NOVEMBER 13, 2001
When getting in the papers is not such a good idea
Briatore currently finds himself in just such a position. This summer the scandal papers around Europe had a field day with stories about Briatore and his then girlfriend Naomi Campbell. The model accused Briatore of hitting her during one of their fights. Briatore denied it but there followed reports that Campbell had been paid off. Briatore denied this. Now a British newspaper is claiming that Campbell is suing Briatore, the writ being based on the same allegations. There is little interest in Briatore's non-racing activities in the F1 paddock unless it has an impact on the sport and there are beginning to be questions as to whether or not Renault is going to put up with its team director being dragged through the mud.
Teams in Formula 1 do not have time for such matters and, as Jaguar Racing proved last year with test driver Tomas Scheckter, embarrassing problems can be greeted with sudden dismissal. As an employee of Renault Sport, Briatore is vulnerable to such a reaction if the stories will not go away - although Renault bosses have always been very accommodating with Briatore, presumably because of their history together, dating back to the autumn of 1993 when Briatore bought the Ligier team from jailed owner Cyril de Rouvre in order to get Renault engines for Benetton.
Briatore's supporters within the Renault empire are not as young as they used to be. Renault Sport chairman Patrick Faure is 55 but Christian Contzen is 62 and approaching retirement.