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“I can tell you now we are not three-stopping,” Symonds is heard to say on the transcript made by the FIA as part of its evidence in the case, a copy of which has been seen by The Times.
Later Symonds adds to an unnamed engineer: “Don’t worry about fuel because I’m going to get him [Alonso] out of this traffic earlier than that.”
Not long afterwards comes an unusual intervention from Piquet, who was running towards the back of the field in the early stages of Formula One’s first night race. But the novelty factor for him was not the floodlights. It has now been suggested that he was worried about which lap he was on because he knew he had special instructions for lap 14.
Piquet says: “What lap are we in, what lap are we in?”
A few seconds later an engineer tells the others on the wall: “He just asked: ‘What lap are we in?’ ”
Symonds intervenes: “Yeah, tell him that he’s about to complete lap 8.”
Symonds insists Piquet is then told something he should know from his pitboard, which is shown to him at the end of every lap. “No, just tell him, he is about, he’s just completing, he’s about to complete lap eight.”
After Piquet is given the information, the discussion returns to the timing of Alonso’s first stop and Symonds makes his decision. “Right, I’m going to . . . I think we’re going to stop him just before we catch him [a reference to the Williams driver, Kazuki Nakajima, who was ahead of Alonso] and get him out of it, the reason being we’ve still got this worry on the fuel pump. It’s only a couple of laps short. We’re going to be stopping him early and we’re going to go to lap 40.”
This decision prompts an engineer, who wants assurance from Symonds that a tactical option that would drop Alonso to last is the right thing to do. “Pat, do you still not think that this is a bit too early?” he asks a few minutes later. “We only did six tenths that lap.”
Symonds replies: “No, no it’s going to be all right.”
“OK, OK, understood,” the engineer responds.
Once Alonso has made his stop, Symonds tells everybody that it is time to “concentrate on” Piquet. After assessing the Brazilian’s position, he and Briatore decide Piquet has to quicken up as the fateful lap draws near.
Symonds to the engineer: “OK right, you’ve got to push him really bloody hard now. If he doesn’t get past Barrichello, he’s going nowhere, he’s got to get past Barrichello this lap.”
“Tell him, push . . .,” Briatore says.
Piquet’s race engineer gives him the hurry-up: “Nelson, no excuses now, you’ve got to get past Barrichello. You’ve got four clicks straight-line advantage. Come on, you’ve got to push now, you must get past him.”
Moments later Piquet crashes at turn 17, where there are no cranes to lift the wreckage, making a safety car inevitable, and at the point at which he alleges Symonds told him to do the deed during a meeting before the race.
Multiple voices: “Nelson’s off. F***ing hell. Nelson’s had a crash. I would say that would be a red flag. It’s huge [all speaking at the same time] .
Piquet: “Sorry guys. I had a little outing.”
Engineer: “Is he all right, Is he all right?”
Symonds: “Ask him if he’s all right.”
Engineer: “Are you OK? Are you OK?”
Engineer: “Fernando’s just gone past it.”
Engineer: “OK, yellow flag.”
Piquet: “Yeah, I hit my head in the back. I think I’m OK.”
Engineer: “OK, understood.”
Symonds: “Right [inaudible], stop him.”
Engineer: “Safety car, safety car, safety car, safety car. Fernando, safety car, mixture three.”
Symonds: “Tell him to be careful, turn 17 I think it is.”
After several exchanges about Alonso, an engineer expresses concern, presumably after seeing the crash on the television monitor, but Briatore seems unconcerned and is angry with Piquet.
Engineer: “F***ing hell that was a big shunt.”
Briatore: “F***ing hell . . . my every f***ing disgrace, f***ing, he’s not a driver.”
Then Symonds asks about Alonso’s suddenly improving prospects.
Symonds: “What position is Fernando in?”
Engineer: “Well, we were 20, and we’re first guy to pick the safety car up.”
Symonds: “Yeah, we’re not . . .”
Engineer: “He will get away past it but he’s got to wait.”
Later Briatore and Symonds discuss Alonso’s chances. “What position we are now in all this?” asks Briatore.
Symonds replies: “To be honest, I don’t know Flavio. It’s got to have been good for Fernando. But I honestly don’t know where he is.”
In the final part of the transcript, several minutes after the crash, the Renault team return to the subject of Piquet and his condition and at this stage Briatore adds his own concern for the young Brazilian driver’s welfare.
Engineer: “Where is Nelson? Have you seen him?”
Briatore: “Is he OK, Nelson? Is he OK?”
Alonso: “The pitlane is closed until we arrive?”
Engineer: “He climbed out, mate, and ran across the track.”
Engineer: “Yeah, the pitlane is still closed.”
Taken as a whole the transcript does not provide a killer-blow against Symonds or Briatore and could be read either way.
The FIA, the sport’s governing body, is known to be particularly concerned that the alleged conspiracy not only amounted to cheating but also involved a reckless act that could have resulted in injury or loss of life.
The pitwall recording shows that, on this score, the Renault team were also extremely concerned about Piquet’s safety.