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FEBRUARY 2, 2005

The future of Flavio Briatore

Renault's managing-director Flavio Briatore had the Formula 1 press corps eating out of his hand as usual at the Renault F1 launch in Monte Carlo and they all left convinced that he might decide not to stay when his contract with Renault runs out at the end of the year. This rather depends on whether Renault will offer him a new contract rather than being something that he will decide upon. Nonetheless Briatore says that he has "plenty of time to decide".

Much will depend on whether or not Renault's new chairman Carlos Ghosn decides whether or not Briatore fits the bill. The results that the team achieves will obviously be important although Briatore is bound to have the support of his constant supporter Patrick Faure, the Renault F1 chairman. However if things do not go well, there are no guarantees that Faure will still be around as Renault recently shuffled him out of a powerful position and left him with nothing to do except F1. There may also be the question of whether or not Ghosn thinks that Briatore fits the image of what he imagines a Renault manager to be.

At the beginning of the Renault adventure in F1 in the 1970s, the team boss was former driver Gerard Larrousse. The team was closed in 1984 and Larrousse departed to set up his own F1 team (which later went bankrupt). After that Renault Sport was run by a Renault executive called Gerard Toth who decided to expand the customer engine supply to four teams but only gave Renault the money for three of the deals. This led to some discussions with France's law enforcement agencies and Toth was not seen again. There followed two other Renault functionaries Bernard Casin (1985-1991) and Christian Contzen (1992-2002) before engineer Jean-Jacques His took over for a year before Faure decided to give the job to Briatore.