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The gospel according to Flavio

NEWS STORY
28/09/2006

Reacting to questions posed by Guardian readers - no jokes please - Renault team boss Flavio Briatore has given his thoughts on a range of issues relating to Formula One.

Asked if there is one rule change he would like to make, the flamboyant Italian replied: "It is not a question of "one rule". We need to look at how people look at this business and sport.

"We see teams building big motor homes or luxury factories, but how does that help? It's navel gazing. We need to do more for spectators, to improve the TV, and to do that you have to change the way people think."

Continuing the theme of 'the people', a topic close to his heart, Flavio was asked who he thought might make a good successor to Bernie Ecclestone.

"I don't think Bernie has any plans to retire," he replied, "but when he does I think we need management from outside motor sport. We need people to look at the sport from a fresh perspective. Not at engineering, or technology, but at the business and the TV show.

"Our customers are not engineers," he continued, "they are in the stands and watching the television. That's something other people in the sport don't seem to realise sometimes."

In 2007 his protege, Fernando Alonso, heads to McLaren, asked how he let him go, Briatore responds: "There is no connection between those things. Fernando is a fantastic driver, but at the end of last year, maybe he did not feel valued like a world champion, and there was an atmosphere of uncertainty about Renault's future. There were a lot of reasons that came together all in one.

"He did the deal on his own and told me afterwards," he admitted. "I was angry but I now understand his reasons."

Asked about another driver he worked closely with, and who went on to achieve moderate success, gaining a further five World Championships with Ferrari, Briatore said: "It is very different to a decade ago. Back then we were young and Benetton were the underdogs winning against bigger rivals.

"Now, Renault is in the same situation - and Michael is with the big team. So we are competitors, but on a personal level we still get on well."

Briatore came close to being punished by the FIA for comments made at Monza, when, in the heat of the moment, following Fernando Alonso's grid penalty, he compared F1 to the Italian soccer (match fixing) scandal.

Asked if he regretted making those comments, the Italian replied: "I explained afterwards that what I love about formula one is the emotion. We are very lucky to be in a job that inspires so much passion, and sometimes that emotion is good, sometimes bad.

"We have every confidence in the FIA, their stewards and how they manage the sport," he added. "We felt that Fernando had been unfairly penalised by a rule whose interpretation was changed afterwards. But it is not a time for regrets."

Finally, a most un-Guardian question, does Flavio feel there are enough 'babes' in the F1 paddock?

"Well, there would be more if only Bernie would give us the passes!" he admitted. "It raises an important point, though. Formula one is about the show, the glamour - not just greasy mechanics and gearboxes."

We're sure the "greasy mechanics" at Renault will remind him of that as the team battles to retain both titles.

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