Briatore - Hamilton's ego cost him
McLaren star put himself before team, claims rival boss
Renault F1 team principal Flavio Briatore has claimed that Lewis Hamilton's ego was to blame for his failure to win last year's world championship.
In a remarkable attack on both Hamilton and management of the McLaren-Mercedes team, Briatore said that the Englishman should have been content to learn from two-times world champion Fernando Alonso during his rookie season.
"Hamilton had a very good possibility to learn. When you are a rookie you need to take that opportunity. He had the chance to drive with somebody very special in Fernando," Briatore told The Guardian.
"Hamilton is very young and the talent is there but he lost this opportunity. As a rookie you should work for the team.
"Your team consists of 1,000 people working together to put two cars on the grid. You need to respect these people behind you - and not only your ego.
"This is something the driver needs to learn. It's not just about him. You hear drivers saying 'my car'. But it is not their car - it is the team car."
The flamboyant Italian also believes that Hamilton actually learned less from fighting for the title than he would have from playing second-fiddle to Alonso.
He replied: "Absolutely. Yes. As a rookie, in the first year, you should work for the team.
"I feel sorry for the employees of McLaren - it was terrible. It was important for McLaren to win the drivers' championship but they missed the opportunity.
"Because of this fight they finished with nothing."
Despite having their drivers placed first and second heading into the final race of last season - Hamilton holding a four-point lead over team-mate Alonso - Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen instead overcame a seven-point deficit to take the title.
Alonso increasingly clashed with both Hamilton and McLaren's management as the 2007 season progressed, the Spaniard demanding that his status as a world champion afforded him preferential treatment.
But McLaren insisted on giving equal status to Alonso and Hamilton, with the former eventually returning to Renault - with whom he won both his world titles - after just one season away.
Briatore has paired Alonso with another rookie, Nelson Piquet Jr. for 2008. However, again criticising McLaren's handling of their two drivers, he added that no such situation will be allowed to develop at Renault.
He added: "When you want the world champion in your team, and you fight to take him away from Renault. You then need to protect him when he joins you.
"When you take the world champion, which Fernando was, and challenge him with a rookie it's not the best way."