Flavio Briatore has delivered a stinging attack on Brawn GP duo Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, suggesting that neither possesses the talent to win the Formula 1 World Championship on merit and claiming that the legalisation of the controversial 'double-decker' diffusers has stripped the sport of its 'credibility'.
The FIA's definitive ruling that the innovative diffuser designs of the pace-setting Brawn GP BGP 001, Toyota TF109 and Williams FW31 are legal – made in the governing body's court of appeal earlier this week – has left the remaining seven teams having to play a rapid game of catch-up if their rivals are not to run away with proceedings this year.
Whilst many have argued that the changing of the guard in F1 in 2009 has injected new life into the top flight and that Brawn GP's success – after two years in the doldrums in the guise of Honda – has been a breath of fresh air, Briatore was far less complimentary about the performances of three teams that between them triumphed on just two occasions from 2004 to 2008.
That is by stark contrast with Renault, McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari – who accounted for all five constructors' crowns over that period, but have notched up respectively four, one and no points in 2009 to-date. Renault F1 managing director Briatore contends that such a situation and dramatic turnaround makes a mockery of the sport.
“Our (Ferrari, McLaren and Renault) drivers are or have been world champions,” the recently-turned 59-year-old said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
, “and then you have a [Brawn GP] driver who was almost retired, and another who is a 'paracarro' (an Italian term for a roadside post), fighting for the championship.
“I don't know how we can say we have credibility. It is impossible to recover the ground we have lost on those teams.
“In three or four races the championship will be decided, and I don't know what the interest of the TV viewers will be when Button has 60 points and [Williams' Kazuki] Nakajima [has] 50. It will be better to listen only on the radio and watch something else.”
The Italian's protégé, double former F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, echoed his boss' fears that the diffuser teams would remain out of reach in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai this weekend – a race that he has in the past won and on three occasions stood up on the podium.
Whilst he did not go so far as Briatore's contention that the title chase is all-but over before it has even begun, the 21-time grand prix-winner did stress that incorporating a new diffuser into the design of the Régie's
R29 challenger would be no overnight job.
“I don't really care too much about this,” the Spaniard is quoted as having said by AFP
, “because unfortunately it is not our decision – it's the FIA's decision or the Appeal Court's decision. From a driver's point-of-view, we do not understand; we are not technical people so we are not very sure about what the rules say, but it is true that there are some cars that are much quicker than us – Brawn, Toyota and Williams.