Briatore Defends Raikkonen as 'Breath of Fresh Air'

Kimi Raikkonen's recent indiscretions in a London lap-dancing club should be seen as a breath of fresh air for Formula One, according to Renault boss Flavio Briatore.

Briatore Defends Raikkonen as 'Breath of Fresh Air'

Kimi Raikkonen's recent indiscretions in a London lap-dancing club should be seen as a breath of fresh air for Formula One, according to Renault boss Flavio Briatore.

"If Raikkonen was my driver and he went to a club for a drink and some fun, I would have no problem with that," the Italian, famed for his own playboy lifestyle, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"We have to understand that a young driver is not a robot. As long as he is not drinking the night before a race, why not?

"You don't want drivers to be like book-keepers. A driver needs to have a personality," said Briatore.

"What Raikkonen did is like a breath of fresh air. Maybe he should be given a drink before he speaks to the press in future."

Finland's Raikkonen, who drives for McLaren, attracted the attentions of tabloid newspapers last month after a night in a London club with friends.

McLaren were unhappy with the reports. "We've got a whole range of multi-national brands that are associated with our team and they don't invest in Formula One for this sort of imagery," chief operating officer Martin Whitmarsh said at the time.

Briatore said at least Raikkonen was showing his personality, and also following an illustrious line of charismatic drivers.

"Now the kids look like they are fabricated," he said.

"They're all the same. I don't recognise 60 percent of them out of their overalls. I used to know them all -- now I can't even pronounce some of their names."

Briatore said he had high hopes that his Spanish driver Fernando Alonso could take the fight to Ferrari's Michael Schumacher this season.

"We and other teams must put Michael under more pressure because last season he was like a taxi driver, with one arm out of the window. It was so easy," he said.

"If you put him under pressure you can be successful, as (Damon) Hill and (Mika) Hakkinen were. We have to do that for the good of the sport and I think it will be better this year."

The season starts in Melbourne on March 6 with Schumacher chasing his eighth world championship after winning 13 of 18 races last year.

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