Former Renault technical director Pat Symonds is making a return to Formula 1 in a consultancy role after Virgin Racing secured the services of Symonds’ company.Pat Symonds is returning to F1 after securing a consultancy role with Virgin Racing

Symonds has not been actively involved in Formula 1 since the fall-out stemming from the ‘Crashgate’ affair, where he was found guilty of colluding with Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash in order to force a safety car deployment at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, a race that Piquet Jr’s team-mate Fernando Alonso would go on to win.

Symonds was issued with a a five-year ban by the FIA, which was later reduced on appeal, and Symonds has since spent his time with other engineering projects subcontracted to his company, Neutrino Dynamics, as well as writing a column for the F1 Racing magazine.

It is also believed that Symonds provided assistance to one of the applicants who applied with the FIA for the thirteenth team vacancy to join the sport this season.

Symonds had earlier expressed an interest in working with one of the outfits currently on the Formula 1 grid in an interview in January.

Virgin Racing’s president, Graeme Lowdon, has confirmed that Symonds is helping the outfit, where it is expected that his vast experience would prove useful.

“He’s allowed to do consultancy work through his company. Quite a few people in the team have worked with him in the past and all the technical guys are really, really excited. I can see only positive things,” Lowdon said.

Granted, Symonds is certainly a talented engineer, of that there is no doubt.

But surely Lowdon is being – either or both – untrue and naive is blithely stating he Nelson Piquet Jr deliberately crashes at the Singapore Grand Prixsees “only positive things” in Symonds’ involvement.

Quite what the team is thinking by choosing to associate itself with a figure who conspired to orchestrate one of the greatest acts of cheating in the sport’s history – an act he is yet to show a single shred of remorse for – is a matter that could indeed alienate the team’s fans and many F1 purists.

It was an act – I have gone on the record to more diplomatically call it a serious moment of dedicated non-thinking – that brought the sport into disrepute, he was caught with Flavio Briatore, admitted guilt to the crime and the pair was thrown out of the sport.

Indeed, the FIA made a hash-job of handing out the punishment, which allowed for shorter sentences to be awarded on appeal, but the sport’s governing body has acted by creating a licensing system to (hopefully) prevent these instances from ever being repeated.

And while the FIA – in this instance – has not been able to uphold its own policy of banning cheats from the sport, the teams are certainly open to engaging in a little bit of self-monitoring in this respect, although it is very much in their own interests not to do so.

Call this an old-fashioned view, but everyone involved in a sport should aspire to compete and win in a clean manner without resorting to tactics that undermine the very sport they’re competing in. There is little point to compete to identify the best cheat, who can pay off the judges, or who has the best biochemist.

Other sporting codes have a host of players and figures issued with lifetime bans for failing to uphold the sanctity of the very game they were playing.

Equally, there are plenty of instances where officialdom has gone soft on those who’ve fallen foul – the current issue with the three Pakistan cricket players found guilty of taking bribes is a case in point – and that is equally disgraceful.

I would be very interested in knowing anyone else’s thoughts on the matter…

[Original images via LAT and XPB]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.