Flavio Briatore has brushed aside claims that Nelsinho Piquet was sacked by Renault due to a breakdown in relations between the pair – insisting the decision was based 'only on results'.
With rumours having swirled around the grand prix paddock for months, matters finally came to a head earlier this month when Piquet pre-empted his dismissal by announcing the split himself, accusing Briatore of being his 'executioner' and a man 'with no friends', who 'thinks only about money' and 'doesn't understand s**t about F1' [see separate story – click here
], and describing his stint at Renault as 'the worst period of my career'.
In the ensuing vitriolic war of words, Briatore subsequently hit back in stringently denying his former driver's contention that he was never treated equally within the team and arguing: “When a driver lacks results, he opens the book of excuses and begins. The fault is the weather, a spectator's sunglasses, a spin on the straight, this and that...”
With a new driver in the R29 for the European Grand Prix in Valencia this weekend in the shape of GP2 Series graduate Romain Grosjean, the famously outspoken Italian re-iterated his assertion that the sole factor in Piquet's departure was a lack of on-track results.
The young Brazilian had revealed that his contract stipulated he score 40 per cent of the points total of double F1 World Champion team-mate Fernando Alonso by mid-season in order to hang onto his drive, something he suggested he was never given the equipment to do. The 24-year-old failed to register so much as a single marker form ten starts, and out-qualified Alonso but once.
“For me it is only performance,” Briatore stressed, whilst refusing to comment upon whether he had any drivers under contract for next year already – remarking only that it is a 'work in progress' and quipping that 'we are just waiting for McLaren to line up their drivers and after we will decide what we're doing' – amidst continuous rumours that Alonso is Ferrari-bound in 2010.
“It was not a question of liking somebody or not liking somebody. The performance of Nelsinho was not what we expected. At the end of 2008 Nelson had three or four races that were good and there was no reason to change, but it was not only me – it was everybody that was disappointed about the 2009 results.
“It is only the result. What happens in this business is that people judge you on the result; everybody is very aware that the result is the fundamental, and we were not happy at all with the results. In the meantime, the fact that we didn't have any time to test a young driver, to see how good Romain is, there was only one way [which was] to put him in the car for the last seven races.
“It is a very strange situation at the moment in Formula 1. For a young driver it is very difficult now. We don't know how good the young drivers are as they don't have any mileage in testing, and this is something [on which] we have to work with FOTA (the Formula One Teams' Association) to put right. If not, it is very difficult for anybody to arrive in Formula 1. The only way to test is to put the driver in the car now.