“This is the reason. With seven races to go I think it was good to give the opportunity to Romain. He did very well in GP2 last year. He is very talented, so let's see. Obviously when [Lewis] Hamilton arrived from GP2 to Formula 1 his performances were completely outstanding, and we hope with Romain we have the same situation. At least we are trying.”
Renault are also clearly trying on-track too, as the fastest lap time by Alonso – a staggering eight tenths of a second out of reach of what anybody else was able to manage – at the end of the opening practice day in Valencia proved. Whilst it was a fan-pleasing performance from the Oviedo native on home turf, however, Briatore was quick to quell talk of the lap time being merely showboating to the partisan supporters – as he evoked podiums and even the top step of the podium over the remainder of the 2009 campaign.
“Like everybody, I believe, we are improving the car,” the 59-year-old explained. “We already had a good car in Budapest. Unfortunately, it was not only the tyre we had a problem with, [but also] the fuel pump. We believe we are very close, but it's very tight and it depends if you're a little bit lucky or not. We try to do our best performance here in Spain, not only because Fernando is Spanish but because the car is good, you know?
“The driver is doing the performance because he has a good car, because if the car is no good, whatever country you are in, I think the performance is not possible. Our car is pretty much in good shape at the moment, and we hope to do well here.
“We had a big step at the last race, but unfortunately we had the [wheel problem] and it was not possible for us to have a good result. We are continuing every race to add a little bit – it is not a big step every race. We have another development at the next race just for Monza, and obviously after that we are thinking about the new car and we will push very hard for 2010.
“What we are trying to do is have a podium in the next two or three races. That is our goal for this year, and maybe a victory as well. We are trying very hard to improve the car and we believe the car is much better in the last six or seven races, but for some reason we have not had any result. It is a frustrating situation, especially for the people working in the factory and for everybody at Renault, for us, for the sponsors. This is what happened this year. We are trying every race to do something, but everybody is doing the same...”
Looking to the future, finally, Briatore expressed his exasperation that – in the wake of BMW's shock withdrawal announcement late last month – people are still questioning Renault's continued commitment to the cause, with some surmising that the Régie will be the next manufacturer to sprint for the exit door, possibly even at the end of 2009. He also re-iterated his belief that F1 needs to do more for its public, who he says have been treated pretty shabbily by the sport they love in recent years.
“I don't understand why this question is always put to Renault,” he railed against the 'quit' speculation. “Over the last five years, Renault is still racing and a lot of people are not anymore. There's no problem at all. From day one, we've never had this kind of discussion at Renault anyway. It has never happened. I don't know what will happen tomorrow. Normally we race until 2012. Why 2012? Renault wants to stay in Formula 1 for a long time. The Concorde Agreement is only signed until 2012, and then we will be looking for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“I believe the stopping of refuelling is not negative for the show. I believe it's positive as well, because it's more pleasure for the team to change tyres. Changing tyres takes between three and four seconds; now it's always seven or eight seconds because of the amount of fuel you put in the car takes that time.
“I also believe that in the last few months, few years, we have been working for stability but we never cared about the public, because in the end we never ever had a serious discussion [about how] to improve the racing. I think now is the time to sit together in FOTA to try and improve the racing. We need more energy, we need more fun, we need to change a lot.