Briatore: Schu needs pressure

Renault boss Flavio Briatore is convinced that Michael Schumacher can be beaten to this year's Formula 1 world championship title - and claims that teams only need to put the Ferrari star under pressure for him to break

Briatore: Schu needs pressure

With Renault emerging as joint favourites with McLaren to be the outfit that ends Ferrari's recent domination of the sport, Briatore is adamant that the time has come for Schumacher to face the kind of top-level rivalry that he has been without for several years.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Briatore said: "Michael arrived at the right time because there was not the strong competition there had been. There was no Ayrton Senna, and Nigel and Alain Prost had gone when he won his first Championship. That left Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen, so in a way he was lucky.

"Now, instead of Schumacher, we have Alonso. We have the same philosophy and Alonso can do the same. Spain is now one of the big countries for F1 because of Fernando, like Germany became because of Michael.

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

In the interview, Briatore also jumped to the defence of Kimi Raikkonen, who has been on the receiving end of criticism in the media following two drunken episodes over the winter.

"If Raikkonen was my driver and he went to a club for a drink and some fun, I would have no problem with that," added Briatore. "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. 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.

"You go back to drivers like Nelson Piquet who was a normal guy, to Gerhard Berger, Riccardo Patrese, Nigel Mansell. Now the kids look like they are fabricated. They're all the same. I don't recognise 60 per cent of them out of their overalls. I used to know them all - now I can't even pronounce some of their names!"

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