Bernie Ecclestone has tipped Sebastian Vettel to retain his F1 title again this season, arguing that everything points towards the Red Bull driver being the man to beat again in 2012.
The German goes into the season as the youngest double champion in the history of the sport, and can join a select band of drivers to win three titles in a row if he emerges from the year ahead on top of the standings.
Speaking to the official F1 website, Ecclestone said he would be surprised if anyone other than Vettel win the title and said he could even see the 24-year-old going on to beat the record of his fellow German Michael Schumacher.
“My guess is that he really can do it again,” he said. “What points against it? I think anything else would be the surprise. The pre-season tests spoke a quite clear language: the Red Bull looks super competitive again - and Sebastian is only 24, so he still has an enormous potential to fill. Realistically, everything points to Sebastian. He's got it all: talent, passion, zeal, a clear head - and he hates to lose. I could imagine him beating Michael's record.”
However, Ecclestone said he hoped that Vettel didn't have such an easy run to the title this time around, having taken the crown last year on the back of eleven wins in 19 races.
“I hope that McLaren is faster than at the start of last season and able to fight for wins right from the first race. Mercedes is looking pretty competitive, so I have them on my watch list. That leaves me with the hope that Ferrari will catch up soon. If I were to bet now, it would be Sebastian world champion, Mark Webber second and one of the McLaren's third, probably Lewis Hamilton.
“Lewis is a huge talent - that has not changed. He probably was mentally a bit unstable last year and that resulted in a situation where he didn't show his full potential. On the other hand Jenson Button squeezed the maximum out of his potential - that's why he finished ahead of Lewis. I dare to predict if both are able to show their full potential Lewis will be in front of Jenson, because in the end he's faster.”