Flavio Briatore admits there was no love lost between himself and Ron Dennis during his tenure in F1, the Italian underlining the former McLaren boss’ ever-present arrogant attitude and the two men’s very different backgrounds.
Briatore arrived in F1 in the late 1980s as fashion brand Benetton’s man marketing man but without any knowledge of the sport.
Yet the Italian was quickly promoted by Luciano Benetton to the helm of the latter’s outfit, successfully turning the outfit’s fortunes around and delivering two world driver titles to Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995.
Briatore repeated the feat with Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006 after Benetton had been sold to Renault.
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As a team boss, the flamboyant 69-year-old enjoyed a good relationship with his peers, except with Ron Dennis.
“I remember Ron Dennis was talking like ‘You don’t understand’, always ‘you don’t understand…’.
“Ron was a person at the time very very arrogant, it is about he’s superior. He’s not,” said Briatore, speaking to F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast
Dennis’ stellar career had seen the Briton rise from wrenching cars in the 60s to building F1’s second most successful team on the grid after Ferrari.
For Dennis, the remarkable achievement likely conferred a sense of entitlement that he felt was never warranted in Briatore’s case, despite the latter’s success.
“He’s the guy who arrived in the right place at the right time and built up McLaren – congratulations to him,” added the Italian.
“He made much more money than anybody at the time, only Ferrari was close.
“What Ron doesn’t understand is that managing people is the job, and after that you have the vision, you have the technology.”
As Fernando Alonso’s manager, Briatore dealt with Dennis when the latter left Renault to join McLaren in 2007, a move the Italian had warned his protégé about.
“He went to McLaren and this I was not happy [with] because this was not Schumi to go to Ferrari. This was Fernando to go to McLaren, and for Fernando, McLaren was never in [his] dream,” Briatore recounted.
“Especially I tell him: you have the new guy, and the new guy was Lewis Hamilton, and the new guy is in the pocket of Ron Dennis, like you with me! And I promise you, you [will] have the fighting and the guy is protected by Ron Dennis.”
Briatore admits that in hindsight, everyone – and first and foremost Alonso – under-estimated Hamilton’s outstanding talent.
“The point is nobody including Ron Dennis understood how quick was Lewis Hamilton,” he explained;
“Because if Ron Dennis understands how quick was Hamilton, he not spend the amount of money he paid Fernando. If I know in my house, I have a driver so quick, why do I need another one? And it was a big fight.”
The relationship between Alonso and Dennis collapsed during the summer of 2007 when things came to a head in qualifying in Hungary when Alonso held up Hamilton in the pitlane, a deliberate move that prevented the Briton from improving his time and snatching pole form the Spaniard.
From afar, Briatore watched on, steering clear as the situation imploded.
“Ron Dennis did everything by himself, you don’t need to help him,” he said. “I was just watching and he did everything.
“I just watched. I know what happened. After two races when you see the change of tyres was done first by Hamilton and second by Alonso it was enough, because I knew Fernando…”
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