During the weekend’s F1 racing in Abu Dhabi, media reports turned to quite a frenzy with the speculation that Lewis Hamilton might move to Ferrari for 2021.
Mattia Binotto and Hamilton themselves poured more fuel on the fire at the team principal press conference. But it is Flavio Briatore, of all people, who is seldom known for moderating his words, who slows down the media euphoria about the topic during a recent interview.
Hamilton is indeed a “great driver”, says the former team boss of Benetton and Renault, during an interview with the Italian news agency “Adnkronos”.
“I would wait and see, because Ferrari already has a driver of Hamilton’s value”. says Briatore.
However, he doesn’t refer to four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, whose performances disappointed some Tifosi in 2019. But to the young Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.
“Having two very good drivers in the same team can also be a risk, as we saw this year with Vettel and Leclerc,” says Briatore.
“Let’s not forget that Hamilton was able to drive without much pressure in the past years due to the Mercedes dominance and almost never made any mistakes”.
But that could change if he were seriously challenged by a teammate Leclerc, the Italian believes.
Conversely, another former F1 participant in Canadian ex Champion Jaques Villeneuve actually doesn’t rate Charles Leclerc at all, saying that the youngsters impatience may have held Ferrari back in 2019.
“A lot depends on the chemistry of the two drivers,” Villeneuve told the Dutch publication Formule 1.
“Ferrari never said to Leclerc: ‘It’s your first year with us, your second year in F1. Relax and learn from Vettel.
“Then I think the team would have moved on more than it did,” said the Canadian.
“Instead, from the first race Leclerc had this image of ‘I am going to show that I am the boss and Vettel is the past. I am the future’.
“The fans also thought Leclerc had come to save Ferrari and the media went along with it. I think it hurt Vettel, like with Ricciardo in the Red Bull days,” Villeneuve added.
“It didn’t help Ferrari because Leclerc simply wasn’t ready for that role. He had poles and even wins but he was not ready for the championship. This whole situation damaged Ferrari,” he continued.
“I don’t know what Mattia Binotto could have done about it, but it was easier in the days of Irvine and Barrichello.”