Exclusive interview - Flavio Briatore 15 Sep 2005
Talking teams, titles and Formula One's future - plus Bernie Ecclestone responds.
The Renault team boss was in typically outspoken mood when we caught up with him to ask about the 2005 championship, the path the sport is taking and whether there will ever be a Team Briatore?
Q: Ten years after your last title it looks like you're going to do it again. Are you enjoying the taste of success?
Flavio Briatore: I don't answer that question as the season is still on and it could mean bad luck. In this I am very superstitious.
Q: You're a very entrepreneurial spirit. You have a huge network of people worldwide, many of them wealthy or in influential positions. You manage drivers and you run Renault. Do you have no ambitions to run your own team? Isn't it about time?
FB: No, there will be no Team Briatore, as it would only spell big aggravation. I have done Ligier, Minardi, Benetton and Suptertec - that should be enough.
Q: Some have pitched you as a possible successor to Bernie Ecclestone. If you were appointed to run Formula One racing, what would you change?
FB: Bernie. The way he thinks. We have to cut costs and put on more entertainment. As for the costs, teams are supposed to make money and not lose money. And we are supposed to be part of the entertainment business so the show has to become better.
Q: Renault is reportedly the manufacturer team with the leanest budget and yet it looks as if you could win both titles. What is it that you do differently to your rivals?
FB: Renault is funding the team sufficiently, but if our budget is leaner it is because we run the team more cost efficiently. Our team is younger, the people obviously more focused and we do not waste money on palaces - not in the paddock and not at our factory.
Q: Where do you see the great savings to be made in Formula One racing?
FB: I am with (FIA President) Max (Mosley) that the 2008 changes should be implemented before that - at least in parts. On the other hand, the small teams have to come to terms with their financial situation. Why have a headcount of 200 people? I have proven that it is possible to run a team with a staff of only 80.
Q: Tobacco advertising is a big issue next year. Is there a solution that could satisfy both the teams and their financial needs, and the tobacco companies desire to advertise?
FB: The tobacco industry has always been a big supporter of Formula One and I hope they will stay. There will be a solution found that serves both sides. As for other possible sponsors who could finance the shortfalls of the branding situation, I could think of banks or telecom or communication companies. IBM for example.
Q: There is a lot of talk about Formula One racing becoming a single tyre supplier sport. What's your take on this?
FB: I am for it and I hope it will be Michelin. A single supplier would add substantially to a viable cost-cutting plan, as 60 percent of the tests run today are tyre tests.
Q: GP2 - are you happy with the way things have turned out? Do you feel it's provided a good show and the platform needed to nurture young driving talent?
FB: GP2 has delivered as expected. It's a great show and in 2006 we will see some of the hot shots now fighting for the championship in F1 cockpits. True, there is a difference in technology between F1 and GP2 - I would say a four to five seconds gap - but the whole series costs about eight percent of the F1 costs. Should sanity win in the F1 paddock, I predict that some of the GP2 teams will upgrade into F1 teams.
Q: In spite of your playboy reputation, you're a very hard worker. How much longer do you see yourself doing this? Bernie is forever. Are you?
FB: I have no plans whatsoever to retire. So it looks as if I'm forever as well. At least as long as Bernie is there.
Q: McLarens Ron Dennis said he is always amazed at how you and your team(s) can be so successful when you know so little about the technicalities of Formula One cars
FB: He must be happy about that. Just imagine what would happen if I knew as much as he obviously attributes to himself.
Postscript - after the interview with Flavio Briatore we caught up with Bernie Ecclestone to get his comment on what the Renault team boss had to say...
Bernie Ecclestone: "It is strange that Flavio would want to change the way I think as he has been following my suggestions for years. One of these has always been to reduce the necessity of having to spend a large amount of money to be competitive. The problem is stopping the manufacturers granting such a large budget for the engine development, which then has to be spent.
"I have also for a long time explained to the teams that not only are we a sport but also we are in the entertainment business like all other sports. Regretfully the teams and drivers think Formula One is for their entertainment.
"As far as the tobacco branding issue is concerned, we have and always will follow the laws in the countries we race."