Pat Symonds was born in Bedford and was privately educated at Gresham’s School in Norfolk before attending Oxford Polytechnic & Cranfield University where he graduated with a Masters degree in aerodynamics.
After cutting his teeth in junior formulae, Pat Symonds joined the fledgeling Toleman team in 1980 ahead of their F1 debut the following year.
Though the company transitioned into several different entities – Benetton and then Renault – Symonds remained with the team for the following 18 years.
Beginning his F1 career as a race engineer Symonds slowly worked his way up to technical director, taking over from Ross Brawn when he was lured away to join Michael Schumacher and Rory Byrne in leaving Benetton for Ferrari in 1996.
Following Benetton’s recruitment of Mike Gascoyne, Symonds was promoted to Executive Director of Engineering where he oversaw Fernando Alonso & Renault’s double world championship success of 2005/06.
When Alonso’s departure to McLaren at the end of 2006 turned sour, the Spaniard returned to Renault, where he found the car to be far less competitive than the one he’d left, and the team took to underhand tactics to engineer him the wins he felt he deserved.
In the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, it’s claimed Symonds instructed Nelson Piquet jnr, Alonso’s team-mate, to deliberately crash, thus bringing out a safety car and benefitting Alonso who’d begun the race with a light fuel load (suggesting he had prior knowledge of the plan), and who, at that point, was the only driver to have pitted.
The safety car would not only bunch up the field, but once it had done so, would force the majority of Alonso’s competition to then pit and rejoin behind him.
The cars opting not to pit would be forced to do so later on, and ultimately end up behind Alonso, at which point the Spaniard would assume the lead and romp home to his first win in over a year.
No action was taken regarding the crash directly after the race, but when Piquet and Renault split acrimoniously the following year, the Brazilian revealed all, and despite Symonds claims of innocence and Renault threatening legal action against the Piquets, both Symonds and team boss Briatore left the team.
Renault received a two-year suspended ban from Formula 1, Briatore – unrepentant – was banned indefinitely and Symonds, who’d expressed his ‘eternal regret’ for his part in the scandal received a five year ban (reduced on appeal).
This ban prevented Symonds from working directly within Formula 1, but allowed him to became a consultant to the Marussia F1 team until his ban was lifted.
On the very day that his ban ended in July 2013, Williams confirmed that Symonds had been appointed their Chief Technical Officer, replacing Mike Coughlan after a largely miserable couple of seasons.
Symonds arrival coincided with a new deal for Williams to be powered by Mercedes and their fortunes picked up from the onset of the 2014 F1 season, with the FW36 – the first overseen by Symonds – taking nine podiums en-route to third place in the constructors championship.
Another third place in the WCC followed in 2015 before Williams dropped to 5th place in 2016 and Pat Symonds left at the cessation of his contract, to be replaced by Paddy Lowe.