Perry McCarthy, the original Stig from cult BBC motoring show Top Gear, has tipped McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton to defeat every one of his rivals and clinch a second drivers' world championship crown in F1 2011 - rating the McLaren-Mercedes star as 'a genius'.

With just one group test now remaining before the 2011 world championship campaign revs into life Down Under at the end of the month with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne - suddenly thrust into the curtain-raising limelight following the cancellation of Bahrain - Red Bull Racing and Ferrari have emerged as the early favourites for glory, with McLaren playing catch-up both in terms of performance and reliability. McCarthy, though, is convinced Hamilton is the man to make the difference.

"Lewis Hamilton stands a great chance," he told the Daily Mail. "He is a genius, and there are so few of us."

McCarthy added that whilst 'great talent' Paul di Resta 'won't be able to challenge for the title in a Force India...I am convinced he will use that equipment to show us exactly how good he is', whilst putting his tongue firmly back in his cheek again, the former grand prix-turned-sportscar ace revealed that he 'tends to give more after-dinner speeches than drive around circuits these days' and went on to explain why he didn't throw his own hat into the ring to replace the injured Robert Kubica at Lotus Renault GP this year.

"The only reason I didn't go for that seat was because I decided there is only one guy out there making a comeback and it's Schumacher," the 49-year-old remarked. "Michael is the closest thing to the Stig there has ever been. All he lacks to be one of us is a black crash helmet."

Returning to the topic of everybody's favourite 'tame' racing driver, McCarthy appeared in 22 Top Gear episodes as Black Stig from 2002 to 2003, before being 'killed off' after a 'Top Gun vs. Top Gear' stunt went horribly wrong as he attempted to accelerate up to 100mph and then come to a halt again aboard the 200-metre flight deck of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, driving an old, stripped-down, nitrous injection-fitted, 500bhp Jaguar XJS.

The car, however, got to 109mph and then flew off the end of the runway ramp and into the ocean with Stig still trapped inside, with a floating black glove all that divers ever found. So what really happened in the intervening eight years..?

"I was deep below the ocean for five years, where I resided with dolphins who taught me how to balance a ball on my nose," McCarthy quips. "I tried to teach them the principle of heel-and-toe while changing gear, but they never got the hang of it. I eventually turned up on an unknown island just off the coast of Brazil near Interlagos."

Reminiscing about his time as the Stig, the Englishman joked that the most bizarre - and worst - form of racing he ever had to do was in trucks in Germany, for which he 'got paid with 10,000 Yorkies', and he mulled over his character's rather peculiar personality traits, as well as the necessity for him to listen to music as he drove the Top Gear test track, for the sake of the car more than anything else...

"Stigs find we can't multi-task," he confessed, explaining why the enigmatic figure never whispers so much as a word. "We can only drive flat-out or talk, and when we are at the circuit we are thinking about driving a quick lap so we just don't tend to talk at all.

"We hide our modesty behind a darkened visor, and there is some base DNA which is shared [between all Stigs] - it's an evolutionary thing that goes back to a very small tribe that were quick even when they rode on mammoths.

"The music was put in to sooth the highly aggressive instincts of myself, because they wanted to try and protect the machinery. The only song that ever got me worried was 'Stand by Your Man' but on the whole I just used to blank it out. My favourite album is the concerto of V8, V10 and V12 engines with a symphony of pistons."

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