Schumacher faced tougher competition than Hamilton, says Briatore
Whether or not Lewis Hamilton equals Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles in 2020, Schumacher’s former team boss Flavio Briatore believes that the difference between the two drivers’ achievements is the level of competition each had to beat in order to secure their respective titles.
Speaking on Formula 1’s official podcast, Beyond The Grid, Briatore – who orchestrated Schumacher’s first two world championships in 1994 and 1995 as Benetton Team Principal – compared Formula 1 in Schumacher’s time to today.
“Michael was fighting with big guys,” he said. “You need to recognise that, when Michael arrived [in F1], the climate was tough. You’re talking about Nigel Mansell, you’re talking about [Ayrton] Senna. Now it’s less, the competition. You have two drivers, three drivers… Nobody puts the pressure [on Hamilton].
“If he was driving like a taxi driver with a hand outside of the car, [he’d still be] winning everything because he’s a super driver, he’s fantastic.”
Briatore, who last worked in Formula 1 in 2009 as Renault Team Principal, went on to argue his belief that there were only two outstanding drivers active in the sport today – with one more waiting in the wings.
“There’s only two stars in Formula 1 – Hamilton and [Max] Verstappen.
“[Charles] Leclerc is young, big balls, which he’s demonstrating. I believe, if I was Ferrari, I’d have put Leclerc two years ago into the place of [Kimi] Raikkonen, because you know, with Raikkonen you’re going nowhere, you’ll never win anything with him… I’d [have taken] the risk to put Leclerc. Leclerc is a really, really strong guy. But Leclerc is not recognisable now. Verstappen for me is the more incredible driver. He’s fantastic in the way of overtaking.”
Meanwhile, asked if he felt Verstappen was a better driver than his father Jos – who drove for Briatore’s Benetton team in 1994 – Briatore replied bluntly: “No question. The name is the same, but the driver is completely different… I tell the father, ‘Jesus Christ, I wish I had your son in the car and not you!’”
Listen to Flavio Briatore's full Beyond The Grid episode in the player below – and for more episodes, click here.