Flavio Briatore has admitted that Renault has 'no excuses' for its mediocre form and lack of points from the opening three races of the 2009 Formula 1 campaign, as he insisted the approach within the team is not to 'kill' anybody who is underperforming and questioned the long-term continuation of the controversial KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology.
The Régie has notched up a scant four points from Australia, Malaysia and China, with Fernando Alonso's front row starting spot a week ago in Shanghai – lauded within the team as a real step forward as it became the first of the 'non-diffuser' seven to trial its own 'double-decker' version – subsequently revealed to have been the product of a showboating effort from the Spaniard with significantly less fuel in his car than any of his rivals. With similarly-powered Red Bull Racing having notched up a crushing one-two in the Chinese Grand Prix, it is clear where the principal problem lies.
“The chassis,” Briatore succinctly summed up. “Red Bull at this moment are doing a better job. We have no excuses. The problem is that in two races we were gambling, and in the last race we made a mistake to call Fernando in too early. This was our own mistake, and after Fernando spun we did not finish in the points. We have not done well at all and it is quite frustrating, but we need to catch Red Bull – who have the best car without a diffuser in the business at this moment – and Brawn and all the [split-level diffuser] people.
“What we need is to improve the chassis; we have our first version of the diffuser, which is not what we believe is the best, but at least we have done something. In Barcelona we will have another step, and I am sure in Monte Carlo we will have a big one. We started very late [on the split-level diffuser] like everybody, and we are trying to make a short-cut to be ready at least in Monte Carlo, to be competitive and to fight for the podium and win races.”
The Italian was somewhat less forthcoming, by contrast, when pressed about Alonso's under-fire team-mate Nelsinho Piquet who, much like last year, is already finding himself under increasing pressure to retain his seat at the squad following a string of poor showings characterised by a lack of pace in qualifying and costly race-day errors. Briatore was rather less-than complimentary about the Brazilian's Shanghai performance – with the 23-year-old spinning a number of times in the torrential conditions en route
to 16th and last place at the chequered flag – but he was adamant that the team fully intended to support its young charge.
“With Piquet it is not possible to tell you he is happy as he is not,” he confirmed. “You can see the performance as well; everybody is watching on TV, including me, and it is what you see. What can I say? It is a difficult moment for him and we need to support him. The situation is like everybody sees, and in a moment like this you don't kill anybody. What you need is to support and hope he will get better. This is the first race with a normal situation, so let's see. On Sunday or Monday maybe we will have a different idea – I hope a better idea – of what is going on.”
Briatore has never been known as one to withhold his views, and of late he has been particularly outspoken on the prominent role played in the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) by his former right-hand man – and now seemingly sworn enemy – Ross Brawn, who he has suggested should be removed from his position as head of FOTA's technical committee [see separate story – click here
]. Now, however, he appears to have had a change of heart, stressing the importance of FOTA working well together in its own entity – and working well together with the FIA – as F1 strives to dramatically cut its costs over the upcoming years.
“FOTA and the federation (FIA) are working together, this is absolutely sure,” the 59-year-old underlined. “It's not a question of demonstrating who has more power; the question is to work together to achieve the target. Sure, Max [Mosley – FIA President] is pushing very hard and we need to react, but we are talking about the complexity of the teams. Somebody in the three or four years is investing in different wind tunnels for example, somebody investing in cfd – you don't want to penalise somebody because they make different investments.
“FOTA is together, though. We have a chairman in Luca [di Montezemolo], and we have a process to go through with 70 per cent of the vote. It's very difficult to be unanimous, we know that, but we try very hard to have that at least with issues that are important and for the good of Formula 1. It's fundamental that the teams and Mr Mosley work together. I think the teams and the federation really need to work together, because in the end the rules determine the cost of your budget.
“When we started with KERS, nobody knew how much it would cost. Now we have KERS and maybe we will use it for another one or two races, if everything goes well. We need to be very, very careful when we change the rules to see the consequences, because every time you don't have stability it costs you. We need the teams and the federation to work together to achieve what everybody wants, to make Formula 1 a centre for profit not a centre for costs. This is possible – it's very possible to have this in the future.”