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Exclusive Q&A: Briatore on 2010 and his own future 22 Sep 2010

Flavio Briatore (ITA).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Mansour Ojjeh, McLaren shareholder with Flavio Briatore (ITA).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Flavio Briatore (ITA) with Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Flavio Briatore (ITA).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Ralf Schumacher (GER) with Flavio Briatore (ITA). 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 11 September 2010

With two of this season’s title contenders - Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber - managed by his company, Flavio Briatore was a much sought-after man in the Monza paddock recently. Although he claims not to care which of the duo claims the championship, he is certain it will be one of the two. And as for himself? While he has no plans to make a full-time return to Formula One racing, he’s more than happy to offer some controversial opinions…

Q: Flavio, how is your life as a father? The thought of Flavio Briatore changing nappies is strange…
Flavio Briatore:
I enjoy all of it. It’s very satisfying being a dad. I am more relaxed than ever before in my life. Life can be so beautiful…

Q: Are you missing Formula One racing? There are quite a few people who say that without Flavio we’ve lost something…
There are really people who miss me? Nice! I do like to remember that time. Formula One was a big part of my life and some people have grown dear to me. Really! You look so unbelieving. But now I watch the races like every normal spectator, when I’m at a track, but mostly I watch on TV.

Q: What do you see?
Races are always spectacular when something extraordinary happens. For example, when it starts to rain. Then things take off. If the ‘extraordinary’ is missing then it’s mostly a holding position from the start to the chequered flag. Very often people in the paddock seem to forget that it’s only the fight of the drivers for positions that draws the crowds - and not the work of the engineers. That doesn’t knock anybody’s socks off. Fans are not interested in the fact that it takes 600 people and $200 million to get a reasonable car on the grid. They want to see their heroes fighting each other. Oh well…

Q: There have been rumours connecting you to Pirelli, who will be the sole tyre supplier from 2011 onwards. They say that you have orchestrated the deal and will come back as Pirelli’s Formula One boss…
That’s b*llsh*t! (Laughs) But who cares about tyres? Whether they are Pirelli or Bridgestone. What people want to hear about are stories about the drivers, stories about Ferrari. That is what the people want.

Q: So let’s start with the drivers. Red Bull’s Mark Webber is contracted to you and you advise him. What has made him so strong this season?
Mark was always strong. (Briatore points his finger to the middle of his forehead). He simply didn’t have the car to show it. Give him a good car and he drives that car on the limit. Now with the Red Bull he has one of the best cars, so he is strong.

Q: Do you still feel emotion when you see your old team Renault and other driver Fernando Alonso?
Of course! I am still the manager of Fernando and Mark. Both are contracted to my company. The people who look after them at the races are only doing the day-to-day business. Naturally I talk a lot with them.

Q: How do you view Alonso’s position at Ferrari? It seems that after just months he has more influence on the team than Michael Schumacher had after ten years!
First of all, Ferrari is a very special team. Nowhere else is a driver under more pressure than at Ferrari. Mistakes by a Ferrari driver make more headlines, but on the other hand nowhere else are victories celebrated with such fanaticism. Fernando is always driving on the limit. He has to, because yes his car is good, but the Red Bull and the McLaren are probably better.

Q: How do Alonso and Schumacher differ?
When Michael joined Ferrari it was not a winning team, so he had less pressure and the team gave him all the time in the world. In the end it took him five years to win the title. Fernando can achieve that already in his first year. And that is actually what is expected from him so he is under much more pressure than Michael was when he joined Ferrari in 1996. Regarding Fernando’s influence, his character is such that he creates permanent pressure - asking the maximum of everybody everyday - for the sake of success.

Q: So you understand why Ferrari gave in to his demand in Hockenheim…
Honestly, this team order regulation is completely crackbrained. This rule was implemented because of what Ferrari did in Austria in 2002. And that was a completely insane action back then because Michael in effect had already won the title. But what happened in Hockenheim was something completely different. Fernando can become champion, Massa cannot. So it’s logical to make sure that Fernando gets the maximum points possible in a race because he is the spearhead of Ferrari. Everybody would have done the same in this situation. On top of that whole discussion, this rule cannot be controlled if it’s cleverly bypassed. A rule that cannot be controlled shouldn’t exist.

Q: What’s your opinion on Schumacher’s comeback with Mercedes? You criticised his move right at the beginning…
I stick to what I said. I think when he signed the contract he honestly believed that it was the right decision. The same way I think that he already knew that it was a mistake at the first serious test. Then he awoke to the fact of how alarmingly fast these youngsters are today. At 41, you simply cannot keep up with Rosberg and all the other guys.

Q: If you were Sebastian Vettel’s manager what advice would you be giving him for the championship battle?
My impression is that he’s too thoughtful and not relaxed enough. He is a fantastic driver with a very special talent. Before every race I would tell him to go out and have fun! He is so young and he’s still got so much time - time is on his side. With his talent he will definitely be world champion. I don’t have the slightest doubt about it. At the moment he’s running through a normal development phase and has to learn from his mistakes.

Q: Both of your drivers - Alonso and Webber - can win this year’s title. How do you handle this situation?
Both would deserve it because both are extremely strong. I personally don’t have a favourite. What matters to me is that one of the two will win the title.

Q: After the incident in Singapore the pair stayed very loyal to you…

Q: Will you come back to Formula One racing?
Hardly. I have won seven titles with different teams. I want to have fun with what I’m doing - that is my motivation and not the need for a job. At the moment I wouldn’t have fun in Formula One. At the moment I am happy with what I am doing - being a dad, husband, and taking care of my investments.

Q: What about Renault’s future? There have been rumours that Renault wants to buy a bigger slice of team….
Firstly, they are doing an excellent job. They have a quick car and Robert Kubica is a fast driver. Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn is one of the best in his field, so believe me, whatever it is he always knows to the smallest detail what he’s doing.

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