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F1 NEWS 

Briatore to take back seat in 2008

Renault team boss Flavio Briatore says he will take a back seat in the running of the French squad after the 2007 season.

Briatore, 56, this week renewed his contract with Renault for 2007 and 2008 after months of speculation about his future.

The Italian, who has been at the helm since 2000, says he plans to reduce his involvement in the running of the team after next year.

"I was pushed to carry on for two reasons. First, the fact that Renault's new president (Carlos) Ghosn is fully behind the F1 project. Second, the team will lose (Fernando)Alonso so I preferred to give continuity to the work," Briatore told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But in 2008 I will delegate my appointment to someone else and I will stay away from the spotlights."

As well as confirming Briatore, Renault announced this week that Finn Heikki Kovalainen will replace world champion Fernando Alonso at the team next year. Kovalainen, a test driver this season, will race alongside Italian Giancarlo Fisichella.

Briatore reckons that the line-up will allow Renault to fight for the title, despite Fisichella's struggles alongside Alonso in the past two seasons.

"With a good car, we'll be able to compete for the title with both Giancarlo and Heikki," Briatore added. "Fisichella, without the influence of Alonso, will go faster. Kovalainen is extremely quick and makes few mistakes.

"I don't believe in the experience argument, because if we had a competitive car, Alonso would have won the title in 2003 already."

Alonso will move to McLaren next season in a surprising decision announced at the end of last year.

Briatore, who manages the Spanish driver, says Alonso did not feel valued at Renault when he made his decision.

"When Fernando decided last winter, Renault was changing president and there were no guarantees on the future," he said. "Alonso wasn't feeling valued properly so he accepted a proposal. I don't step in over the choices of the drivers I manage: I only take care of their contracts and sponsors.

"Last year I wanted to take Webber, who's mine, to Renault; he preferred to link up with Williams and made a mistake. But Alonso stays tied with me until 2012."

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