Briatore: Imola 2005 proved Alonso on a 'similar' level to Schumacher

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Flavio Briatore believes the battle between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher at Imola in 2005 proves they were at a "similar" level.

Both drivers hold a special place in the Italian's heart after they won two championships each together at Benetton in the case of Schumacher and at Renault with Alonso.

Of course, while there is a gulf between them in terms of the statistics, most will accept Fernando should have achieved a lot more in Formula 1 and Briatore saw some similarities.

“Who is better, Messi or Ronaldo? I don’t know,” he said when asked to compare them on F1's Beyond the Grid podcast.

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“Fernando is Spanish but was less emotional than Michael. While 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.”

Of course, it was Alonso in 2005 who ended Schumacher's era of dominance at Ferrari and it was the San Marino Grand Prix of that year which the former team boss remembers fondly.

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

“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.”

Following stints at McLaren, Renault, Ferrari and then McLaren again after winning his two F1 titles, Alonso called time on his career at the end of 2018.

However, he has often spoken of the possibility of returning when the new regulations come into effect, and while that now won't be until 2022, Briatore still believes the now 38-year-old could return in 2021.

“A hundred per cent, he’s a Rottweiler, one hundred per cent,” he claimed. “There are a lot of contracts expiring, with people moving up and down. We’ll see.”