Having claimed prior to the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend that Lewis Hamilton 'has learnt nothing' and is likely to throw away the Formula 1 World Championship in much the same manner as he did this time last year [see separate story - click here], Flavio Briatore has now been forced to acknowledge that the McLaren-Mercedes star 'has much more chance than anybody'.

The Renault F1 managing director's comments had come following on from the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway a week earlier, when Hamilton had wrecked his hopes of victory by attempting a rash move into the first corner and leaving his braking late enough to send the pack scattering wide in his wake.

Since then, however, a consummate triumph in Shanghai has seen the Briton open up a seven-point advantage over Ferrari rival Felipe Massa in the title standings heading into the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos next weekend - marking himself out as the clear favourite for the crown, and seeming to cause Briatore to undergo a change of heart.

"Last year he lost 17 points in two races," the famously fickle Italian is quoted as having said by British newspaper The Sun. "He has learned from last year.

"When you are fighting for the championship you need to look at the points, not only the victories.

"He has much more chance than anybody, but if I am asked to gamble then I will gamble on Massa, because that will pay me more if I win."

Briatore is understood to have requested an aide pass on his apologies to Hamilton in Shanghai after his outspoken comments received widespread global media coverage.

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