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Why did Flavio Briatore visit Ferrari?
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Why did Flavio Briatore visit Ferrari?
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Jul 2010   |  5:09 pm GMT  |  142 comments

The Italian sporting media is all a flutter today with the news that Flavio Briatore recently visited Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters, toured the Gestione Sportiva with team principal Stefano Domenicali and went across to meet chairman Luca di Montezemolo.


Gazzetta dello Sport describes the visit as a “very great surprise” and speculates as to the motive for the visit. It happened four days ago, after the British Grand Prix, when Ferrari and the FIA were in a dispute about the sequence of events which led to Fernando Alonso’s penalty, which ruined his race.

Following the Singapore crash scandal last season, Briatore is now a free agent, no longer affiliated to the Renault F1 team. He managed to clear his name to a certain extent in the successful appeal against his lifetime ban from the FIA World Council.

However he is still under an order where he is not allowed to work in F1 until 2013. This is mainly on the team management side. He is allowed to duck and dive and he played a big role in bringing the Pirelli deal into F1.

There is talk in the F1 paddock that he is likely to start work with his old friend Bernie Ecclestone in the near future.

His position in the sport now is an interesting one, as he was one of the architects of the Formula One Teams Association and drove them towards the breakaway last summer. Although he is from the other end of the Italian political spectrum from Montezemolo and the two had a stormy relationship for many years, their work together on FOTA brought them closer together. Briatore was in charge of the commercial working group at FOTA and in that capacity was a kind of “shadow Bernie”.

But if Briatore does now work alongside Ecclestone in some capacity which does not violate his sentence, he will be in a poacher turned gamekeeper role in the negotiations over the 2013 Concorde Agreement, one with extensive insights into FOTA’s strategy and it may be that Montezemolo wanted to look him in the eyes and ask him his intentions.

We are about to enter into an interesting period when the teams are shaping up to demand a much higher share of the commercial revenues of the sport in the next Concorde Agreement. There are all sorts of theories about what Montezemolo personally wants to get from the negotiations. Bernie Ecclestone and former FIA president Max Mosley are believed to have long considered FOTA a Trojan horse for Montezemolo.

Given the background here, it is unlikely that Briatore went to Maranello simply to have a coffee.

There are many possible reasons why he might have gone there; he is the boss of a company which still manages Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. He could have been there to sound out Montezemolo on behalf of Ecclestone.

However the converse is also possible and he could even have been talking about a role in a future F1 without Ecclestone and let’s not forget that Briatore and Montezemolo were all for FOTA starting an alternative racing series last season.

Indeed, the way that this story has emerged and knowing a little of how things work in Italy, there is a message here to someone from Montezemolo and Briatore. Looking at the provenance of the story and the writers involved, it is more likely to have come from Briatore than from Ferrari.

Whatever the political motive, it is unlikely that Briatore has any kind of return to racing in mind, as he said in May, “Seeing the way it is now, I don’t enjoy it anymore, the adrenaline to do it is not there anymore. This is something I don’t miss at all.”

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1

James,

I understand you cant say too much, but don’t you find it amazing that all this talk about the cheat scandal of Singapore and Piquet Senior comes out squeeky clean.We are talking about a guy here who would stop at nothing when he was racing(on and off the track), comes up with the Singapore idea so he can blackmail Flav with it later.Even went as far as ruining his sons career just so he could get one over on Flav(and probably because he could’t handle it if his son did better than him).

Anyway, have you heard any rumours of Piquet Snrs involvment in this from the start?

2

If you like it or not, Briatore is a very charismatic and smart person that is missing in the Formuila One that risks to transform in an old ladies tea club. I also do not believe that he really organized that “accident” of Piquet, perhaps he just talked loud in some kind of joke and Piquet took it litterally.

Briatore might be tired of all the F1 Circus but we will still hear very much about him. He, with his experience and knowledge and as an Italian, would be a positive and great influence with both, Ferrari and Pirelli, and the involved pilots, not easy to manage perhaps, but these kind of geniuses are not.

Luck to Briatore and his new Family!

3

I’ve read all of the comments, and to be honest my first thought is something to do with Mark Webber.

But I also wondered on the JV link with Durango, and how they could be used as a Junior team/second tier Ferrari powered team.

I will personally be very surprised if Massa is driving there next year (contract or no contract).

James,

I remember a few years back there were some old F1 driver races (I cant recall the name, but was it GP masters – remember seeing Nigel racing).

Wouldnt it be great to revive this at selected GPs (using GP2 cars or such like). I would love seeing a sprint race with ex F1 drivers.

What ever happened to that?

4

I agree. It would be fantastic. Old drivers and also old cars in a parade, like we had in Bahrain

5

I was reading that jenson won a legal battle with brawn to take his wdc winning rolling chassis (apparently it was agreement that brawn tried to stop).

Do you know if that is true?

6

I know that the chassis was a sticking point, not heard that it was sorted in court, but it could be

7

I think the main point is, where does it all end if these types are encouraged?

8

I haven’t seen this story anywhere else. Very intriguing. Kudos James for telling us about it.

9

Hi James,

Always enjoy reading your blog and the comments! Keep up the great work.

This question does not pertain to the article but I don’t have your email address so I thought to ask it on the open forum.

I’ve been to Montreal a few times to watch the race but I never seem to know when or where the drivers are doing their signing session. I’ve just purchased my tickets for 2011 and wanted to know if you know what day and time the drivers usually make themselves available for autographs?

Cheers.

Michael

10

Not at this stage. Sorry. Usually Thursday afternoon

11

I’ve got to say I’m surprised by some of the posters on here suggesting that we ‘need’ FB to liven things up. I would suggest that, for a change, in the time he’s been away most attention has been focused on the track.

I would accept the cause probably had more to do with the waning influence and eventual removal of another person but even so, what more are we after: more suggestions of manipulated results, more kangaroo courts, more accusations of favouritism and graft?

We had three seasons where off-track scandal, with material presented as fact was anything but, with decisions of those in authority called into question by everyone, with suggestions of bias, with behaviour beyond the pale ruined the spot. Since then we’ve had racing, we’ve had excitement, we’ve had fun.

I find it difficult to class FB as the icing on the cake.

I was at the F1 Forum and saw Whitmarsh, Clear and Corajanni sitting at the same table and joking with one another about matters which they viewed as serious. There was competition and respect and even, perhaps, a bit of trust.

And we want to throw FB into that mix? I, for one, don’t think so.

The arguments about the Singapore incident are still going on, with suggestions that it robbed Massa of the title. The thing is that we will never know. The fact that the race fix gave us a WDC decision on the last race, last lap, last corner is no defence. We were robbed.

I like Massa and it looks now as if he’ll never get another stab at the title.

Yeah, let’s bring ‘colourful characters’ back. Perhaps some other driver can be robbed of a potential WDC.

12

With respect to Massa, whom I like – if he doesn’t get another chance at a WDC it’s down to him.

I have to disagree with your overview of the team boss situation – who cares if they’re pally and jokey, bathed in a warm glow of mutual respect? I don’t follow F1 to see who’s friendly with whom – I want deadly rivalry! Sure – occasionally seeing friendliness can evoke an emotional response; witness for example the press conference where Irvine threw water on Schumacher and Hakkinen, which descended into hilarity… but for the most part I want human drama and competitive conflict, not chumminess.

So yes, I absolutely do want to see Flavio thrown into that mix! I mean it’s hardly like he wandered round the paddock in a Phantom of the Opera outfit hissing at everyone – he had plenty of admirers and allies; he just didn’t see the point of unnecessary bonhomie.

Bring him back!

13

OR, we could just as easy let F1 figure out how to pass more and then we would not need FB to liven the show up…one or the other is needed…..and it sure seems easier and quicker to let FB back then to get F1 to pass five times on every lap.

14

Whether or not Massa was robbed of the title is something that will always be debated but never resolved.

What can not be debated is the potential danger associated with Piquet’s crash.

15

Of course it can be debated! And what is ‘potential’ danger? How is the ‘potential’ danger of an alleged fixed crash any more potentially dangerous than any F1 incident? What’s the ‘potential’ danger of any of us crossing the road?!

It’s endlessly debatable frankly.

16

Flavio to replace Stefano next season?

17

I’m with HowardHughes – Bring back Flav. His different approach was instrumental in bringing the sport from the 90’s to where it is today commercially. The man has vision.

I don’t condone his part in Singaporegate which will be a stain forever on his legacy, but it is amazing how people lose sight that Piquet was the main culprit. He was in total control of that car and he CHOSE to do what he did.

18

F1 needs Character not characters (e.g., briatore).

19

I fully agree!

20

I think it’s disgusting he’s allowed anywhere near F1.

21

Well with respect he’s done a helluva lot more than any of us to contribute to this sport you suddenly feel qualified to ban him from.

22

Looks like personalities are bigger than the sport, F1 has thrived without him he isn’t needed.

23

One can equally argue F1 has similarly thrived without Schumacher, or indeed without Senna, Prost, Hunt, Lauda, Mansell, Chapman all the way back to Dick Seaman… F1 thrives; so what? That’s a given, like football thriving without Pele or Best. It doesn’t mean the subject didn’t have a truckload to contribute…

24

Hi James, couldn’t find a contact form, but you haven’t crossed out the British GP from the list of races this year!

You could thank me by inviting me along to a GP 😉

25

So where does Gerhard Berger fit into all of this?

Or did he turn down the job offer?

26

Given that we live in the Internet age, somehow I doubt that the visit was any kind of a ‘sounding out’ session, by either man. I believe that if people like these meet, it is because they want to be seen to meet.

27

Pardon my ignorance but it seems to me that FOTA have got them over a barrel. All the concorde agreements expire on the same day. Why dont FOTA just run a propper tendering process for the running and broadcasting of F1?

They may not be able to call it F1 because bernie owns the rights to that but why should FOTA comprimise on anything?

In 2013 Bernie becomes irrelevant! as soon as the concorde agreements expire FOTA effectivly owns F1, lock, stock and barrel!

Peter

28

Bernie is far from irrelevant as he effectively controls the race track contracts. The majority are already signed to at least 2016 and by 2013 he’ll have two more long term signee’s on the books. Who knows what other ancillary things he controls as well!!

Besides Fota will crumble at the fist sign of ‘incentives’ for the small guys, Williams and maybe Ferrari.

29

Webber making a move? Maybe. The RBR PR machine just won’t let go. They and the FIA had to suppress the lower chassis weight thing because it makes Vettel look bad for last year and the sport look less fair overall when the driver weight / balance issue ends up being so big in laptime. Interesting to hear where the weight comes out specifically when it is ion effect the same tub (this one Vettel’s old one). But this is among the technical details that get a defacto media prohibition on them.

For mine though the Ferrari engine is one team short of what it needs to be under the new budget no.s and Jacques is short of team management skill so that story sounds more plausible.

Or an outlier, a straight driver swap but with an RB exit strategy for Torro Rosso to go under the wing of Ferrari (FIAT branded) as the junior team with Rossi also getting a seat? Doubt Webber has not got the exact RB seat nailed down in his contract so maybe the Ferrari seat rather than the TR seat.

And lastly has Ricciardo got Briatori? He is ready and waiting for a seat.

30

Why in the world was he not banned for life??? Race fixing has got to be the ultimate in bringing the sport into disrepute as they say.
What other sport would tolerate such behavior?
Fixing a race and endangering the lives of other drivers, flag marshals, fans, etc. can never be condoned or forgiven!! Ban him!!!!

Does the sport actually have any “repute” left to “dis”? lol

31

This is a somewhat sanctimonious perspective. No one was truly placed at risk. No one. And the only people who should be miffed at a position being altered via a crash are those who bet on the outcomes, and I don’t have a ton of time for that anyway…

32
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Howard Highes….that’s ridiculous.

That’s like saying it’s OK to steal something from someone who is wealthy because it’s a “victimless crime”…

Stealing is stealing and cheating is cheating.

Who knows what other hidden scams Flavio has been in over the years.

I hope that he doesn’t end up running Formula 1…we don’t need Bernie Ecclestone being replaced with a Bernie Madoff.

33
Midnight Toper

This is a somewhat narrow perspective. I think Felipe Massa & Ferrari in particular have every reason to be miffed, as do half the teams, their employees and respective fans.

34

I take issue with that, there is a difference between the situation being controlled and there being no risk. The reason there are no incidents when there are marshals on track is due to the high level of training and skill of everyone involved, it does not mean it is not a dangerous environment.

A knife juggler doesn’t avoid injury because knife juggling is safe, but because he is well trained at knife juggling. He is always at risk while he is doing it. And the same applies to the drivers and marshals when marshals are on track.

35

Hi James,

I had a crazy idea about this issue for months. I can see Flavio replacing Domenicali in Team Principal role for Ferrari, fulfilling the need of a “complete” team principal role for such a big team. Scuderia is having problems for a few years and the team needs a strong management. Flavio might be a good candidate because of having won titles and being Italian.

What can you say about this probability?

36

Could he actually have been scouting things out for Webber? A Webber/Massa swap, no idea if that would even be possible, would seem something that both teams might like: Alonso would have a confident fast partner to help him get points towards the constructors, and at RBR they’d have a experienced “proper #2” driver who wouldn’t be a threat to Vettel but would provide solid support.

37

very interesting time for flav to visit, all of the above suggestions could be possible, lets hope though that Webber is going to ferrari next year, maybe a driver swap? could you imagine ferrari with webbers rb knowledge, webber and vettel banging wheels in anger! vettel might get a taste of his own medicine?

38

Quite happily I’d never want to that man return to F1 after the truly shocking and disgusting events of Singapore 2008.

39

If, as James’ knowledge of international motorsport journalism suggests, the story was leaked by Briatore rather than Ferrari, the logical deduction is that Briatore is the orchestrator. His motive, presumably, has to be either self promotion or to destabilise someone or other.

I don’t think Webber is important enough (Red Bull would have no difficulty finding a competent replacement) and, in any case, his recent placatory comments suggest that Red Bull remains the estimable Aussie’s chosen berth. Besides, if he thinks young Vettel is a political problem I can’t see him fancying Alonso, with or without Santander support, as a team mate!

So, it’s either wider F1 politics, eg FOTA vs FOM (either pro or anti-Ecclestone, given Ferrari’s importance to F1 or any rival series), or publicity for himself or an organisation such as Villeneuve/Durango needing credibility to attract investment.

Love ’em or hate ’em, Briatore’s business acumen and Pat Fry’s racing nouse is a powerful combination, especially for a young team, but my gut instinct is manoevering on a broader scale as F1’s real estate comes up for grabs and possible sub-division in the run up to the next Concorde Agreement.

40

The comments about Mark Webber make sense (unless despite his placatory comments, he considers his relationship with RB is heading towards irretrievable breakdown).

41

You know it is over with him and RBR…only time now.

42

is it possible Ferrari may be using Durango and villnueve to get their extra cars??

Ferrari have been looking for 3 for a long time and may see italian Durango as a possible way to get 4 cars on the grid in a set up like red bull have with toro rosso? and with a ferrari backed project and ferrari design would massa be willing to be a second team driver with JV? its the only way i’d sign him into 2011!

43

That scenario would make perfect sense and would fit all the why who when questions of Briatores visit.

44

James,

What are your personal views on Briatore now?

Can there be enough water under the bridge to let Briatore near F1 in an official capacity again?

I still haven’t made my mind up; I can’t cast him as a hero or villain.

45

very big player in the last 20 years and he looks like he will play a role in what is likely to be one of the main turning points for the sport

46

Excellent stuff.

47

FOTA are preparing for what they should have done a couple of years ago. There going to prepare there own series and tell CVC, FIA and Bernie where to go. The product will be worthless overnight. The teams are getting screwed plain and simple whyc should the teams not collect more money. I would not be suprised if the top teams create a series all equal share. If there has ever a time to do it, it would be now, when the economy is flat and recovering.

F1 is dead and buried without the top teams. This is clear, the new teams have not contributed one thing to .

48

I think the visit of Briatore will have been to discuss some of that, although I’m just guessing…

But, like every time, it won’t be “serious” and in reality will be nothing more than a bargaining tool to get more out of CVC/Bernie and ratchet up the political and commercial stakes.

49

phil, have you ever seen Groundhog Day?

50

i dont think they would do that.. they are just going to ask bernie for a better deal.. if bernie says no then they find another promoter.. and thats it…

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