Flavio Briatore has admitted that his Renault team is paying the price for pushing its development to the end of 2006 in an effort to ensure that it took both world championship titles.

Asked whether he was happier with performances since Monaco - when he was again critical of Heikki Kovalainen - Briatore insisted that he did not have a problem with the young Finn, who has since gone on to score in both 'flyaway' races, but that the entire team was suffering for being late with the R27.

"Our problem is not with Heikki, our problem is the car," he sighed, "We are late, and we are not happy because, this year, we have not done the job properly. This is our problem.

"We developed the 2006 car to the end for obvious reasons, and now we are late. This winter we did the normal job which Renault does and now... In this job, if you make a mistake, you pay - and now we are paying."

Kovalainen's performances, in particular, have suggested that the team is making progress with its 2007 car, but Friday free practice at Magny-Cours caused more than a few observers to choke back the plaudits - wrongly, according to Briatore.

"On Fridays, everybody has different strategies," he reminded, "We are quite happy. If you see the numbers, we are not very good, but really we have some fuel [in the car] and we are quite happy. We have recovered a little bit in respect to the beginning of the season.

"We are recovering, that's for sure, and I hope we are competitive here. But 'competitive' means being behind Ferrari and McLaren. Our fight is with BMW. This is what we are doing. We try to have something new at every race because now, finally, something is happening at the factory and we believe we are in good shape, maybe after Silverstone. But really it's the normal process. When you're late with these pieces, it's very difficult to catch up because everybody is so good and everybody's improving."

Figuring that McLaren and Ferrari will remain out of reach to the end of the campaign, Briatore has his sights set firmly on overhauling Mario Theissen's BMW Sauber operation for third spot in the pecking order.

"The goal in the championship is quite easy, I think," he admitted, "It's very difficult to achieve, but it's easy [to say] - to finish third in the constructors' championship. We are not dreaming. McLaren and Ferrari are stronger than us this year, but we need to make sure we finish in the first three."

 

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