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Q&A with Renault's Flavio Briatore 31 Jan 2008

Nelson Piquet Jr (BRA), with Flavio Briatore, Renault Managing Director and Fernando Alonso (ESP). Renault R28 official launch, Paris, France. January 31 2008. © Renault Renault R28 official launch, Paris, France. January 31 2008. © Renault Back row (L to R): Luca di Grassi (BRA) Renault and Romain Grosjean (FRA) Front row (L to R): (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal and Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault. Renault R28 Launch, Renault Square, Paris, France, 31 January 2008. World ©  Hartley/Sutton The new Renault R28 detail. Renault R28 Launch, Renault Square, Paris, France, 31 January 2008. World ©  Moy/Sutton L-R: Nelson Piquet Jr (BRA) and Fernando Alonso (ESP), Renault. Renault R28 Launch, Renault Square, Paris, France, 31 January 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton

Speaking at the launch of Renault’s 2008 car, team principal Flavio Briatore was in his element. Following their luckless 2007 season, and with former world champion Fernando Alonso returning to the fold, the French squad are confident they can bounce back this year. Here Briatore dissects what went wrong and reveals why he believes a return to form is on the cards…

Q: After a difficult year in 2007, how much pressure is on the team for the new season?
Flavio Briatore:
Formula One is all about pressure. The teams who handle it best are the ones that succeed, because there is always pressure to perform. We set ourselves demanding targets and when we don’t deliver, like last year, then we must find the problems - and solve them. We have done that, and everybody is motivated to get back to the front of the grid this season. The results of our development are very positive, we think we have a good car. Now we need to wait and see how it measures up against the competition.

Q: Is the ING Renault F1 Team still a top team in Formula One racing?
FB:
Renault and Ferrari are the only teams to have won world championships since 2000. That says everything. We had a bad year in 2007, but so did Ferrari in 2005, or McLaren in 2006. This is part of life in Formula One: sometimes you take too many risks, sometimes not enough. The important thing is to show you can bounce back.

Q: How does the team plan to do so in 2008?
FB:
We have the strength in depth to overcome our disappointments. Renault has invested for the future at Enstone, especially with the new CFD Centre, which gives us the stability we need to move forward. The new car is a change in direction for the team, and we have been aggressive with the concept. When you add in Fernando’s ability to lead the team on the track, it is a powerful combination.

Q: You have championed greater cost-efficiency for many years. Are you pleased to see that others are finally beginning to think the same way?
FB:
It has been a long road to get to this stage, but it is positive that people are starting to understand that Formula One is not efficient enough to be sustainable. The budget cap is a very good idea: it helps the teams that are the most efficient in how they work. Formula One is a leader in many areas, and it can be in this one too. But this is only one side of the problem; the other one is improving the show, and we must still work to give our fans a better show.

Q: Can the R28 take the fight to the other top teams?
FB:
We hope so, but it is impossible to make predictions now. Let’s talk about this when we get to Melbourne, and everybody has stopped playing poker in testing.

Q: What will be the impact of Fernando Alonso’s return to the team?
FB:
We know Fernando, and we know what he can bring. Already in the tests, he is like a different man - focused, relaxed and happy. He has returned to the team with enthusiasm, and he is involved at every level; he is working harder than ever. We have a responsibility to him, now, to give him the car he deserves.

Q: You have a rookie in the second car, Nelson Piquet Jr. What should we expect from him?
FB:
The expectation is always high for a rookie, and even more when you have a famous family. Nelsinho has earned his drive based on his work, not his name. We saw in GP2 that he is capable of performing to a very high level, and I believe he is an exciting talent. But he will need time to grow. Just like with Kovalainen in 2007, we will give him that time.

Q: Who will be your main rivals?
FB:
That is impossible to say at the moment. Ferrari and McLaren will stay strong, simply because their advantage was so big last year. BMW should continue to improve, as they have done each season. Other teams will also make a step: perhaps Red Bull, perhaps Williams. The only thing we know at the moment is what we have done ourselves, and we are pleased with the results. Remember, in 2007 we finished third in the championship with a bad car, that we did not develop for half of the season. For 2008, we have a good car - and a world champion driver. The situation looks promising.