Flavio Briatore, Managing Director of the Renault F1 Team, talks about the team's committment to F1, cost-cutting and technology. Q: Flavio, at the last race in Barcelona, the Renault F1 Team committed to Formula 1 beyond 2008. How important was...
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director of the Renault F1 Team, talks about the team's committment to F1, cost-cutting and technology.
Q: Flavio, at the last race in Barcelona, the Renault F1 Team committed to Formula 1 beyond 2008. How important was that act?
Flavio Briatore: It sent out the message that Renault is strong and is staying in Formula 1. That was important for our people in the company, and those outside too. Ever since Mr Ghosn arrived last year, he has said that if the results we get are in proportion to the investment, then we will stay. But there had been a lot of rumours that there were doubts for the future. So it was important to send a strong sign, that Renault is committed.
Q: You have been outspoken on the need for cost-cutting in Formula 1 from 2008 onwards. Can you explain your vision?
FB: Everybody needs to be more cost-efficient. Whether it is Honda, Toyota, Renault or Ferrari, we are here to make a good show, and race. Not to have a development competition between the manufacturers. I think we can put on the same show, for much less money.
Q: You talk a lot about the show, and the need for cost-cutting. What makes you think this would work?
FB: I look at the race weekends. We have Formula 1 and GP2, both putting on a fantastic show. From the fastest guy in GP2 to the slowest in Formula 1, you have maybe seven or eight seconds per lap. But one team is spending $2 million, the other half a billion. There's something not right there, don't you think?
Q: So what is the solution?
FB: We need to look at Formula 1 in a different way. We have to take care of the event, respect the public, and give them the product they want -- not just what the engineers think we should have.
Q: You talk about drastic cost reductions. Where can the money be saved?
FB: The big issue for the costs is the technical side of the sport. There is potential for a drastic reduction of costs on the engine side, and in other areas like testing. But what people don't seem to realise is that time is running out. We talk, and talk, but the 2008 rules are already done. They can only be changed with unanimous agreement, and people don't seem to realise that. We have one month to sort out the technical situation.
Q: Of course, there has been speculation that your concern for the future of F1 is also self-interested: namely, that there is financial pressure from Renault to reduce spending...
FB: Renault wants a team that is healthy, and competitive. There are these rumours that Renault doesn't have the money, or Renault won't spend the money. Just pick up the balance sheet for Renault-Nissan, and you will see that there are no money problems. That is not the issue. What we have is a vision for Formula 1: to be more efficient, and to have the results and investment in proportion. We don't see the point in going racing with a blank chequebook, the challenge is to win with efficiency.
Q: The other concept that is often mentioned is "technology" and that it must be maintained at a high level. What do you think?
FB: If somebody should complain about cutting technology, it is Renault. We are winning, which means we have winning technology. So why throw away our advantage? All these other people are talking about technology, but some have never won a race, others have not won a championship for years. The fact is that the teams who have dominated in Formula 1 in the past six years, are in agreement. Renault is in line with Ferrari, on wanting the same show for less cost. It is a simple vision: to make Formula 1 a centre of profit, not a centre of loss.
Q: But people say technology is a key part of the appeal of Formula 1...
FB: For sure, they are right, and even with lower costs, we will still have the high level of technology. But what do you think gets more interest: developing a twin clutch that you then hide away from the people, or having Sylvester Stallone on the grid in front of the TV cameras? We need to entertain people, and understand that Formula 1 is an event. With the manufacturers, we are there to build their image and help their communications. We want to discover new markets, and to be ambassadors to help sell a product. I think Formula 1 needs to start to look at the big picture, not just worrying about technology.
Q: Have you decided on your own plans for the future?
FB: That is not relevant for me at the moment. Whatever I do in the future, I need to be doing the best thing now for the company I represent, Renault. I need to make sure that we have a healthy, competitive team for the future. That is the priority.
Q: Next year's Renault F1 Team will be without Fernando Alonso. Will it be a big loss?
FB: Of course. But he is young, he has won a lot with the team, and he has been here for five years. So he wanted a new challenge and motivation. If he had talked to me, I would have given him a different opinion on what he should have done for his future. In the end, though, maybe this change is good for the team as well. You get into a cycle, and if you don't change, the winning ends. It happened to Benetton ten years ago, with Ferrari last year, and maybe it could have happened to Renault as well. Now, we have a fresh motivation for 2007: to make sure Renault is beating McLaren and Alonso.
Q: When will you announce your driver line-up for 2007?
FB: The situation has not changed. In our car, today, there are three or four drivers who could win races. Michael Schumacher, Alonso, Raikkonen and Fisichella, who has shown he can win races with us. For the future, there are drivers like Hamilton, or Kovalainen who could possibly win championships. Our job is to make sure we have the car to attract those drivers, and to do that, we need to be quicker than the opposition. That is the priority and at the moment, we are delivering.
Q: Now we arrive in Monaco, the jewel in the crown of Formula 1. What are your expectations?
FB: Monaco is what Formula 1 is all about: putting on a fantastic show for the fans, for the TV, for everybody. Renault will be strong, and we want to win there -- like we did two years ago with Trulli. But the important thing is that people are excited by this season, and we are having a fantastic battle with Ferrari. We need to look at everything in a simple way: what matters is the show on the track, not the talking. So far, I think we are entertaining our public, and we want to continue doing that in Monaco.