Having already described one of Brawn GP's drivers as 'a pensioner' and the other as a 'paracarro' (concrete bollard) and as such unworthy of Formula 1 World Championship glory, Flavio Briatore has now intensified his onslaught against the ex-Honda F1 outfit – arguing it should be denied commercial revenue for the next three years and that Ross Brawn should be removed from his position as head of FOTA's technical committee.
Following his scathing attack on Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello's respective merits [see separate story – click here
], the Renault F1 managing director has turned his attentions to Brawn himself, a man with whom he worked closely at Benetton in the early-to-mid 1990s as the pair achieved back-to-back title triumphs with Michael Schumacher. It would appear that the affection and mutual respect between the two is no more.
In the wake of the controversial 'double-decker' split-level diffuser row and subsequent FIA International Court of Appeal ruling last week – one that exonerated Brawn GP Toyota and Williams of any wrongdoing, to the exasperation and ill-disguised anger of their seven rivals, Renault included – Briatore suggested Brawn should be replaced in his role within the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), and added that he will propose just such a motion at the next meeting on 6 May in the build-up to the Spanish Grand Prix. The Italian told the Daily Telegraph
that 'anyone is better, even the first Chinese taxi driver you see in the street'.
Briatore has contended that the diffuser verdict is threatening to tear apart F1's credibility, and claimed that the £30 million Brawn GP is set to receive in 2009 in terms of commercial income – television revenue and travel expenses – should instead be distributed between the other nine teams in the light of the extra cost that will now be necessitated for seven of them to radically re-design their diffusers. Moreover, he stated that as effectively a new team, Brawn is not entitled to the sum that would have been due to Honda this year, nor any additional prize money.
“Despite some being against it, Luca di Montezemolo kept FOTA united in supporting Brawn GP, and so did McLaren in supplying engines,” Pitpass
quotes Briatore as having told members of the Italian media at the weekend. “Since Ross Brawn was our (FOTA) technical delegate and he forces me to spend money I don't have in my budget, and since Honda's money has, luckily, not been shared yet, we'll have a meeting.
“My proposal is that since Brawn is richer than anyone else – because he's had his team paid for in full by Honda, plus he's had €130 million 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 that's fine. At this moment, since I need to find the money in the budget somewhere and the season can't end up with everyone being a second behind the Brawn cars, then the money pot will have to be reviewed in full. I think it's about €30 million.
“Since the FIA said it's a new team, then for once we agree with the federation. This is a new team, it's true. Honda officially said it left F1, and this isn't called Brawn Honda – it's Brawn. Therefore, at this point I think the federation is right. As FOTA commercial chairman I'll propose that we follow the FIA's ruling that it's a new team, and that for three years it has no rights with regards to transportation, nothing.”
For his part, Brawn – who has also recently been described as 'a person of supreme arrogance' by Ferrari lawyer Nigel Tozzi – has staunchly refused to get drawn into a slanging match and, perhaps crucially, has found an ally in the form of Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive and the sport's commercial rights supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
“Flavio's very flamboyant,” Brawn said of the man who, during his stint as chairman of London football club QPR, is already onto his seventh manager in just 18 months. “He's great with the one-liners, and that's his forté, but I'm not going to respond. It's a shame that he brings those things into the public arena as they're FOTA business, but that's his style. I'd rather not talk about it.