In the Pitlane: What if Flavio had taken over?

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So, it has recently been announced that Flavio Briatore is starting a political party called Il Movimento del Fare which translates freely into ‘The party for the doers.’ For Briatore to move into the world of Italian politics is no surprise given his skill set and ego. With the rise of populist leaders and parties the timing could be spot on – time will tell.

But I can’t help thinking “what if?”

Flavio was kicked out of F1 after the disgraceful “crash gate” incident at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008. How different might Formula 1 be today and in the future if he had not crossed the line? No matter what you think of the flamboyant Briatore and his criminal past for fraud you can’t deny he brought some razzmatazz to the party.

Briatore is a clever and successful businessman in his own right and has unparalleled experience in Formula 1. This is a man who ran the Benetton and Renault F1 teams, who owned, or part-owned the Ligier and Minardi teams. He led the company Supertec, supplying Mecachrome – built Renault engines to the Williams and BAR teams.

Let’s not forget he is a very successful talent scout and driver manager finding one Fernando Alonso and managing Mark Webber, Jarno Trulli, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Heikki Kovalainen to name a few.

But probably the most important aspect was his relationship with all-time F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Expectation was that Ecclestone always had Briatore in mind as his natural successor. This was a man Ecclestone knew intimately having owned Queens Park Rangers football club together for three years.

Like Ecclestone, Briatore is a consummate deal maker and never wanted F1 run by committee or in the interest of big business, whether that was the car manufacturers or corporate sponsors. Briatore was an outspoken critic of F1 from as far back as 1994 when he bemoaned the lack of entertainment due to the focus on the technical side, something he said the fans did not want.

If Briatore had remained in F1 would he have taken over the mantle from Ecclestone and retained the involvement of the owners of F1, CVC capital who were always happy to let Ecclestone run the show for them as long as the money kept rolling in (which it did in bucket loads)? Could F1 have kept evolving under a charismatic, talented deal maker and showman to the benefit of everyone including the much-forgotten lifeblood of F1 the fans?

CVC decided to cash in when the going was good, and this may have been in part due to Ecclestone’s age and lack of heir apparent. CVC sold to Liberty Media the U.S giant in 2017 with Liberty stating it intended to make the cars more raceable and improve overtaking while putting the focus back on the driver. Liberty also wanted to bring “showbusiness” back into F1 as well as a strong presence in the digital age. All sounds like exactly what Briatore has been constantly saying for years.

The jury is out on Liberty Media but here is a worry: back in 2018 at the Mexico Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton was poised to take his fifth world title and the excitement was palpable, Liberty Media’s Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey was interviewed on the grid before the race and was unaware of how many titles Hamilton had won! This was a staggering confession and left you wondering how interested these guys are in F1 or are they just in it for the money? Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but could you ever imagine Briatore being in that position? No, you wouldn’t think so.

Note: Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com]
Copyright ©2020 Garry Sloan

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