Exclusive interview - Renaults Flavio Briatore 01 Aug 2007
Renault team principal Flavio Briatore is one of the paddocks most colourful characters but under the flamboyant surface lies an analytical mind worthy of his teams two consecutive constructors titles.
Speaking to Formula1.com, Briatore tackles the thorny issue of Formula One racings future, as well as reviewing his squads performance this season
Q: You have always been an advocate of change in Formula One racing. Are you satisfied with the planned revisions for 2008 and the FIAs proposals for 2011? Do you think the new regulations will deliver?
Flavio Briatore: We are currently engaged in a very good discussion with the FIA about the rules for 2011. There is a good dialogue between the teams and the federation, and some very interesting proposals are being discussed. We dont agree with all of them, and the teams have different opinions on certain issues. But that is to be expected. There are four major goals that we need to achieve with these new rules - to make sure Formula One stays at the pinnacle of motorsport; to reduce costs; to become more environmentally aware; and to improve the show. That is what we are working towards at the moment.
Q: You recently said that progress in Formula One racing is handicapped by too much democracy. What would be your ideal?
FB: The need for unanimous agreement to make decisions is very frustrating. I think majority decision-making would help us get a lot more things done, faster and more efficiently.
Q: You have long argued that races have to become more exciting. The European Grand Prix showed just what excitement a little rain can muster. Aside from relying on the forces of nature, what can be done?
FB: At the moment, the model of a Formula One weekend is simple. We spend two days sorting out the cars, putting the quickest ones at the front and the slowest ones at the back through qualifying. Then we send them out to race, and magically hope for the slower ones to become faster, and vice versa, to produce overtaking! Even if we make it easier to overtake, we still need something else to shuffle the order of the cars to create a really exciting racing. When the rain comes, it introduces that little bit of chaos you need to jumble things up. Perhaps we should look at other ways of achieving that on a more regular basis.
Q: Is the GP2 model feasible for Formula One racing?
FB: If you mean in terms of everybody using the same car, then no, because Formula One needs to keep the high technology appeal it has at the moment. If you mean in terms of thinking in a new way about how to run the races, and being open-minded in how we approach the structure of the race weekend, then absolutely. For example, they reverse the grids in GP2 for the second race, and it means that the quick drivers have to fight past the slower ones. Or what about having two races per weekend, instead of one? Some aspects of Formula One are essential parts of its DNA, but perhaps not as many as people think
Q: Formula One racing has one foot firmly placed in the sporting world and the other in entertainment. How could these two elements be better combined?
FB: I dont believe we can focus only on car design to help improve the racing, we need to think more about the entertainment. That means bringing more of a marketing approach to the sport, firstly to tell people what the plans are to use advanced technology and to show our environmental awareness, but also in how we package and present Formula One. Improving the racing is only one aspect of that. In the modern world, people want to get closer to the stars, to be able to have contact with them and to see behind the scenes. We need to reach out to the fans and start getting them closer to the sport.
Q: As for Renault - ten races down - how would you sum up the teams season so far?
FB: A bad start to the year. A lot of hard work. Concrete improvements. And the proof that this is a champion team even when we are not winning races. It has been a test of character this year, and I think we have passed it. Now we are on the way back.
Q: Renault won two championships with a comparatively lean budget. Looking at the standings this season, do you think we are witnessing the renaissance of big budgets?
FB: Not from my point of view. We won the last two championships on a sensible budget. Although we have dropped back this year, that is not because of a lack of resources. There were other mistakes that we made, nothing to do with the amount of money we spend. And now, we have shown that we can respond and start closing the gap. We have the resources we need to do the job.
Q: Heikki Kovalainen has made less of an impression than fellow rookie Lewis Hamilton. But there is no doubt he is improving with every race. Are you satisfied with his performance?
FB: The team let him down at the start of the year, giving him a car that was very difficult to drive. For a rookie, that is a tough situation to be in, and I think he felt it. But if the start was disappointing, he has responded since then. He has listened to the feedback he was given, he carried on working all the way through, and he has driven some very strong races since Canada. Maybe it has taken half a season, but he is starting to demonstrate his talent now - and showing why we believe in him.
Q: At six teams the driver line-up for 2008 is already settled. What is the state of affairs at Renault?
FB: We are in no rush. At the moment, we are working to make sure we are on the right track with the car for 2008. That is the priority for next year in order to achieve our target of winning races again. This year has shown that having the right car is the key to being competitive.