Flavio Briatore has claimed credit for Azerbaijan’s spectacular street grand prix in Baku.
The former Renault boss, who has one of his ultra-expensive ‘Billionaire’ outlets in the old Soviet city, was spotted in the Baku paddock for a brief visit on Saturday.
“Without me, there would never have been this grand prix,” the 66-year-old Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Three years ago in Sardinia I met the president of Azerbaijan and said to him ‘Why don’t you have a formula one race?’ He said it was a good idea and invited me to Baku.
“We got into a helicopter and he showed me from the air what a possible circuit could be. I said ‘It looks fantastic’ and connected him with Bernie Ecclestone,” said Briatore.
The flamboyant Italian, who turned Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso into F1 winners and champions, continued: “Bernie didn’t even know where Azerbaijan was.
“But within 6 months we had a signed agreement.”
Briatore was also asked about the chase for the 2016 world championship and said: “I guess Mercedes will win it one more time.
“If they would not make life difficult for themselves, they would almost have it in the bag already, but personally I can live with the collisions of Rosberg and Hamilton as it makes formula one exciting,” he added.
As for whether he has thought about mounting a comeback as a team boss, and possibly even a team owner, Briatore answered simply: “No.
“The costs are too high and there are too few new sponsors. Formula one has to be a real event, not a rolling laboratory for the automotive industry — for that, Le Mans is better.
“We should give equivalent cars to the best drivers in the world and the races would once again please everyone,” he added.