Motorsport chief Max Mosley believes Lewis Hamilton's effect on the popularity of Formula One has been exaggerated.
Mosley, president of the FIA, also fears continued success for the Englishman might be "negative" for F1.
And Mosley claimed it would be "surprising" if Hamilton had known nothing of McLaren's possession of the Ferrari dossier which cost his team a £50million fine and disqualification from the constructors' championship - although he stressed he had no evidence either way.
Hamilton - F1's first black driver - missed out on the world championship by a single point following a gearbox failure in the final race.
But Mosley believes the rookie's fame is a consequence of his novelty value and attention could easily have been attracted by one of the other young drivers in the paddock.
"He has certainly helped enormously in the UK," said Mosley.
"He's also got a lot of interest worldwide because he's come manifestly not from a rich background. He's just made it.
"There is always somebody new. If it wasn't him, it would be either [Nico] Rosberg or [Robert] Kubica or one of the other new stars, a [Sebastian] Vettel who would suddenly be the big one.
"So I think there is a tendency to exaggerate the importance of Lewis Hamilton."
Mosley also revealed he is worried about the "Schumacher effect" should Hamilton match his 2007 performance next year.
"If he does the same thing next season as he's done this season, it will certainly have a big effect," he said.
"It will start to be negative because we'll get the Schumacher effect where people start writing to me saying can't you do something to slow him down."
Mosley spoke out ahead of next month's FIA hearing when McLaren will seek to secure the drivers' title for Hamilton by overturning the result of the final race in Brazil on the basis of fuel temperature offences by two other teams.
McLaren have appealed against the decision not to punish the Williams and BMW Sauber teams for having fuel that was too cold.
If McLaren are successful in having their three points-scoring drivers excluded, Hamilton could be moved up in the results to fourth, giving him enough points to displace Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen as world champion.
But Mosley said: "It could happen, absolutely, because this will go to a court of appeal.
"That said, it's very unlikely, because even if they excluded those cars they are not obliged to reclassify Hamilton."
Asked if he thought Hamilton had known more about the Ferrari information being in McLaren's possession than has come out in public, Mosley said: " It would be surprising if he didn't, but I've got absolutely no evidence that he had.