Jul.2 (GMM) Alpine needs a “bandit” like Flavio Briatore to get Renault’s factory Formula 1 team back on track, according to former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

74-year-old Briatore’s return to the Enstone based team and F1 has been controversial, given the flamboyant Italian’s central role in the ‘crashgate’ scandal that initially resulted in a lifetime ban.

“I spoke to (Renault CEO) Luca de Meo on the phone for a long time,” Ecclestone, no longer officially involved in the sport, told Blick newspaper.

“He was desperate,” said the 93-year-old. “Then the word Briatore came up.

“We quickly agreed that in such a confusing situation only a doer – a bandit among angels – could help,” Ecclestone, a well known friend and long-time business partner of Briatore’s, added. “There are enough saints in there already.

“Flavio’s great strength has always been ‘Keep the discussions short, do and think big. You don’t need friends in Formula 1, you just need success’,” he said.

Briatore is already predicting a swift return to competitiveness for the crisis-struck team.

“In 2026, I will win races,” Briatore told Italian radio Rai this week. “Alpine will be on the podium. This year, there are too many handicaps, but we are reshaping the whole team now.

“I have received full powers from Luca deo Meo and that’s what I’m used to. I guarantee it – in two seasons we will be talking about podiums,” he insisted.

Briatore also told Bild newspaper: “I’m here because I want to be. I’m not doing this for money – I wanted to get back into Formula 1 to help this team.

“I decided that I’ll return to Enstone for the third time, but only to win. “I refused many offers to return to F1, but I said yes to this one because it’s sexy and because I’m sentimental.”

He also revealed to La Repubblica newspaper that he recently underwent successful heart surgery to remove an ulcer. “The heart works,” he smiled.

“You won’t believe it, but I have feelings now,” Briatore joked.