Flavio: Alonso better than Hamilton

Flavio Briatore has fired the first shots in 2009’s Formula One war of words.

And it is a direct hit on wonderboy Lewis Hamilton – who became world champion in only his second year in the top flight.

Playboy Briatore reckons Hammy, 24, is not as good as Spain’s Fernando Alonso, his old foe and once bitter team-mate at McLaren.

In fact, argues Italian Briatore, Alonso is the best driver in F1. Bar none.

“Fernando is the finest driver on the grid," said Briatore, “and he proved that again last year. He truly is a great competitor."

The 27-year-old, the back-to-back champion under Briatore at Renault in 2005-06, was booted out of McLaren after just one season following a series of spats with Hamilton.

And he was taken back by Briatore to the French team’s line-up, even though he was desperate to switch to Ferrari – a move which is still on the cards if 2007 world champ Kimi Raikkonen flops as badly as he did last season.

Briatore, bursting with admiration for his £15million-a-year hot-shot, added: “We are delighted to continue our collaboration with Fernando. He is a real boost for the team.

“With him and Nelson Piquet Junior we have a particularly impressive line-up."

In a spectacular final flourish to last season, Alonso stole all the glory by grabbing shock wins in Singapore and Japan.

Alonso said: “We had been going fairly well with some good results – but those two wins underlined what we are capable of doing.

“And I believe I sent out a warning to the other guys for this season.

“I am really up for the new campaign. I have just one target – and that is to be the champion for the third time. And I know that I can do it."

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