Flavio Briatore’s risky gamble on Fernando Alonso may not pay off

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After leaving McLaren and returning to Renault, Fernando Alonso is a happy bunny now, right. Apparently not – in an interview with a Spanish publication he showed he was already thinking of moving on again:

I’m at Renault because I wanted to get back to winning, like in 2005 and 2006, if not this year then next year. But I have an option to leave so I can be in the best possible car, and it is clear Ferrari is one of the best.

Flavio Briatore has rushed in to stick up for Renault but it seems if the team don’t put up the goods the two times champion will indeed walk to Ferrari.

Briatore said:

At the moment we are in a very promising development run, because it would be completely unrealistic to think we can find those missing seconds to McLaren and Ferrari within days.

Alonso has confirmed what many suspected – that he was reluctant about returning to Renault and secured tough performance clauses from the team to allow him to break his two-year deal at the end of 2008 should they not prove good enough.

Perhaps his somewhat fortunate fourth place in Melbourne will prove decisive in that equation? Regardless, at Sepang he must have seen the writing on the wall – Renault are slower than Red Bull, the team they supply engines to.

Alonso has an exit strategy but for Briatore the stakes are higher. When Heikki Kovalainen said out loud that he didn’t want to be number two to Alonso in 2008, Briatore shipped him out of the team even though Renault had backed the Finn’s career for six years, to keep Alonso happy.

Give Alonso a half-decent car and he’ll wring the most out of it – but how long is it going to take Renault to give him a good enough car? That is Briatore’s dilemma.

Fernando Alonso biography
Flavio Briatore biography
Renault team information

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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50 comments on “Flavio Briatore’s risky gamble on Fernando Alonso may not pay off”

  1. Surprise surpise!

  2. I think it was big mistake to let Heikki go,that is what Briatore is going to look back on and regret.But,I am sure Heikki is MUCH better off where he is now.

    I think Massa will lose his seat to Fernando next year.Kimi and Fernando in the two Ferraris,the racing between those two would be incredible!I don’t think we would see anyone else get close to them though.

  3. Oh! The perspective of Alonso not winning another championship ever is very pleasant indeed.

    Now don’t be silly, last year Massa had a terrible first two races and then he was fighting for the championship. He’ll get back on form.
    Kimi won’t drive in Ferrari with Alonso alongside, he’ll be out that team before that happens.

  4. I don’t think Kimi would be bothered at all by Alonso’s occasional arrival… On the other hand, probably Alonso wouldn’t like to have such a competitive team mate… let’s wait and see!

    As for Briatore’s gamble, I think that, anyway, it’ll pay off… without Alonso it would be much worse, and, even if he stays only for 2008, he’ll already give a huge contribution to their car’s development…

  5. It is very strange that BBC has writen this. I have read that interview in the AS, and the highlights would have been this one if the Q&A was in that way.
    Instead he said it till But I have an option to leave so I can be in the best possible car, when I read I want to be in the best possible car, and asked about Ferrari the answer was of course everybody knows that Ferrari is one of the best cars.
    That does not mean he is joining Ferrari next year, and for sure the bit of I have an option to leave never has been said in public so far.

    As I´ve said, very strange to me.

  6. Alonso in a BMW could be interesting.

  7. I’m with Santiago, I’m quite surprising how the BBC has written the article in particular the title.  I also read the original on Sunday and it was consistent with all the interviews that Alonso has given since winter testing (its going to be hard to get into Q3, we won’t get podiums, I’m going to fight for every point but the reallity is the car is not competitive, the team is doing what it can etc..), which I’ve always assumed to be an attempt on his part to manage the expectations of his diehard fans (not whining which I guess is the preferred interpretation for many).
    The quote on Ferrari was an answer to a direct question from the reporter, it was not a case of Alonso stirring up trouble and putting pressure on Massa which seems to be how its been interpreted on the internets.
    As to him leaving at the end of the season, I think everybody knew that.
    The other thing that surprises me is why this is news or reportable now when its what he’s been saying it for some time. Far be it from me to be cynical, but is it an attempt to distract what could be perceived as a bad weekend for Hamilton by bringing out the bogeyman?

  8. I’m skeptical he will be going to Ferrari, simply because Ferrari is unlikely to let Raikkonen go, and there’s no way Raikkonen will agree to be a #2 to Alonso, and there’s no way Alonso will accept "equal status" to Raikkonen.

    So where’s that leave Alonso if Renault doesn’t do it for him?  McLaren? year right…
    BMW? They seem happy with what they have…
    Williams? Perhaps… if Rosberg moves to Ferrari…
    Red Bull? DC is getting slower by the year…
    Toyota? Looking stronger this year…
    Honda? They’re going the wrong way…

  9. If Alonso and Raikkonen are team-mates they will gift the championship to Hamilton. With the two of them stealing wins from each other, it will be easier for Lewis to rack up the wins.

  10. I agree that this possibilty an attempt by British Media to turn the attention from Lewis’ bad weekend to Alonso and Renault.  I don’t see Alonso going anywhere next year in regards to Ferrari, they have their drivers set, unless Massa just continues to screw it up, then his seat will be filled by someone else.   Even so I don’t think it will be filled by Alonso.

  11. OOops…. I think Arnet hasn’t seen last Ferrari’s coast to coast championships…. It was some kind of Schu – Ru -Schu – Schu – Schu – Ru …. etc etc etc… and I couldn`t see no serious competitor for driver’s championship because the most anyone could get was a 3rd place….. That would be the story with a Fred – Kimi lineup…. the rest fighting hard to be third…. really boring

  12. We get some crazy theories here sometimes but they’re usually offered as jokes. The idea that the ‘British media’ (by which I assume you mean the BBC) used this story to cover up Hamilton having a ‘bad weekend’ at Malaysia is just insane. It’s not as if BBC didn’t write about what happened to Hamilton.

    If you have any sources quoting Alonso saying both that he has an option to leave Renault and would like to drive for Ferrari I’d be interested to read them.

  13. It’s always good to hear a driver making some troublemaking noise, but seriously though, would any team put two world champions together?

    Has any team done that in the past?

    One would think that there is only enough head-butting room in a team for one world champion.

  14.  Scootin159  do not be that skeptical. I will post this only once and wont talk any more about this matter.
    Alonso does not care about equality, in terms of cars, but strategies. Tell me only one time you have heard about equallity from his mouth. He complained last season of being unfairly treated, he felt that was talked before the season was not applied later on. Althouh he never said literaly hamilton is treated as Nº1 from his body lenguage and silences looked like that. The only one who said Alonso demands Nº1 status was Ron Dennis, but, within the contex of too many lies and trying to save him and himself from the spying saga, it is difficult to believe. Nevertheless, Alonso cannot comment anything about that because of a silence clause for leaving Mclaren without penalty.

    He, on the other hand, has said that he would like to do his own strategy for the races, but in the context of the modern F1 that is almost impossible because of the way things go in this sport.

    Alonso knows he is fast but not the faster, and also that he is probably the stronger in strategies and setting up the cars for the races, that is where he wants to be, although his dreams are very difficult to go through.

    You may like or dislike the pilots, but I can tell you, if you want to be Nº1 in any sport you have to be a killer, and to be a very pretty chap in public (wich seems to be the Alonso´s case this year), specially in front of the media.

  15. The Gaurdian today http://sport.guardian.co.uk/formulaone2008/story/0,,2267946,00.html

    Alonso takes about clauses in his contract so he can walk to, for example, Ferrari.

  16. Gav D, I appreciate the link but I should have said I meant stories earlier than the current one!

    Santiago, Alonso on equality:

    [Ron Dennis] didn’t promise me anything. You are always hearing about that so called equality in the team, but tell me what you brag about and I’ll tell you what you are lacking.

    It’s impossible to have equality in a Formula One team, there’s always a better engine, a better lap to stop in, there’s always a better option.

    I’m not saying it’s not equality, because sometimes it’s one driver’s turn and other times it’s the other’s, but you always hear him talk about that or promising things, and it’s not like that.

    From Alonso continues attacks on McLaren and Hamilton

  17. Putting Alonso together with Kimi would look fearsome on paper, but once again, would he go to a team where his teammate was a world champion and regular race winner? Sure, the team is nearly always in the hunt, but I would still wonder how well he’d get along within the team if the title race came down to he and Kimi.

    Also, a great job by scootin on the one-line summaries of each team.

  18. So Keith? Did I say something different? The article linked to your comment is almost a copy and paste from the Times online, although taken from a press conference at the FIA.
    But you made it. I answered about this matter and wont do it again. For me last season is over. This one is gonna be much better.

  19. I think the biggest problem at Renault was letting Alonso happy… Having two competent and experienced F1 drivers allows a team to develop faster…

    Tell me what should Nelsinho do rather than learn about the car? i have nothing against him but i remember he always was talking about getting used to the car at tests, and he stills seems to struggle… he’s still learning…

    Kovi was the best option and they missed it… now here you have the consecuences…

  20. I think its funny how fans claim to know the inner feelings of drivers.
    How much do we really know about them?

  21. Vettel in a Ferrari, Alonso to Toro Rosso?
    No, wait, there won’t be a Toro Rosso for much longer.
    Unless I’ve got it wrong, of course.

  22. Nelsinho was put by the biggest sponsor of Renault this year. Was the deal. Money plus Nelsinho. That´s all. That´s F1.

  23. Keith,

    A quick search on Google brings up two articles in two different Spanish newspapers that aren’t As or Marca in which it is stated that Alonso can leave Renault after one year. Both date back to December 07.



    There seems to be a tendency to dismis reports in the Spanish press as completely untrustworthy which I don’t understand. They probably get it just about as right and as wrong as the press in other countries. In this case it looks like they got it right.

    I also made the comment about story being a cover up. I was sort of joking but what I do think is that the BBC article is written in such a way as to show Alonso in a bad light and distorts the spirit of the original spanish language report.

  24. I think Briatore knew what he is getting. I do not think having Alonso in Renault even if it is only for 2008 will them any harm. Alonso may not be my favourite driver but he is good. In the situation Renault are right now they need a driver with Alonso’s skills.

    The gamble that may not pay off was getting rid of Heikki Kovalainen … I understand that once Alonso was coming in Flavio was set to loose either Kovalainen or Piquet, but only time will tell if the choice he made was right one.

    As some people here have suggested, it was money doing the talking when it came to Piquet, and perhaps that extra cash was needed to pay for Alonso’s new contract (am only speculating).  Who knows.

    Right now, even without being able to read the original Spanish press I very much doubt, that Alonso would so openly state his desire to move to Ferrari as the BBC interpretation suggests….

  25. There have been some good battles between Alonso and Heidfeld,I don’t think he would like being paired with him any more than Kimi.But,in the Ferrari he has a better chance of more wins.

  26. When Heikki Kovalainen said out loud that he didn’t want to be number two to Alonso in 2008
    I never read/heard such a statement!  One of the primary reasons Hiekki was "let go" was coz Nelson Piquet had made clear statements in mid 2007 that NP Jr would only serve one year as the test driver.  With Alonso in the second seat there was clearly no place!

    His current statements were made when he was asked about Massa’s form and speculation that he would get the Brazillian’s seat.  There may be subtle hints in there that Alonso is interested in Ferrari but not to the level that he plans to leave Renault high and dry!

  27. Hamilton mania has turned BBC into a Tabloid!!

  28. To CS

    I agree with what you said. This has always been known(since about Jan this year, i think) that Alonso, he was on a 1 year contract which could have been extended. To give it so much coverage at this time, it does not make sense. Well but then again, it is for them to decide what they want to print.

    Speculation is indeed rife that Vettel or Alonso may get Massa’s seat, but that’s just that, a mere speculation so far. To be honest, all drivers want to win. All would want to be in a car that is the fastest and the winningest. Correct me if am wrong here. I think it is churlish, to perhaps give it more credence than it is worth.

  29. Heikki left because Piquet had the other seat sown up long ago and there was no room. Listen to the RenaultF1 podcast from Monza and tell me that’s not a man who knows full well he would be racing the following season.

  30. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    26th March 2008, 8:49

    i dont quite understand why alonso would want to join ferrari, he oaned all last year about being number 1 for maclaren ferrari wouldn’t ask kimi to play number 2 for alonso even if he hadnt won the championship last year, so it doesnt really make sense to me!

  31. Scott Joslin
    26th March 2008, 9:02

    I think we all know Alonso by now, he is always moaning about  something or another. It is interesting to see it has taken just 2 races before he is complaining about his current situation. Team player he is not -Premadonna yes! I just cannot see Alonso getting on with Ferrari. Alonso reminds me of Prost in his later part of his career and Ferrari soon shipped him out when he started to question the team and how they go about their business. If he did go that would be Alonso’s 4th team in 4 years hardly a reflection on a committed team player – more a spoilt brat!

  32. To Scott Joslin:
    Just a reminder, Ferrari did not win a championship for a few more years after Prost left. Also, the triad of Todt, Brawn and Schumacher did change the way Ferrari worked. They gave John Barnard the boot and shifted design team to Italy as well, under Rory. They integrated Ferrari as a team from Ferrari Design, Ferrari Engine, blah, blah. Prost was very very right. He won 4 world championships, i think i’d give him some credit.

    Again, all of these guys want to win. They want, as much as they need, the fastest car on the grid. Even Fangio switched teams and kept winning. He is still considered to be one of the best drivers ever.

    Alonso is only mentioning his views on the car and the season. This is also expectation management. He is just informing people(fans, he has some, it is not too hard to believe i’d think), that he is doing all he can, some(understatement of the year) improvement is required on the car to gain podiums/wins.

  33. Hey guys, do you have a link to the original version (in spanish).

  34. Who created the myth that Alonso’s success is Hamilton’s failure and vice versa – i see it on the internet all the time and wonder.

    Anyway, i quite fancy the prospect of seeing Hamilton walloping both Alonso and Kimi in Ferraris next year.

  35. Haas, Kovalainen was asked, "Is your feeling that if Alonso comes back to Renault, it’s better for you to be somewhere else?" and replied:

    Not necessarily, if the team can guarantee that we are both equal, it would be perfect to have Fernando. It’s difficult to say what he wants, and it’s not really my business. I’ve never been in a position where I can decide about my teammate, and honestly, if you want to be champion, you have to be able to handle anyone, you need to try to be better than anyone else. But you need to be in the same car as the other one, you need to have the same service from the team.

    That was in November and, as Don said, it may have been the case that he didn’t have any choice in the matter. But after the time and money Renault invested in Kovalainen’s career it strikes me as odd they would have decided very early on only to put him in the F1 team for a year.

  36. Good analysis Keith. Heikki was indeed a Renault protege and it was indeed surprising to see them let him go. However, as you said, they needed experience for car development(Alonso comes in) and they had sponsors backing up Piquet Jr. This i think cornered Renault to make a choice. Whether it was the right one, we’ll find out with time. Alonso, he is indeed proving his worth by muscling the car to higher than a deserved finish, based on the speed of the car. He is bringing speed to the team. Let’s see how much they give back to him.

  37. I am amazed by how much people underestimate Alonso. He is no Schumacher, obviously, but then again, there are not many Schumachers around. And think about how long Schumacher took to be champion again after leaving Benetton (Briatore + Renault). He did an excellent job at Renault in 2004-05-06, and he brought McLaren back to the top. Or is anyone trying to say that all that sudden leap in performance was the rookie’s job on the car?

  38. FLIG, i think what most people are saying is that it’s the WHOLE team’s work, not just Alonso’s or Hamilton’s.  So Alonso shouldn’t get greedy and claim all those 6 tenths.

  39. I think that Fernando is feeling that with those new guys around, the spotlight is really changing and try to bring it back to him again. This kind of declaration means: “Hellooooo, I´m heeeere, don’t forget me, I have 6 tenths in my pocket (LOL)…” It´s simple! The funniest thing in the interview is the question that motivated the answer: “Isn’t Ferrari the logic destiny? The best driver in the best car?” I wonder if the Finn press would make the same question to Kimi three years ago… And I wonder more if Kimi would answer in the same way, looking for a new job! So lets imagine Fernando in Ferrari: Felipe first pit spot in Sepang was 6 tenths slow than Kimi´s and the finn takes the lead after that. Can anyone imagine if this happens with Fernando in Ferrari? Poor Stefano… “The best driver in the best car….” Ok, let him go to Ferrari and we will see who is the REAL number one!

  40. Ok, it is the whole team’s merit, but it cannot be denied that he is one hell of a driver, one who knows how to set up a car very well also. It doesn’t matter what he says, or how much he complains. He races like hell. It’s like those people that say that Kimi should stop drinking so hard or saying things like he missed Pelé with Schumacher because he was "having a ****". I was a huge Alonso fan from the first day I saw him on the Minardi. I know am cheering for Kubica, but he’ll always have my admiration. Unfortunately for him and Kimi, the new generation is very powerful, and their days are counted. That’s probably why he is so desperate to drive a winning car again – maybe it will be too late when he finally manages to be in a title contention position again.

  41. Given the complexity of Vettel’s contractual situation with both Red Bull and BMW having a call on him, it is likely that this is nothing more than speculation.  Given the uncertainty of Alonso’s long-term contractual situation, it may well be that there is more to it.  I’d be amazed if Alonso’s management haven’t at least tested the waters with Ferrari as to the possibility of getting Fernando into one of the red cars.  I’d be equally amazed if Renault would be surprised by that.  At the end of the day, my reading of the situation at the end of last season is that Alonso genuinely believed he would be able to placate Ron enough to see out another year of his contract at McLaren before negotiating another deal for 2009, and turned up at the McLaren Technology Centre after the Brazillian Grand Prix expecting to be able to negotiate on those terms.  By all accounts, Ron totally swept the carpet from underneath his feet, and made it clear that he would not be driving a McLaren in 2008, leaving him with two options – to be held to the letter of his contract, and an embarassing legal mess, by having to sit out the season, or to go quietly, without making any further negative statements about the team, and find himself another drive.  By that time, of course, Ferrari was a closed shop, Toyota quickly counted themselves out of the running by claiming that they were not ready, Honda weren’t sufficiently competitive for him to consider, the Red Bull rumours turned out to be no more than rumours and the only team that were really knocking enthusiastically at his door were Renault, the team that he very publicly claimed weren’t supporting him at the climax of the 2006 championship.  In many ways, although it has been marketed as a joyful reunion, the Renault/Alonso relationship is nothing more than a marriage of convenience and much depended on the quality of the car that the team could provide him with.  This one will run and run I think.  Fernando seems to be doing nothing to pour water on the rumours and unless Massa can resurrect his season with some barnstorming performances over the next few races, this will all reach fever pitch as the European season gets underway and the ‘silly season’ officially kicks off.

  42. I wouldn´t say it better George. You only forgot that FA is paid a lot more than in McL. This is a sport of multimillionares, and money  is very important.

  43. I can’t find anything about Kovalainen saying that he himself wouldn’t accept No. 2 status to Alonso, but I have found something suggesting [http://formula1sport.net/formula-1/the-race-to-be-alonsos-renault-deputy/]Briatore thought Kovalainen would not be a good No. 2 to Alonso[/url]. That said, from what I can gather, Piquet Jr. was picked up because the Slim consortium that funded Alonso’s drive insisted on a Latin American driver in the other seat, and Piquet Jr. happened to be the fastest one available to Renault at the time.

    As for the Spanish press, I find them as variable as the British Press. El Mundo is pretty reliable, as is El Pais, while La Marca has given me such extremely dubious stories that I’ve dumped it in the same bin as The Sun, Bild and the sort of passer-by who thinks Michael Schumacher is still the current F1 champion.

  44. Well I think the first comment on this thread had it – surprised not – Alonso like all racers has a fairly big opnion of himself – they all do or they wouldn’t race – I have enjoyed some of his racing and when he clashed with michael it showed then he didn’t like to be second best – and good on him for that – but he will be in a ferrari/bmw(good option that) next year.

  45. Alonso is an idiot! A talented and crafty driver no doubt, but a loose lipped fool. IF he has an in with Ferrari, and it’s a "done deal" why would he shoot his mouth off about it now? It only embarrasses his future and current teams.

    He is undoubtedly plowing new ground HOPING he can catch a ride at Ferrari next year. Based on his contributions to Mac’s "troubles" last year and his comments this year Ferrari would be foolish indeed to bring him on board.

    And yes, I’ve just turned 180 degrees on the issue.

  46. George, I believe Alonso had openly dismissed Toyota before they counted themselves out of it. But I had felt Toyota would have been a better option for him, since with the restriction of some of the electronics in the cars, he would be better able to show off his skills as the cars would be relatively even in performance.

  47. "As"  just  was referring  to a  interview on Radio Cadena  Ser. Where the journalist asked him if he would like to go to Ferrari , FA answered "FE is one of the best teams"  so nothing like a comment out of the blue like the article above suggests. Piquet and FA have bring along some good cash that the tean was deadly in need and Briatore that would be able to sell a freezer to a pinguin convinced FA the car was good enough and ING that with FA they would be able to win again.
    About Ferrari, I can not see FA there as they tend to made champions more that buy them and also do not have two strong pilots. The much I dislike Massa he may stay in there if is he able to finish the races, otherwise I bet he may end  in Torro Rosso if finally Jean Todt buys them.

  48. James Steventon
    20th April 2008, 19:05

    I think that this has to be the worst kept secret in the paddock, and Alonso is pouring fuel on the fire by making such declarations. Everybody knows that Felipe Massa and Alonso
    don’t like each other, and everybody knows that Alonso is using Renault as a ‘stop gap’ to a bigger team.
    The situation is also a nice way for Ferrari to get Massa to raise his game, knowing that Alonso is waiting in the wings to take his seat. What more motivation does Massa need than that, knowing he could deny Alonso a Ferrari drive by having a good season.
    In my opinion, it is all bluff and counter-bluff. BMW Sauber have also a great package, and are now challenging McLaren and Ferrari for podiums. Do not forget that Nick Heidfeld is no spring chicken, so it is possible that Alonso may be paired there with Robert Kubica.
    The one real thing that will go against Alonso is his year at McLaren, and the negative press he recieved. Would somebody like Mario Theissen ( BMW Sauber boss), or Ferrari take him on, knowing of all the baggage that comes with it.
    No team would be prepared to risk a sound working enviroment for one that was full of blackmail and tantrums, if certain media establishments are to be believed.
    It would seem, and it was my belief at the end of the 2007 season, that Alonso has ‘tarnished’ his image greatly by talking too much to the media.
    An F1 team is a closed enviroment, one based on trust and loyalty. One of the most interesting things about last year, was to see Ron Dennis saying one thing in a press conferance, and then Alonso contradicting him in another.
    I do believe that Alonso was given a ‘rotten’ deal at McLaren last year, but the manner in which he reacted to it made it look like it was ‘his’ fault. It made him look unprofessional, which he is certainly not, and more to the point, it highlighted his weaknesses.
    If Massa has a great season this year, and wins four or five grands prix in the process, and Alonso fails to get on the podium, how silly will Fernando look? I rest my case. 

  49. The best situation for Alonso this year is to just stay where he is and to give nothing away to the media, give them nothing to
    speculate with.
    He must realise that the events of last year did serious damage to his personal reputation, whether the speculation was true or not, people will remember 2007 for a long time.
    Fernando Alonso is still a double world champion, everyone is going to be watching him this year at Renault, eager to see how
    he reacts to driving a slow car. They will also be eager to see
    how he handles himself away from the car, with the frustration
    of knowing that he can’t fight for the championship.
    This is the acid test for Alonso, and if he conducts himself well
    in this situation, driving for a team that is struggling for form, he may well make himself ‘attractive’ again to other teams.
    Ferrari are the obvious choice, and Massa is the obvious driver
    to lose his seat, but BMW Sauber are an attractive team too
    to a driver in search of a third title.
    It would be great for Alonso if he could win a race, or a podium,
    with this year’s Renault. Remember Senna at Donnington winning in a sub standard McLaren in 1993. One wet race, a bit of luck on his side, the right frame of mind.
    I think he knows this, and will surprise us in seasons to come.
    My hunch, is Alonso/Kubica for 2009. 

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