Analysis: Briatore Celebrates 2nd Double

Flavio Briatore stood on the Chinese Grand Prix podium on Sunday with sodden hair and champagne dripping down his shoulders

Analysis: Briatore Celebrates 2nd Double

The Renault team boss, more familiar outside Formula One for his appearances in celebrity magazines with a supermodel on his arm, looked like a man who had won the lottery for a second time.

In a sense he had, with Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Renault pulling off a Drivers' and Constructors' Championship double 10 years after Briatore achieved a similar feat with Michael Schumacher and Benetton.

Few enough team bosses have won one title, let alone two with different teams.

Luck, however, plays little part in the Italian's extraordinary success.

Briatore has minimal mechanical know-how, describing himself as a 'T-shirt seller' when he arrived in Formula One with Benetton, and little interest in what lies under the car's heavily-sponsored outer skin.

But the playboy, for all his exclusive nightclubs, yacht and luxury 'Lion in the Sun' Kenyan retreat, has proved yet again that he has the political skills and business acumen to deliver the goods.

As Williams' Australian Mark Webber, another promising driver managed by Briatore, puts it: "Flavio, he has the bloody crystal ball...he's so bloody sharp, he knows. He has a great bullshit meter."

Wheeler-Dealer

Briatore snapped up Schumacher after he had done just one race with Eddie Jordan's team in 1991 before the Irish entrepreneur could lock him into a contract. Then he signed up Alonso before others were aware of the then-teenager's potential.

"I am very pleased for Flavio," said Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne, who previously occupied that role at Renault under the 55-year-old Briatore.

"He is a great guy to work for, very flamboyant but you have to take your hat off to him. He deserves his success.

"Flavio understands business and he understands how to motivate people," said Gascoyne.

"He understands the business of Formula One, he's a wheeler-dealer -- and a lot of people are in this pit lane - but Flavio is good at it. He built the team, he went out and got people," said Gascoyne. "He's not just all mouth."

When Briatore opens his mouth, in English at any rate, what often comes out is a husky rush of words that makes sense in an impressionistic sort of way.

Formula One, the Italian once said, is "just cars racing on a Sunday and grid girls". Yet there is no doubting his passion for the show.

When Alonso won the title in Brazil, Briatore slipped away from the pit wall and did not join in the usual post-race celebrations.

Instead, he sat alone in his office considering what he had achieved, before heading for the airport to address the factories in France and England.

"I don't know what happened, the emotion. Like Fernando said before, he was thinking about what happened in 2005. I was thinking about what happened in my 15 years of Formula One. I think I needed some privacy," Briatore said later.

"Flavio is very much the essence of our team and typifies a lot of it," said Renault's head of engineering Pat Symonds on Sunday. "We are good at handling change and part of that is because we are lateral thinkers.

"And if you want to find a lateral thinker in this paddock, where do you look? It's Flavio. He instils that sort of ethos in everyone," added Symonds, who was also at Benetton in 1995.

"I've stuck with Flavio for a long while and it's not because I'm unemployable anywhere else," said the Briton. "It's because I really have a lot of respect for him and what he's done for the team."

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Author Alan Baldwin
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