Briatore: Drivers have equal status

Flavio Briatore has said that both Renault drivers will be treated as equals within the team, despite previously explaining that he expects rookie driver Piquet Jr to learn from double world champion Alonso.

Fernando Alonso s 2007 season at McLaren was a stormy one with many media stories over his supposed frustration at being given equal status with Lewis Hamilton, a frustration which led to a falling out with boss Ron Dennis. Because of the problems, many expected Alonso to be given ‘number one status on his return to the Renault F1 team.

“I don’t think it is the major problem in the team,” Briatore explained at the R28 launch. “We know Fernando very well, we are very happy to have him back. He is a great motivation for everyone, including myself. And I want him to enjoy racing. I want him to smile, enjoy himself and drive with the programme.

“And it is the same for Nelson Piquet. There is no competition between team members – The drivers work together for what is best for the team. We don’t need to forget that Fernando has the most experience, he is twice a world champion with us. And Piquet has a lot to learn, and is very smart, very intelligent. He is the future for us as well, he is 22 and very young and in a fantastic position to learn from Fernando. Plus if he is quick, he can win races.

“There is absolutely no problem. It is just important that we have two drivers having fun, smiling, having a good time and being happy to race.”

Briatore also explained that with two drivers championships behind him, having Alonso in the team gave them the best possible chance of winning another title.

“It is quite easy,” Briatore continued. “Both drivers are working for the team, we are working together and we will see. But we start with one point that is very important Fernando is a world champion.

“We have the world champion back, he won two titles with us, and Nelsinho is the young guy and he will learn – don’t forget that Nelsinho last year did not race, although he had a lot of tests. The relationship between the two is very clear, it is very nice and we support both drivers in an equal way. After that, the reason we take Fernando is because we want him back and we want to push a lot for him.”

Piquet, who was just pipped to the 2006 GP2 Series crown by Lewis Hamilton, has confirmed that both drivers will have equal status.

“I think it’s much worse for me if I going into a fight because, first of all, I’m in a team where Fernando won two championships,” Piquet said. “I’m in a team where Flavio loves Fernando, they’ve been together for a long time. So I think it would be a stupid thing to do if I went into a fight.

“There’s no number two or number one – both cars are exactly the same. It’s a sport where investments are 100 hundred million, 200 hundred million dollars and they wouldn’t make a car that’s worse than the other.

“I think for sure in the beginning I’ll be learning much more than anything else. I think once I get in the rhythm, once I show that I’m able to set his pace then it’s going to be a different story.”