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.

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.”

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.

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