Renault boss on a satisfying, but surprising, year
A top-three finish in the Formula One constructors championship was Renaults declared target for 2004 and, sure enough, they ended the season third, 17 points clear of fourth-placed Williams.
However, the first half of their campaign was much better than the second and they were as surprised as anyone to find themselves chasing the BARs come the end. Nevertheless, team boss Flavio Briatore insists he came away satisfied with their increased overall competitiveness
Q: What was your initial reaction when team president Patrick Faure gave you your objectives for 2004?
Flavio Briatore: We finished the championship in fourth place last year and we had to improve. It is fair to say that we had a tough job over the winter: the engine architecture was new and we were behind schedule on the technical side. It wasn't easy to combine all the different elements, but we managed to do so.
Q: Was it a good championship for the Renault Formula One team?
FB: Yes. We achieved our targets and that is the main thing. Personally, I am pleased with how the team conducted itself - we took risks, raced aggressively and made the most of our opportunities. Like everybody else, I am disappointed not to have finished second in the constructors' championship but the competition were simply better than us. Ferrari were untouchable and BAR made extraordinary progress. It is important to bear in mind is that Renault is still a young team and we must make solid progress at every stage, without rushing things.
Q: Is time important for success in Formula One racing?
FB: Yes. It's when you try and do things too quickly that mistakes are made.
Q: Are you disappointed that Jacques Villeneuve did not score any points in the final three races?
FB: Of course, but the task he faced was enormous. He was learning about a car he had never driven, different tyres and speeds that were four seconds faster than last year. The circumstances didn't help him either: a new track in Shanghai, the cancelled Saturday of Suzuka and then a wet start on slick tyres in Sao Paulo.
Q: So, in the space of three years, Renault has become a top team. Are you pleased?
FB: People often say there are four top teams in the paddock but I don't agree. In my view, there is only one and that's Ferrari. The others need to close the gap to them - and not just Renault. Ferrari won 15 of 18 races this year and completely dominated both championships. It is up to us to work better and challenge them in the future.
Q: Why have you chosen Giancarlo Fisichella for 2005?
FB: Above all he is a 'fighter', an experienced driver who races hard. He is also a finisher - his speed does not change from the first lap to the last. He takes every opportunity that comes his way and he knows the team well, doesn't have a big ego and isn't interested in internal politics. I am convinced that the combination of Fisichella-Alonso will be spectacular next year.
Q: Is everything you need now in place to succeed?
FB: I think so. Viry-Chatillon and Enstone are working well together, our technical programmes are established on a long-term basis and we are hitting our targets. The most important thing we shouldn't forget is that we are still a young team and that we must not try and progress too fast. In F1, there is one key ingredient you cannot buy - time.