Leclerc level with Hamilton & Verstappen, should be No.1 at Ferrari

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Charles Leclerc has proven himself to be on the same level as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, says ex-Renault boss Flavio Briatore

Following his big promotion to Ferrari, the 22-year-old looked comfortable from the start dominating in Bahrain and Austria only to be denied the win before finally achieving two in Spa and Monza, as well as taking six poles on the way.

The manner of those victories was also very impressive, holding off a charging Hamilton on both occasions, and Briatore has seen enough to suggest he is already among the best on the grid.

"Leclerc can already become world champion," he told Rai Radio. "Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso have proven that it's not about age, it's about talent.

"Lewis Hamilton is so strong because he makes few mistakes, even the Mercedes racing team gets everything spot on. The Silver Arrow is already very good.

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"However, the world champions of the future are called Leclerc and Max Verstappen," Briatore added. "If Leclerc was sitting in a Mercedes, he would be driving at eye level with Hamilton.

"I'd like to see something like that - Leclerc and Hamilton at Mercedes, or Verstappen and Hamilton at Mercedes."

One thing that the Italian does believe is the Monegasque is already faster than teammate Sebastian Vettel and doesn't understand why Ferrari don't throw their full support behind him.

"If I was the team leader, I would make him the No.1," he stated. "Leclerc is an incredible talent, he drives aggressively and gets everything out of the car.

"I hope Ferrari will not sacrifice another year in 2020. This season, they made some decisions that did not necessarily help Leclerc.

"Especially against the background that Vettel had no real title chances."

Indeed, despite a strong victory in Singapore and showing signs of being back near his best, Briatore isn't a fan of the four-time world champion.

"I remain convinced Fernando Alonso would have conquered the title in 2018 with a Ferrari because he would have made fewer mistakes than Vettel," he said.

"Leclerc is a potential world champion, but he has to move the right car for that.

"The car is so much more important today than the driver, an outstanding pilot may be able to make up two or three tenths if he's not in the best of cars, but if the car is half a second slower than the top car, it will not work."