by Russell Atkins

As winner of both the drivers' and constructors' crowns over the past two years, Renault has a lot to live up to in Formula One in 2007, especially as it has lost its talisman driver in Fernando Alonso. Team principal Flavio Briatore, though, is confident the R?gie is up to the task.

Although he is refusing to make any concrete prophecies before the season hits the ground in Melbourne in seven weeks' time, the colourful and outspoken Italian firmly believes drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen are capable of stepping up to the grade and leading the French outfit to further glory. Here he lets us into the secret of Renault's success...

Q:
Flavio, Renault has won both world titles for the past two years in succession. How strong are the team's chances of making that three this year, and how tough is it going to be?

Flavio Briatore:
When you are the world champions everybody attacks you because everybody believes you are the best. As far as I'm concerned it's the whole team that makes it happen. I remember every time we've lost somebody, everyone says 'Oh my God!' It was like that when we lost (Mike) Gascoyne, but in reality it's all down to the team. This year at Renault everybody wants to stay. They want to stay at the winning team where they can still have fun. Our package is fantastic.

I'm sure Renault will be a protagonist this year, but how good we are will depend on the competition as well. Every year I refuse to make predictions - we will see in Australia where we really are. I'm happy because over the past six years we have done an incredible job. We arrived in Formula One in 2001 and since that time have already won four championships. Everybody talks about experience but experience means nothing. For this I have a lot of confidence in Heikki - why should a young guy not win a race? Fernando won with us in Hungary in 2003, and Schumi at Spa in 1992. If a new guy has the talent why not bring him in? If you gave me a list of drivers, after Fernando Heikki is the one I would want to have.

Q:
So you would say the departure of Fernando has not made that much of a difference to the team?

FB:
No, absolutely not. Renault is not a one-man band - it's not just one player that makes a difference.

Q:
Staying with the drivers, Giancarlo seemed to struggle a little bit against Fernando over the past couple of years. What differences have you noticed in him since Fernando left? Do you think Giancarlo can step up to the role of team leader now?

FB:
I don't know. I don't sell hope, I sell reality. Let's see in Australia. I think the team is solid. I know what I believe.

Q:
It may be Heikki's first season in 2007 but he does have a lot of testing miles under his belt. Do you have any hopes or expectations for what he can achieve this year?

FB:
To win a race. If he has the car why not? He is the new guard and he has a good chance.

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