Briatore: Alonso 'the Rottweiler' on a par with Schumacher

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Former Benetton and Renault team boss Flavio Briatore believes Fernando Alonso was very much Michael Schumacher's equal despite the latter's superior achievements in F1.

Briatore guided Schumacher to two world championship titles, in 1994 and 1995 with Benetton, the flamboyant Italian repeating the feat with protégé Alonso at Renault in 2005 and 2006.

Alonso is perceived as having under-achieved during his seventeen years in Formula 1, securing two world crowns but potentially missing out on more top honours because of poor career choices, a deficit for which Briatiore should perhaps also be held part responsible, having always acted as the Spaniard's prime manager.

The statistics and a record seven world titles give a clear edge to Schumacher in the history books, but on talent alone, Alonso was on the same level as the great German according to Briatore, who offered his opinion on the two men in F1's latest 'Beyond the Grid' podcast.

"Who is better, Messi or Ronaldo? I don't know," was the Italian's introductory reply.

"Fernando is Spanish but was less emotional than Michael. With his relationship with the mechanics, Michael was pushing everybody to the limit, but Fernando as well.

"Fernando is kind of a Rottweiler, you know he never gives up in a race."

Briatiore remembers one specific race - Imola 2005 - that pitted the two great drivers against each other and confirmed his opinion that there was nothing that separated the pair in terms of sheer talent.

"For me there was one race, in Imola. We won the race and Michael finished second. You see these two champions were basically similar.

"For 15 or 20 laps, Michael [driving for Ferrari] was in the gearbox of Fernando. Fernando put zero mistakes; Michael put zero mistakes. Amazing, amazing, amazing…

"Always, I've had this race in my mind. For me, there were very similar drivers."

While Alonso has departed F1, Briatore remains close to the man whose career he launched in F1 in 2001.

Does the street-wise 69-year-old believe his former protégé could still give F1's front-runners a run for their money in 2021, given a competitive piece of equipment?

"A hundred percent," quipped the Italian. "He's a Rottweiler, one hundred percent. We'll see.

"Honestly, I don't know. There are a lot of contracts expiring, with people moving up and down. We'll see."

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