Italian businessman Flavio Briatore, formerly the team principal of Benetton and Renault in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, has come out in support of young Dutch driver Max Verstappen, and lashed out at the strict rules Formula 1.
Verstappen has become the new fan favourite in the sport following series of stunning performances since his debut in 2015 with Toro Rosso.
The Hasselt-born driver won his maiden race last year with Red Bull at the age of just 18, and has added two more in 2017 with just one weekend left in the season.
Although Verstappen's aggressive style of driving has gone done well amongst spectators, he has often been punished for his over-eager approach to gaining places - usually coming in the form of penalties.
And Briatore, while talking to the French weekly Auto Hebdo, believes the strict nature of the rules risk preventing the Red Bull star realise his true potential.
“Verstappen is Formula 1's new star," said Briatore, via F1i.com. “He's doing quite well, but they're trying to 'kill' him. It's crazy. If I was running F1, I'd want to see twelve Verstappens on the grid!”
Briatore, who at one time also owned English football club Queens Park Rangers, hails Verstappen’s talent and attitude, and thinks the 20-year-old will only become more popular with the fans the more he is punished.
"Max is an exceptional driver,” he continued. “He's young, he mocks the system and he overtakes. The public loves those qualities. I find it incredible that he gets penalised at every race, or almost. The more he'll be penalised, the more the fans will love him.”
The 67-year-old further went on to blast F1's current rule-makers and believes giving more freedom to the driver – just like in MotoGP – is the right way to go forward.
Briatore added: “F1 is way too controlled.They must give drivers the freedom to fight. It's a big difference with MotoGP. Those guys fight each other wheel to wheel at 300 km/h, and more and more fans are watching them."