Exclusive Q&A - Renault's Flavio Briatore 18 Apr 2006
Few would have predicted that three rounds into the 2006 season Renault would already lead the constructors championship by such a margin - 42 points to their nearest rivals 23. After their dominance last year, taking both world titles, it would seem winning has become an everyday affair for team boss Flavio Briatore. Not so, says the Italian. He still enjoys the sweet smell of success and insists he is working harder than ever to achieve it
Q: Three victories from three races in 2006, despite changes to the team over the off-season. Your rivals are constantly doing their utmost to recruit top talents from Renault and yet still Renault are winning. How do you do that, discovering fresh, new talent at an early stage - engineers and drivers alike?
Flavio Briatore: It is the philosophy of the team. There is not one person that makes the company do well, or do badly. A team has a heart, and when those people understand their objective, and they are in the right structure, then they work well. So you need decisive leadership. Managers explain why decisions have been taken, and then make sure they are implemented quickly, to continue moving forward. And a driver is the last act in that play, because he interprets and delivers everybody else's work on the track.
Q: Renault's current dominance - how good an argument is this for convincing the teams parent company to make a long-term commitment to Formula One racing?
FB: The important thing for the future is the same as for any business - to understand what our investment will be in the years ahead. We need to know what our commitment will be, and then a decision can be made. We are working hard to reduce the costs of Formula One, to keep the same show but for less money. And at Renault, we are in a very strong position, because we are already delivering results on less money than our rivals. We have very good efficiency, and good results. And for the future, Renault wants to be there.
Q: There has been a change at the top of the Renault Group and the Renault F1 division with, some say, managers with very little Formula One background. Will this influence the running of the team?
FB: This is a false impression. Our new President, Mr Dassas, negotiated the purchase of Benetton with me, and has been involved in the negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone. I have worked with him for a long time, and we have a very good relationship. He has come to the team to help develop the business even further.
Q: 22 teams have applied for the 2008 championship. How many of these would you consider serious candidates? And for what reason?
FB: Only the FIA knows which teams have enrolled, so it is not appropriate for me to comment. I think everybody has confidence in the Federation to pick the right teams for the future of the championship.
Q: What was your first thought when you learned about the Alonso-McLaren deal? Honestly.
FB: I was surprised. But Fernando explained his reasons, and I accepted his decision. My role is to advise him, but it is his future, so he makes the decision. I cannot force him to, and he has made the decision that he thought was the right one for his future.
Q: Is your next driver line-up already taking shape, with Alonso going and Giancarlo Fisichella's contract running out?
FB: The important thing is to have a competitive team, to keep Renault strong in Formula One. When the team is strong enough, then you attract strong drivers. We still have 15 races to go, and people will try and talk about this every weekend. But we won't do it in public. We will only talk about our drivers when the decision has been taken.
Q: Michelin are leaving the sport at the end of the season - 2007 will be a tough year for you and the other teams switching to another supplier. Does that mean that Renault has to push now as the likelihood of winning next year is slim?
FB: No, I think we will expect to win next year, like we are winning now. You can see the teams that have converted to Bridgestone this year, are performing at a similar level to Ferrari, and I don't see why it would change. Everybody knows that Bridgestone is a professional company, and I am confident they will treat every team with respect. Changing tyre suppliers is a normal thing for a Formula One team, so I don't see any reason for our ambitions to change.
Q: You've reached the pinnacle of success in a number of very competitive fields - Formula One racing, the hotel and catering industry, the fashion industry - and you're an international celebrity. Where else do your ambitions lead you? What is next for Flavio Briatore?
FB: I am not thinking about what's next - I am 100 percent focused on the present, on my job. I am working harder than ever to keep Renault at the top, to carry on winning. That is my complete focus.