Flavio Briatore has denied that he is to step down from his position as Renault F1 managing director within the next two years - and insisted that, despite speculation to the contrary, Renault is not the team most in danger of following Honda's lead in making a rapid exit from the top flight.

It was reported last month that Briatore would relinquish his role at the end of the 2010 Formula 1 campaign [see separate story - click here], and with repeated question marks over his health in recent years, few were genuinely surprised by the revelation.

Not only has the Italian now claimed that he never made any such assertion, however, but he is adamant that he intends to remain a key part of the top flight over the coming years, as the sport attempts to manage the current economic 'crisis' and come out of it the other side even stronger.

"My plan is - well I don't know really - but I never said that to the Italian newspapers," Briatore is quoted as having told The Sun on suggestions that he would stop 'in two years'. "We are living in a very crucial moment in F1. I believe with this crisis we have something that makes everybody tick, and what I want is to make sure we give F1 the possibility to survive this crisis - and to change the business.

"I think that we have a responsibility to the people working for us to give them a future. We have never had a moment like this in history, and I want to be part of this change in F1. This is what I want to do, whatever it takes. It is a unique opportunity. After that we will see."

Moreover, the 58-year-old is confident that with the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, FIA President Max Mosley and the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) all whole-heartedly committed to the goal of significantly cutting costs in the uppermost echelon, F1's future can be saved - and he claimed that if anyone is in danger of joining Honda on the grand prix scrap heap, it is not Renault.

At the launch of the R?gie's new 2009 R29 challenger in Portugal earlier this week, the French concern's president Bernard Rey insisted that the manufacturer is fully behind the F1 cause - despite falling car sales as a result of the global credit crunch and an overall CEO in the shape of Carlos Ghosn who has no real interest in the sport.

"We as a team work very well together with FOTA, Max and Bernie," Briatore explained. "We have been talking about costs, and finally we are there and finally we are trying to structure F1 in a different way. I want to be a part of that. I hope it doesn't take ten years, but I hope as well that we all live up to our responsibilities and do the best possible.

"It is funny, because everybody was talking about Renault and in the meantime Honda stopped. I have never had any problems with the budget - I just don't want to spend money unnecessarily, it's as simple as that. Whatever money I need for the budget, I never had a problem.

"Nobody ever asked Honda, and [now] it's not here any more. I promise you someone else is in more difficulty than us. I have always done what I believed was good for the performance of the car. In 2007 I spent nothing because I knew that the car wasn't good enough to achieve anything, so why spend the money?

"I was always pushing for reducing costs, and suddenly everybody has my idea. If we'd started five years ago maybe Honda would still be in business. I have always said that it makes no sense to have a thousand people working to have two cars on the grid."

Indeed, Renault has in recent years achieved consistently strong results with a lower expenditure than most of its competitors, and in 2008 enjoyed a far better campaign than had been the case in 2007, racking up more points - 65 - than any of its rivals over the second half of the season.

Not only does that justify his approach, Briatore contends, but it also stands the Enstone-based outfit in good stead for what could be its first title push in three years in 2009 - with the raft of new technical and aerodynamic regulations that have been introduced looking to make it the most open and unpredictable playing field in years.

"Last year we amended the car during the season, but then towards the end we came back to our normal performance," underlined the man who jointly owns London football club Queens Park Rangers with Ecclestone. "We had a terrible year in 2007 after we changed the tyres. We went in the wrong direction and did not know why. It was just like building a sand castle from sand - it looks good, but in the end it collapses.

"Last year we came back with an understanding of what was going on and we improved dramatically during the season. We developed this new car with the same philosophy and the same principles, and I am sure that we've been doing a pretty good job.

"I don't know what will happen in two months (in the Australian Grand Prix), but we are working to achieve our target. We have been improving the engine as well, as we were losing power last year.

"I think our package looks honest and correct and that we will be fighting at the top as we did at the end of last season. The fact is that nobody can be sure if they'll be competitive this season. I believe that we will see three, four or five drivers eligible for the title. Fernando [Alonso, 2005 and 2006 F1 World Champion with Renault] was there at the end of last season, so I don't see why he should not be there.

"We have made some developments to the engine - nothing dramatic, [but] I think it will help close the gap to the top people. Probably Ferrari or McLaren will still be a bit better, but at least we were able to close the gap a bit. We are definitely ready for the first race in Melbourne."

Briatore had words of praise, finally, for Ron Dennis, who announced last week that he is to step down from the position of team principal that he has held at McLaren for the best part of three decades. The two have never enjoyed an easy relationship, but Briatore made it clear that he holds Dennis' achievements in the sport in high esteem.

"I have a great respect for what Ron Dennis has done in F1, honestly," he stressed. "Ninety per cent of the time we did not agree, as we obviously had a different view of F1, but I completely respect what Ron has done over the last 20 years for the sport.

"He was one of the great team owners. He built up an incredible company and I have a lot of respect for him, especially over the last seven months."