Niki Lauda says he feels Sebastian Vettel is the favourite to secure his third F1 championship title when the 2012 season gets underway.

Vettel dominated the title race this season to successfully defend his championship crown, with Red Bull proving to be the class of the field ahead of McLaren and Ferrari.

Speaking to Salzburger Nachrichten, Lauda - himself a three-time champion - said he felt Vettel would likely be the man to beat again when 2012 gets underway at Albert Park, with the rest of the field having to try and reel in Red Bull at the front.

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"In 2011, Sebastian's self-confidence increased immensely and he made no mistakes," he said. "Next year he will be the man to beat. Whoever wants to beat him will need a perfect car.

"Logic tells me that Red Bull will move further forward. The only rule change is the modified exhaust and diffuser. The loss in output is compensated by even better aerodynamics. The question again is: Who is it wisest? Vettel that can build on a very good car already has an advantage. Red Bull can further develop the success, which is easier than to start over. But the real standard for 2012 can only be assessed after the first tests."