Sebastian Vettel will 'take some beating' at Red Bull Racing, Felipe Massa would be a worthy Formula 1 World Champion and this weekend's Australian Grand Prix is 'the most open race' in the sport's history – those are the expert views of the legendary Sir Stirling Moss on the eve of the 2009 campaign.
The raft of new technical and aerodynamic regulation changes brought into force in the top flight this year have shaken up the order to such an extent that none of the sport's 'big four' – Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, BMW-Sauber and Renault – got a car higher than ninth place in opening practice Down Under today as lesser-fancied names enjoyed the limelight for once.
Moss – who competed at the original Albert Park track back in the 1950s, when it ran in the opposite direction to the current layout – reckons it really could be anyone's race.
“It's the most open race I've heard of,” confessed the 79-year-old – widely considered the finest F1 driver never to lift the laurels. “If I knew who was going to win I could make a lot of money. Look at Honda – who would have thought that?
“At the moment we know nothing. There are so many unknowns that will all be answered at the weekend. The original circuit was actually terrific – and the enthusiasm of the people. I cannot believe it has been 50 years; it feels like yesterday that I was out there. It's just great to be in Australia.”
Admitting to being a fan of both the top flight's pioneering new KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology – “It's going to be on every car on the road in ten years” – and ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone's new 'winner-takes-all' scoring initiative, Moss nonetheless revealed his fears about the extortionate sums of money spent in the sport.
He had words of praise, however, for both the pace and grace displayed by Ferrari star Massa – who agonisingly missed out on clinching the crown in the very final race of the 2008 season by just a single point to McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton in front of his adoring home supporters at Interlagos – but suggested Melbourne favourite Mark Webber could have a real challenge on his hands at Red Bull this year.
“I would be quite happy if Massa won it,” Moss affirmed, “though I'm still rooting for Hamilton because he's from the UK and a great driver. I've got a lot of time for Massa. He drove to win and did a tremendous job last year.
“[Webber's] accident is one thing – and he is going to have to go some to beat the other drivers. Young Vettel is going to take some beating. I should be very surprised if Webber is up there.”