In Brief

F1: Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are the sport’s ‘only two stars’, says Flavio Briatore

Former team boss Briatore wishes that Max, not Jos, had driven for him

Former Benetton and Renault team boss Flavio Briatore believes there are only two star drivers in Formula 1 right now - Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Mercedes driver Hamilton has dominated the sport with six world titles while Red Bull’s Verstappen has emerged as a major contender at the front of the grid. 

While Briatore picks out Hamilton and Verstappen for praise, he also tips Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to have the potential to rival the star duo. 

Speaking on F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast, Briatore said: “There’s only two stars in Formula 1 - Hamilton and Verstappen. 

“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.”

Max Verstappen’s father Jos drove for Briatore’s Benetton team in 1994. When asked if Max was a better driver than Jos, Briatore added: “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!’”

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2016 Getty Images

‘Ecclestone may just be right’

Is it time for Formula 1 to finally start considering the unthinkable? That’s the question posed by GP Fans writer Ian Parkes.

The 2020 F1 season is in disarray with the opening eight races called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. As things stand the first scheduled grand prix of the campaign will be Canada on 14 June, but the Montreal race is also under threat.  

Last week F1 CEO Chase Carey said there’s hope that the 2020 championship would have “15 to 18 races”, but former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone was not so optimistic. 

When asked what he would do with the schedule, the 89-year-old said: “I think I’d have to say we’re going to close down talk of having any races this year.

“That’s the only thing you could do safely for everybody so nobody starts making silly arrangements which may not be able to happen.”

Parkes hopes that it’s Carey’s prediction that is correct in 2020, but says Ecclestone could be proved right.   

“I sincerely hope Carey is correct, that somehow 15-18 races are crammed in over the second half of the year, even stretching into January/February of 2021 if necessary,” Parkes writes.

“But no matter your individual point of view of Ecclestone, you have to appreciate he may just be right, and that there is the distinct danger of there being no F1 at all in 2020. Naturally, we hope that is not the case.”

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