This season, when it starts, Lewis Hamilton will be chasing a record-equalling seventh Drivers’ Championship title.
Only one other person in Formula 1 history has achieved that: Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher won back-to-back titles in 1994 and ’95 with Benetton before putting in a streak of five successive titles from 2000 to 2004 with Ferrari.
Schumacher held off Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen to win his titles, while in his first few seasons in F1 he was up against the likes of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell.
That, according to Flavio Briatore, was proper competition.
The Italian told the Beyond the Grid podcast: “Michael was fighting with the big guys like Senna. You need to recognise that when Michael arrived, the (competition) was tough. You are talking about Nigel Mansell, you are talking about Senna.”
These days the former F1 team boss reckons the competition is weaker than in Schumacher’s days. He feels there are only two drivers on today’s grid that are stars, Hamilton and Max Verstappen. That, though, means Hamilton is only have to face one proper opponent.
Briatore continued: “Now, is less, the competition. You have two drivers, three drivers… the competition is less than before. For Hamilton, again, nobody put the pressure onto him. It is the same for everybody.
“When Schumacher, somebody get close, he put a mistake, Fernando (Alonso) he put a mistake. Everybody put the mistake. If he’s driving like a taxi driver and is winning everything. It’s because he’s a super driver, it’s fantastic. Hamilton is one of two star drivers in F1: it’s Hamilton and Verstappen.”