True to a point… but what are the key elements when it comes to creating a car that gives one team an edge over its adversaries? There is no single magic ingredient — were that the case, every team would buy it. Rather, it’s a question of creating an effective team unit, where egos are kept in check and everybody, from those on the factory floor to those behind the wheel, collaborates effectively in pursuit of a common goal.
Unlike some of his peers, Renault F1 Team managing director Flavio Briatore did not cut his teeth on motorsport’s nursery slopes — while others were fiddling with gear ratios he was developing acute business skills in the retail trade and admits he can’t necessarily tell the difference between an oil filter and a coffee filter. He does, however, understand how to assemble a winning team.
In the mid-1990s he was at the helm as Benetton evolved from a Formula One front-runner into a world title winner. And he has been the driving force since Renault bought out the Benetton team in 2001, prior to making a full- time F1 return the following season. Under Briatore, Renault began winning races in 2003 and captured back-to-back double world titles in 2005 and 2006.
“If you come in from the outside, you see things other people don’t,” he says. “A Formula One team is like any other company. You need the right structure and the right product. That product is the car and the engine, but I don’t think the product makes any difference if you are managing the company well. Success is about people and I think we are a human team. We do a job but we are not pretentious.
“There is not one person that makes the company do well, or do badly. A team has a heart and when those people understand their objective, and they are in the right structure, then they work well. A driver is the last act in the play, because he interprets and delivers everybody else’s work on the track.”
The effectiveness of Briatore’s methods can be gauged from the fact that, in an industry where money supposedly buys success, Renault is thought to lie only fifth in the spending stakes.
“Efficiency is the key,” says Briatore. “We know you have to prioritise and make the right decisions. If you have an unlimited budget, it can be like going into a restaurant where the menu is fantastic. So you have a bit of that, of bit of this, and end up with nothing. The way we work is like going shopping. You know what you want for dinner, so you buy the ingredients and get the result you want. You have made decisions and your effort is efficient.
“We are a good investment for sponsors: we spend less, which means we ask for less money than our competitors — but we are winning. In any business, that relationship makes sense.”