Renault team principal Flavio Briatore has launched a withering attack of Formula One's regulators, saying interest has already been stripped from the 2009 season by interpretations of the rules that have hurt leading teams. Briatore said the credibility of the sport had been damaged by Brawn's Jenson Button _ who he likened to a concrete post _ leading the championship after two races while the big names of F1 have struggled.
The Renault boss' outburst brought a swift response from F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Friday, as he advised Briatore to concentrate more on racing and less on politics.
The success of F1 newcomer Brawn, and the competitiveness of Toyota _ winless in F1 history _ and Williams _ without a win since 2004 _ has been largely due to their use of an undercar air diffuser which other teams claimed were illegal. A court hearing midweek ruled they were allowable.
Ferrari is yet to score a point this season, McLaren has just one, while two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Renault has 4 points. By contrast, Button has 15 and his veteran teammate Rubens Barrichello is second in the championship race with 10. "Our (Ferrari, McLaren and Renault) drivers are or have been world champions, and then you have a (Brawn) driver who was almost retired, and another who is a 'paracarro,' fighting for the championship," Briatore was quoted to say by Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. "I don't know how we can say we have credibility." Paracarro is an Italian term for a roadside post, usually made of stone or concrete.
"It is impossible to recover the ground we have lost on those teams.
"In three or four races the championship will be decided and I don't know what the interest of the TV viewers will be when Button has 60 points and (Williams' Kazuki) Nakajima 50. "It will be better to listen only on radio and watch something else."
Ecclestone said Brawn were not benefiting from manipulation of the rules, but from the amount of money invested in the 2009 car by former owners Honda.
"It's a pity they don't talk more about racing than politics," Ecclestone said when asked about Briatore's comments. "We seem to have got a lot of team managers who've become politicians." The F1 supremo also said Brawn's early dominance, and the risk of the championships being decided prematurely, justified his push to change the points system.
Ecclestone wanted the championships decided on a medals system, with the most golds taking the crown regardless of minor placings, but that was struck down by the teams.
"If we'd have adopted the medal system, it wouldn't have happened, because even if someone has got eight wins, there are still another nine races to go," Ecclestone said. "People would be racing. It doesn't matter how many wins someone has got." Ecclestone still wants the medal system introduced for 2010.