Ever one to speak his mind and certainly not afraid to rock the establishment every now and then, Renault boss Flavio Briatore has voiced his disproval of the FIA International Court of Appeal’s decision that deems the ‘double-diffuser’ legal. While preparing for the Chinese Grand Prix on Thursday, Briatore hit out at Ross Brawn and his drivers, making crude comparisons and generally creating a fuss where others have simply accepted and moved on. Failing to get his way and having been criticised in the media, Briatore has proposed that Brawn’s entitlement to monetary benefits should instead be shared among the other competitors.
The one-sided war of words between Flavio Briatore and the Brawn team has been comical to say the least. While it is good to voice concerns and raise issues, Briatore’s approach to the situation that sees his tightly budgeted team now having to spend more money on developing a ‘double-diffuser’ was strikingly poor. Instead of simply announcing a meeting between the members of FOTA to discuss his concerns with those involved – which Briatore, in an attempt to gain support, believes is all teams – the Italian team boss has instead allowed a slew of laughable comments to be released in Italy’s popular sport’s newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport.
The drivers in our teams have been and are world champions, while the championship is now fought between a driver who was almost retired and another one who is a good guy but a paracarro [Italian concrete mile-marker]. Flavio Briatore.
To suggest fellow competitors as almost retired and as a concrete post is perhaps not the wisest of moves, especially as Jenson Button politely pointed out in response, Briatore attempted to hire him while the Honda-situation was still up in the air over the past winter.
He also needs to remember that he tried to employ me for this year, so…
He is obviously a very angry man after the diffuser issues and he is obviously very disappointed that they haven’t produced a car that is as competitive as ours. We have produced a very competitive car because of the work force we have back at Brackley and you cannot take it away from them – it is very unfair to say that. Jenson Button.
When asked about the general response from the Brawn team to Flavio’s comments, Button simply added: “Laughing, basically.”
The media have generally lambasted Briatore, saying that the former Benetton-franchisee is showing all the signs of a bad loser. It isn’t just the British press either that are siding with Ross Brawn on this matter, and it is somewhat confusing as to why the former Honda team has been singled out over Williams and Toyota, who had also developed the controversial ‘double-diffuser’.
However, despite the general failure to get the press on his side, Briatore remains resolute to his cause, and has now suggested that Brawn’s entitlement to benefits should be ceased, and money owed to the team from TV rights be shared equally among the others.
Mr. Briatore seems to be forgetting that FOTA, the association made up all the competing Formula One teams, supported the takeover of Honda by Ross Brawn et al. McLaren and Mercedes helped the squad tremendously by offering engine units, for which the FIA gave permission for as it does break the rules. The teams agreed that in this case, the ruling should be ignored for the sake of having ten squads on the grid this season. Also required to give consent was Vijay Mallya of Force India; the team who had just received a substantial technical backer in McLaren and Mercedes.
Flavio does have merit in his argument; the teams who have not developed a ‘double-diffuser’ will now have to spend a reported approximation of $25m per car to redesign and implement the parts required to integrate a different diffuser. At a time when the sport is desperate to cut costs, the extra expense is certainly not welcome. And that must be made worse for Renault as they have always ran a very tight budget. Combined with the fact that the squad are due to lose their title sponsor at the end of this year and are already struggling with pace, one can understand why Flavio is upset.
Despite some being against it, [Luca di] Montezemolo kept the FOTA united in supporting Brawn GP, and so did McLaren, in supplying engines.
But since [Ross] Brawn was our technical delegate, and he forces me to spend money I don’t have in my budget, and since Honda’s money have luckily not been shared yet, we’ll have a meeting.
My proposal will be as follows. Brawn is richer than anyone else, because he’s had his team paid for in full by Honda, plus he’s had 130 millions given to him [by Honda]: he’s certainly richer than I am.
I don’t want to be a Robin Hood, but when there’s a situation where everyone is transparent then it’s fine.
At this moment my position is, since I need to find the money in the budget somewhere and the season can’t end up with [everyone] being one second behind the Brawn cars, then the money share will have to be reviewed in full. I think it’s around €30 million. Flavio Briatore.
Also troubling Briatore is the fact that Brawn are receiving transport help along with the other teams. Flavio’s point is that the FIA have stated that Brawn is a new team, hence why they are at the end of the pitlane and have been issued with the bottom set of numbers, despite finishing ahead of Force India in 2008 when they were known as Honda. The FIA did waive the ‘new team entry fee’ though, showing that they understood the situation and circumstances. However, Bernie Ecclestone has treated Brawn as an existing team, which is shown by the fact they are receiving transport help which is only usually given to established squads.
As FOTA commercial chairman I’ll propose that we follow the FIA’s indications that it’s a new team and for three years it has no rights with regards to transportation, nothing. Flavio Briatore.
When Briatore was questioned about the FOTA agreeing in late December to support Ross Brawn’s endeavours and to ensure the team was given all that was owed, Briatore simply replied with with an almost nonsensical answer…
That was at Christmas, though. Now that Christmas has gone, we’ll talk about it again next Christmas.
Since it’s a new team, it has to follow all the regulations we followed when we entered with new teams. I will propose that to FOTA, then we’ll see. Flavio Briatore.
It seems to me that Briatore could have handled this a whole lot better, and the man has been laughed at from several quarters. While it is far from great that six companies are now going to have to develop new parts for fourteen cars at a huge expense of time, resources and money, that is Formula One, and that is what these people let themselves in for when they sign on the dotted line in Bernie Ecclestone’s office.
When Red Bull Technologies put a giant shark fin on the engine cover of last years RB4, Renault were among the first to develop a similar part. While a shark fin almost certainly costs considerably less to design and build, and a much more simple piece to integrate into the car, it is an example of one team pushing the envelope, and the others copying. One is almost tempted to bring up the J-Damper saga from a few years back…
Perhaps instead of whining and complaining, Flavio should turn his charismatically creative mind to that of finding and wooing potential sponsors for his team. Oh, and a graphic designer to redo that livery.