Exclusive interview - Renaults Flavio Briatore 25 Mar 2008
Renault team principal Flavio Briatore is a man who loves success. After luring former world champion Fernando Alonso back to the French team, the pressure is now on for the duo to help the squad return to form following their tough 2007.
Both Alonso and Briatore, however, agree that claiming victory in a Grand Prix will be an almost impossible task this season. And with the R28 not looking like a winning car, are the pair already looking elsewhere for new challenges?
Q: Flavio, its the second year that Renault has had a midfield car. How are you coping?
Flavio Briatore: We are at the beginning of a new season - so why focus on the past. And if we had what you call a midfield car, then Ferrari had no car at all in Melbourne! It does not make sense to judge a car after one or two races. Of course, McLaren and Ferrari have a fast car, but look what happened to Ferrari in Australia. So we will have to wait and see how it will be at the next couple of races.
Q: When will you be ready to make a judgment on the R28s performance?
FB: Around the Turkish Grand Prix. At the moment we are in a very promising development run, because it would be completely unrealistic to think we can find those missing seconds to McLaren and Ferrari within days.
Q: But the foundations of this years car lie in last years development work
FB: Well, we did as good a job as possible - as everybody else did. And I still cannot judge where we stand at the moment. You can do well in the morning, then you get a problem with the gearbox and a good result vanishes. As I just said, wait three or four races and then ask me again, as I will have a pretty good idea of what our status is. At the moment everything is just about guessing - there is nothing concrete.
Q: The race in Melbourne proved why you wanted Alonso back
FB: Yes, he did a fantastic job. His ability to finish races under almost impossible conditions is what makes him stand out from the mainstream of drivers. It was also a very motivating signal for the team.
Q: But what motivates Fernando? He has already concluded that winning is out of reach this year and he is understood to have a one-year contract with Renault. Rumour has it that he may be on Ferraris shopping list for next season...
FB: Fernando is a great sportsman who will always give his best - and rumours I never comment on. It is a waste of time to get involved in hypothetical daydreams.
Q: Once again your rookie had a difficult start to the season. Last year you publicly complained about Heikki Kovalainens performance, while this season you told Nelson Piquet Jr. that he should take his time. Do you have a soft spot for Nelson?
FB: Well, Australia is a very tough race for everybody, especially a rookie. It was probably because Heikki had done so well over the winter that I was disappointed with his performance and forgot that Australia was a hard place to start.
Q: Your life seems pretty hectic at the moment, with your time divided between Renault, Queens Park Rangers (QPR) football club, and the Billionaire fashion brand. Whats your secret for managing your time so effectively?
FB: Theres no secret at all. Formula One takes 90 percent of my time. I am not the coach of QPR, I am not the director of QPR, I am not the manager of Billionaire. I have my people - and they all do great jobs.
Q: Your contract with Renault concludes at the end of the year. Will you stay in Formula One racing?
FB: I dont waste a thought on it now. I want to see how the season unfolds. I am not looking for a new job - I am happy with the one that I have. The fire of enthusiasm for Formula One is still burning - sometimes stronger, sometimes on a half flame but always burning.
Q: Why a football team? Why not your own Formula One team?
FB: No, that was never an option. I have done F1 teams in the past with Ligier, with Minardi, with Benetton and now with Renault. I am not looking for another challenge in F1. I have done my time with teams.