He has made no secret of his admiration for Sebastian Vettel's talent, but F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone admits that he does not want to see the German running away with the 2012 world title.
Asked to tip his favourite for the past two championships, Ecclestone has plumped for Vettel both times, but hopes that the 24-year old at least has greater competition than he did in 2011, when he claimed eleven race wins and romped to a second successive crown.
Despite the rulebook being tweaked for 2012, Ecclestone is not betting against Red Bull
Racing coming up with another front-running car, but hopes that its rivals, including McLaren, Ferrari
and even Mercedes, can raise their game enough to keep Vettel off the top step of the podium at the majority of races.
“Of course, Red Bull
are still going to be there, [but] I would much prefer a fight for the world title right to the end of the season,” the 81-year old told Austria's Salzburger Nachtrichten
during a break in his annual visit to the Kitzbuhel ski races.
“I don't want Red Bull
to dominate in the same way [as 2011], but I fear that's what will happen."
Beyond Red Bull, however, Ecclestone clearly sees McLaren
as the champion's closest rival, with fellow Britons Jenson Button
and Lewis Hamilton
at the wheel of the Woking team's contenders, but hopes that the third- and fourth-ranked teams can also step up their performance this season.
“At McLaren, Button is the surprise, as he stood out from Hamilton [last year]," he commented, "I would be surprised if Mercedes don't win a race this year and, as for Ferrari, I can only hope they improve significantly. [Fernando] Alonso is super-talented and deserves a perfect car."
Despite his misgivings over a potentially one-sided championship, however, Ecclestone also admitted that he understood that fans wanted to be entertained on a weekly, or fortnightly, basis.
“The TV viewers care more about the tension of the race than the championship,” he concluded.