An interview with Flavio Briaotre, Renault F1 Team Managing Director. Q: Flavio, the Formula One season begins this weekend after a turbulent winter. What is your perspective on the current situation? Flavio Briatore. Photo by LAT ...
An interview with Flavio Briaotre, Renault F1 Team Managing Director.
Q: Flavio, the Formula One season begins this weekend after a turbulent winter. What is your perspective on the current situation?
Flavio Briatore: I think we need to start talking about F1 as a sport again. Recently the discussion has been only about finance and bureaucracy. But I don't think the public is interested in how much we spend, or whether we sign the Concorde Agreement: they want to be entertained.
At the moment, we are not doing anything to make our customers happy. The money in our sport comes from providing people entertainment, providing racing. And I think people are finally starting to understand that entertaining our customers is what matters.
Q: Providing a better show has been a constant preoccupation of yours...
FB: I think the demands from our audience are very simple: people want one thing, and that is to see a good race. Our basic job is to make a car, organise races and then produce a championship where the drivers can overtake, fight each other and compete for the title until the last races -- and it does,'t matter that those drivers are from the same team if they are allowed to fight each other. Recently, Ferrari haven't let their drivers do that.
Q: Isn't the problem simply that Ferrari have been too strong in recent years?
FB: I don't think so, no. Ferrari were not so strong in 2003 -- the championship was lost by Williams and McLaren that year, not won by Ferrari. Last year, Ferrari had a strong overall package: their tyres, car, reliability and of course the driver, because Michael (Schumacher) has a big role to play in that. To fight them, we don't need to slow Ferrari down, we need to do a better job. And that begins with me.
Q: What about the format of the race weekend in 2005 -- are you happy with it?
FB: I think so, for this year. But for me, it is not ideal: I think it would make sense to test on Friday, qualify on Saturday then race on Sunday. At the moment, we test outside of the races, spend a lot of money going round empty circuits and entertain nobody. We need to generate audiences and revenues from our testing, because the current situation doesn't make sense.
Q: You must be proud of what you have helped to create with Renault since 2000?
FB: I am, and I want to finish the job. Formula One still motivates me: I have been working in this business for sixteen years now, and it is hard to find the kind of job where you have different challenges every day after that long. When I came back to this team in Brazil, 2000 it wasn't like a racing team -- the morale and organisation were bad. So we started building and improving. 2001 started off like a disaster, but we made a lot of progress. And it has carried on since then.
Last year, we finished third in the championship, and the team has also brought up a young driver in Fernando. He now has a very experienced, hungry team-mate in Giancarlo. 2005 will be an important year for this team, and the last two years were preparation for this. We need to carry on improving, and I want to finish the job we started -- which means winning a championship. Let's wait and see the results we have this year.
Q: Ultimately, a successful season for Formula One will come down to providing good racing and challenging Ferrari. Can you do that?
FB: I think so. We all know that you need to put Ferrari and Michael under pressure. Every driver can be quick in a perfect situation but in the past, people like Hill, Hakkinen or Villeneuve were able to put pressure on Michael, and he started making mistakes. For the good of the sport, it is time we managed to do that. I hope Renault can be one of the teams, but it should not be only us: McLaren, Williams, BAR and Toyota need to start delivering as well.