Q & A with Flavio Briatore

Q. Is this the biggest crisis you have been involved in in your whole life, because there are huge allegations at stake here - some of which have been aimed at your personally?

Q & A with Flavio Briatore

Flavio Briatore: I hope it is not against me personally, because the fact is that we put a plan today in the criminal court in Paris against the two Piquets. The fact that we put a plan for blackmail [action] against the two Piquets, means I think we are very confident that the truth will come out.

Q. But blackmail is a very serious charge to make against somebody?

FB: We have enough confidence, and our lawyers - myself and Renault - we have confidence about this happening.

Q. Can you confirm the nature of the blackmail - is it true that Piquet Sr. approached you that he would go to the FIA with evidence if you did not reward his son with a new contract?

FB: You know what. I don't think it is correct today to confirm what is the plan to be put against the Piquets. I think it is enough, I tell you, if myself and Renault decide to put the criminal plans to the two Piquets in the high court of Paris, I think that is enough. I don't want to comment why - or prove it. If we have done it, it is because we have enough confidence - about 80 percent of confidence.

Q. So why have you only started speaking publicly about the matter today, which is a fortnight since the allegations were first aired?

FB: When we have this inquisition from the FIA, they asked for us not to speak to anybody. We sent a statement that we are working with our solicitors, and lawyers, for all the evidence we have. It is not simple as Renault to put plans against blackmail for somebody. We had a meeting with Renault, we saw all the evidence we had and after we decide, after three or four days, we were ready. I think what we tried to do was to be ready with those plans.

We are sure that we have enough evidence to put the plans to the two Piquets in the criminal court. We also needed the authorisation as well of Renault, as they are not a little company. You need to go through there, maybe somebody was not there as they were travelling. We tried to do everything that was possible to achieve the solution. Now we have done it.

Q. Can we talk about some of the specifics? Nelson had said there was a meeting on the Sunday of Singapore with you and Pat Symonds where you discussed a deliberate safety car, that Pat took him to one side to show him where to crash on the circuit, and that after the race you said 'thank you' to him. Can you talk about that? Did he just make this all up?

FB: If, if, we put the plans for blackmail [action] against somebody then it is because I don't want to talk about the specifics. The fact that we put the criminal plans to the Piquets is because I don't want to go into the specifics as it is part of the World Motor Sport Council.

If you see my statement, and I don't think it is out already! I don't think it is out, but if you read my statement it is very clear that I answered all the questions. I don't know if it will be out tomorrow, I don't know if it is coming out! I don't think my statement will be leaked.

Q. Did a meeting take place?

FB: I have put everything into my statement.

Q. Did that meeting occur?

FB: I have answered all these questions. I was very clear in Spa. The FIA have my statement, and it's quite clear.

Q. Will this case go through the courts before the FIA WMSC meeting?

FB: I'm not sure about that. I don't know the speed of the criminal court.

Q. Are you confident you will win the case on September 21?

FB: It's not a question of confidence, it's a question of presenting our case, our defence. I feel really upset, really sad. What you have seen with the leak, everything was against Renault. Wherever it has come, it has caused big damage to Renault, and the members of Renault.

It's not just me and the drivers, it's the 500 to 600 people working for Renault, and making Renault think of not being part of this world any more.

Q. Why do you think Nelson Piquet crashed deliberately?

FB: Nelson has crashed 17 times.

Q. Why did you give him a drive for another year if he was so bad?

FB: I didn't have anybody else. I had an option to take Nelson after the 30th of September, and I didn't take it.

Q. What are your feelings towards Nelson and his father at the moment?

FB: I feel Nelsinho is a very spoiled guy. Every time he is racing it is because he owns the team as well. He is very fragile. We tried everything. What you want is only performance.

Q. But if he is so spoiled, why did you take him on as his manager?

FB: Nelson's father asked me to take him. It was quite simple, and he had had a good season in GP2. Him and Hamilton were pretty much together.

If you look at his first year, he was second in Germany, and he was all right in his first year. But I know only in Brazil, that Fernando was ready for us because we were still negotiating between Ferrari, etc, etc. I had in mind to put Romain in the car, but I believed he was too young. This is no secret.

In 2008 Nelson was making 1.5 million dollars a year. I renewed the contract at one million. I put the clause in the contract that if he is not performing he would be out in Germany. If somebody had done me a favour I would have done something different.

Q. During these difficult times for the team, has there been any moment when you have thought about resigning?

FB: We already had a difficult time after the race in Budapest. We didn't believe it was fair what the stewards did to us because it was a normal accident. It happens all the time.

So what happened in Budapest was really hard for us. We wouldn't have let the driver go if the tyre was not on properly. To be disqualified for the race in Spain, there was a lot of bad press for Renault. It was already very hard for Renault. We spent all of August preparing to defend ourselves for the appeal. We won the appeal, but it was very unfair what happened to Renault.

Q. Have you ever heard of a team issuing an instruction to a driver to crash?

FB: No. Never. Fernando only won the race because Massa had a problem, Kubica had a problem. There were six or seven problems.

I think Barrichello stopped in the same place as Piquet. What is possible on lap 14, with 40 laps to go, to determine somebody winning the race. There was another pit stop, another safety car. On lap 14, how is it possible to know what is going to happen? What is possible that on lap 14 you know what is going on?.

Q. The stakes here are very high though, aren't they. You could be banned from F1 because of this?

FB: You know what, I don't need to look for a new job. I am pretty much happy for what I am and I'm not looking for a salary.

Q. But you've got big ambitions in F1?

FB: I don't think so that I have that big ambitions. What I decide to do in Formula 1 is try with FOTA to put straight Formula 1 and make sure everything is clear, everything is correct. The deal that we signed with FOTA...

Q. Are you worried that they might throw you out?

FB: This is not happening....I don't want to do any comment about that because let's see what happens. I think you see my statement. I know already what the judgement of the stewards in this situation that we have already, what is my position.

Q. How much is bad press damaging the reputation of Renault and affecting the team going forward?

FB: The bad press I think was completely unfair - some leaks in the press to accuse somebody before they had the possibility to defend themselves. I think this is really not honest, this is really damaging and this really takes the sport in dispute [sic]. We probably don't know where it's coming from, but this takes the sport in dispute [sic] because at the moment it is the accusation about Renault with no possibility for us to defend ourselves, because we respect our word to the FIA.

We don't want to do any comment and all the comment is around you guys, seeing what is leaked in the press. I don't want to put any comment. I just put, this is making damage for Renault and puts the image of Formula 1 and the sport in dispute [sic].

All these things, if there is an allegation then you go to the World Council and you discuss in the World Council. You don't need to discuss in front of the public opinion and put 500 people working for the team in this kind of danger.

Q. Do you think someone is trying to discredit you?

FB: You know what? Whatever happens, if someone goes against the rules, they go against the rules. If I tell you to go rob a bank - afterwards, you decide whether to rob the bank or not. I don't feel I have any responsibility, and we don't feel we have done absolutely anything [wrong]. In the case of Piquet we go to the World Council. But the fact already that we have put a criminal plan to Piquet is because we have enough confidence to be successful - the team and myself.

Q & A with Jenson Button
Previous article

Q & A with Jenson Button

Next article

Italy Friday quotes: Ferrari

Italy Friday quotes: Ferrari
Load comments
The lessons F1 can take from the Masi "souk" deal criticisms Plus

The lessons F1 can take from the Masi "souk" deal criticisms

As Formula 1 heads to its Abu Dhabi season finale, the FIA and race director Michael Masi are under increased scrutiny, with radio messages broadcast during last weekend's race prompting discussion and controversy. But what can they learn from the Saudi Arabia debacle?

Why thrilling Jeddah F1 circuit needs to be safer Plus

Why thrilling Jeddah F1 circuit needs to be safer

OPINION: Saudi Arabia's new F1 circuit delivered a memorable first event, although not necessarily for all the right reasons. In the wake of the chaotic race, drivers voiced their concerns about the track but small changes could make significant improvements ahead of a return in four months

The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain Plus

The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain

From ranking as one of the most impressive new teams to join the Formula 1 grid, Haas’s stock has plummeted along with its on-track performances over the past two seasons. Everything now hangs on whether its reforged alliance with Ferrari can deliver a better car – and whether its rookie drivers can set aside their quarrels. OLEG KARPOV asks if any of these goals are achievable…

Formula 1
Dec 8, 2021
The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race Plus

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race

OPINION: Max Verstappen has made the 2021 Formula 1 championship. He’s taken the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes squad and its dominant champion, produced driving displays few can match. But he’s been on a controversial course too, and finally crossed a particular line in Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 7, 2021
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Plus

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Plus

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes Plus

How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2021