Flavio speaks, and proves why F1 needs him

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If you’ve forgotten why having Flavio Briatore in Formula 1 was important and fun, prepare to be reminded.

What’s particularly amazing is that the reminder is coming via the official Formula 1 site. His ban apparently doesn’t include the Interwebs. Even more amazing: Flavio doesn’t seem to hold back on his opinions about the sport. But would you expect him to do so?

Here are some highlights:

Q: Are you missing Formula One racing? There are quite a few people who say that without Flavio we’ve lost something…
FB: There are really people who miss me? Nice! I do like to remember that time. Formula One was a big part of my life and some people have grown dear to me. Really! You look so unbelieving. But now I watch the races like every normal spectator, when I’m at a track, but mostly I watch on TV.

Q: What do you see?
FB: Races are always spectacular when something extraordinary happens. For example, when it starts to rain. Then things take off. If the ‘extraordinary’ is missing then it’s mostly a holding position from the start to the chequered flag. Very often people in the paddock seem to forget that it’s only the fight of the drivers for positions that draws the crowds – and not the work of the engineers. That doesn’t knock anybody’s socks off. Fans are not interested in the fact that it takes 600 people and $200 million to get a reasonable car on the grid. They want to see their heroes fighting each other. Oh well…

Q: There have been rumours connecting you to Pirelli, who will be the sole tyre supplier from 2011 onwards. They say that you have orchestrated the deal and will come back as Pirelli’s Formula One boss…
FB: That’s b*llsh*t! (Laughs) But who cares about tyres? Whether they are Pirelli or Bridgestone. What people want to hear about are stories about the drivers, stories about Ferrari. That is what the people want.

Is it just me, or did Flavio just lay out most of F1’s problems in a matter of 200 words or fewer? I suspect some of us might quibble with his dismissal of the engineering side of the sport, but… would you argue with much else?

Also… if there are rumors connecting him to Pirelli, I think we can put those to rest, huh? That last answer isn’t the way to nail an interview!

Flavio goes on to talk about Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, how both are worthy champions, what Alonso has brought to Ferrari and his impression that Sebastian Vettel is “too thoughtful and not relaxed enough,” although he says eventually Vettel will win a title. But I promised highlights:

Q: So you understand why Ferrari gave in to his demand in Hockenheim…
FB: Honestly, this team order regulation is completely crackbrained. This rule was implemented because of what Ferrari did in Austria in 2002. And that was a completely insane action back then because Michael in effect had already won the title. But what happened in Hockenheim was something completely different. Fernando can become champion, Massa cannot. So it’s logical to make sure that Fernando gets the maximum points possible in a race because he is the spearhead of Ferrari. Everybody would have done the same in this situation. On top of that whole discussion, this rule cannot be controlled if it’s cleverly bypassed. A rule that cannot be controlled shouldn’t exist.

Q: What’s your opinion on Schumacher’s comeback with Mercedes? You criticised his move right at the beginning…
FB: I stick to what I said. I think when he signed the contract he honestly believed that it was the right decision. The same way I think that he already knew that it was a mistake at the first serious test. Then he awoke to the fact of how alarmingly fast these youngsters are today. At 41, you simply cannot keep up with Rosberg and all the other guys.

I’d say Flavio’s speaking truth to power except that Flavio is power!

Finally, the question: Will he back?

Q: Will you come back to Formula One racing?
FB: Hardly. I have won seven titles with different teams. I want to have fun with what I’m doing – that is my motivation and not the need for a job. At the moment I wouldn’t have fun in Formula One. At the moment I am happy with what I am doing – being a dad, husband, and taking care of my investments.

Let us hope he is just being coy because from just this quick Q and A, he shows he has a whole host of ideas on how F1 could be promoted better, its drivers (as heroes!) highlighted and the sport made more interesting for fans — and I think without losing what makes F1 special.

Now, I know the F1 site has Flavio in this interview because of the timing with the Singapore Grand Prix, which is pretty gutsy, if you think about it. But is it possible not to read into it that Flavio will be back? He talks especially nice about Ferrari. I wonder if he’s trying to smooth the waters?

I hope he is.

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