Former Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore believes Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are the sport’s only standout stars, but he tips Charles Leclerc to join them as he develops at Ferrari.

The former Benetton and Renault team boss has given his assessment on the current picture of F1, having last worked in the sport in 2009 after the fallout from the Renault crash scandal at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, and feels only Hamilton and Verstappen can be considered global sporting stars compared to the previous greats.

But Briatore is confident a third headline name will join them in Leclerc given his rapid rise at Ferrari last season and feels he should have been promoted to replace Kimi Raikkonen at the Scuderia two years ago.

“There’s only two stars in Formula 1; Hamilton and Verstappen,” Briatore told F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast “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 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.”

Briatore also feels Hamilton has enjoyed an easier time during his current F1 domination compared to Michael Schumacher when he was winning world titles because of the level of relative competition from their respective rivals during each era. The Italian was Benetton team boss for Schumacher when he claimed his first two world titles in 1994 and 1995.

“Michael was fighting with big guys,” Briatore explained. “You need to recognise that, when Michael arrived 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 would still be] winning everything because he’s a super driver, he’s fantastic.”



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