Exclusive interview - Renault's Flavio Briatore 21 Jun 2006
With the season reaching the halfway point in Canada, a healthy lead in both championships gives Renault a little more breathing space to plan for the future.
Indeed, the team management have a lot of imminent decisions to make, starting with their 2007 driver line-up. There is also the possibility of a customer engine supply to another team next year - and even rumours of a potential B-team using the companys Nissan brand. But despite all that going on, team boss Flavio Briatores focus remains clear - staying on top at the forthcoming Montreal and Indianapolis races
Q: A series of wins means Renault reign supreme so far in 2006. However, we know that in Formula One racing, supremacy is cyclical. When do you see the other teams - or at least Ferrari and McLaren - catching up?
Flavio Briatore: So far, we are doing a great job at Renault: the drivers, the team, the development, everything is running smoothly with no mistakes. But we need to perform like that, because Ferrari are already right there, pushing all the way. Things are changing race to race, and it is a close battle. The others are working hard to catch up, but we are also flat out, to stay ahead. Hopefully they won't catch us!
Q: You like a challenge, so how do you cope with winning all the time? Sometimes your body language suggests its become business as usual rather than a source of excitement
FB: Every victory is a new challenge, a new achievement to construct piece by piece over the weekends. Winning is never easy, and you never lose the fun and excitement of it. It is a big motivation every time you win, and a unique team feeling. But also, when you are managing, you have to do it with your head - not your heart. You cannot make emotional decisions.
Q: The announcement that Giancarlo Fisichella will remain with Renault in 2007 has come very early in the season. Is this a move designed to provide continuity in the teams development?
FB: It is a move to keep one of the best F1 drivers with our team. Fisico is a race winner, a team player, a very strong all-round driver. We wanted to keep him with the team for continuity, yes, but also because he has the ability to compete at the top level. I believe he can do a very good job for us.
Q: Fisichella has said that his 2007 team mate will very likely be a Finn, bringing the names of (Renault tester) Heikki Kovalainen and (McLarens) Kimi Raikkonen to mind. Renault teams President Alain Dassas has also said any driver must bring with him the chance of early success, which would arguably narrow things down to Raikkonen. What is the current state of affairs regarding a definitive Renault line-up for next season?
FB: There are no ideal line-ups, just opportunities and possibilities to make things happen. We are working on our line-up, and talking to lots of people. When we are ready, we will announce what will happen.
Q: You have said that you could imagine Renault providing a customer engine to another team as early as next year. Is this a move to consolidate the teams budget for 2007 when the tobacco sponsorship situation changes - before the new commercial deal in 2008 perhaps lessens the financial requirements?
FB: The commercial deal is retroactive for 2006 - so that's not an issue for us. As (Renault company President) Mr Ghosn said in Monaco, the team will have the budget it needs to compete at the top level. Money is not a problem. But for sure, with engine homologation, supplying engines is an attractive idea, and we have the capacity to do it.
Q: Junior and team have been buzz words in the paddock ever since Red Bull launched their second, Toro Rosso, squad. Rumour has it that Renault are discussing having one under their Nissan brand. How definite are the plans?
FB: There is nothing concrete. As Mr Dassas said, it could be a possibility for Renault, and we are currently analysing many different opportunities for the future. That is the stage we are at.
Q: Given the new financial agreement and the revised technical regulations for 2008, FIA President Max Mosley has said that it will be possible to run a top team with a budget of US$150 million - an amount that might currently fund a team at the back of the grid. Do you think this is realistic?
FB: Yes, I think it's a realistic objective. Engine homologation will allow us to save a lot of money, and I still believe that we can do something to reduce testing away from the races, which is very expensive. I do think an efficient team can be competitive on $150 million in the new vision for F1.
Q: Your prediction for the two upcoming flyaway races in Canada and the USA? Will Renault again be leading the pack?
FB: I hope so. We are pushing hard, Michelin as well, to maintain our leadership. North America was not kind to us last year, so we need to put that right. And we must make sure the show in Indy is the best we can offer, after what happened in 2005. Everybody wants to put on a great race for the American fans.