisher, “qualifying engines”, borrowing technical information from other teams and any number of other wheezes. In a sport where the governing body gives one of the teams a right of veto over the rules, Singapore was small beer. My question is why some individuals were picked out for punishment and others even kept their points…

  11. Nigel (not that one), 27 July 2012 14:32

    Part of me would love to see him at Williams if there was anything he could add but I fear it could be one too many cooks. Going to Mercedes makes a lot of sense as does returning to Lotus/Renault but I guess there’s an argument to say ‘why go back?’ take the opportunity to try something new.

    Certainly Mercedes seems to have a tactical weakness in it’s line up and I think Pat was a race strategy guy at Renault.

    As for the Singapore thing, it was wrong, but he’s done his time (unlike a hell of a lot of others in the sport) and deserves his place on the grid.

  12. Nigel (not that one), 27 July 2012 14:35

    If anyone missed it, he did a podcast in January and it’s well worth listening to.

  13. Lewis Lane, 27 July 2012 15:36

    Firstly, i’d like to say that i haven’t yet had chance to read this months piece. However, my view on this incident has always been this: if you’re working for Briatore (and previously Tom Walkinshaw) whoever you are, you are exactly that – an employee. As such, if somebody were to suggest jumping off a cliff with a parachute made of lettuce, i’m guessing you’d have to be heading towards Dover… It’s always been a question of who instigated it for me. As reprehensilble as this incident is, i’ve always felt there’s another, fuller, story that will probably never be known. I’m curious to know how much (if at all) was he a passenger doing what he’s told. Or not. At least Pat stood up, did his time and didn’t take immunity to tell what he knew… If Mike Coughlan can return to F1 with barely a comment, Pat Symonds should be able to as well. This in no way means that i endorse him or his actions in Singapore. Quite the opposite in fact.

  14. GP, 27 July 2012 20:07

    Thankfully Pat’s suspension is ending soon. This is a good man who made a mistake and paid the price but his place is in an F1 paddock.

    Welcome back Pat, you were missed. Personally, I would love to see you work with Fernando.

  15. CH, 27 July 2012 20:58

    Agree with M Spitale, IM, and hamfan. Nothing most employees the world over have not done for ages—from misinformation about nuclear ‘incidents’ to misinformation propagated for wars, and here we have a car race…

    I imagine palms were greased to limit the judgements to no more than they were, and personally I’d rather Coughlan was banned long before they even think of Pat Symonds.

  16. John Read, 28 July 2012 01:24

    To err is human, so we can forgive Pat for his error, however it must also be said that we won’t forget.

    I am also of the view that he was not Robinson Crusoe.

  17. John, 28 July 2012 17:26

    Would love to see Pat back in an official capacity. The man has paid the price for his mistake.

  18. Michael Spitale, 30 July 2012 02:25

    I will never understand how Alonso and the team were allowed to keep that win?! How on earth could you throw so many people out of the sport over this and yet let Alonso keep win. Alonso is and always will be the Golden Child of F1′s current generation.

  19. John Saviano, 31 July 2012 15:07

    I think it wrong to condemn “forever” somebody for an admitted mistake – that punishment has been applied and “time served.”

    Symonds made a huge error, but I can only say that in the heat of the moment, in the pressurized area that is F1, he’s not the first, not will he be the last, to succumb to the “dark side.” I’m sure contributors to this site can cite numerous other incidents of teams doing things truly outside the rules.

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