Before the new Formula 1 season has even got underway, Mark Webber has cast doubt over Lewis Hamilton's chances of challenging for the crown in his sophomore campaign.

The McLaren ace sensationally led proceedings for the majority of the way during his rookie campaign in the top flight last year, only to miss out on the drivers' laurels at the very final hurdle, and Webber acknowledged that the young Briton had been 'a credit' to the sport for the way in which he revitalised fans' interest following the relative monotony of the Michael Schumacher years.

The plain-speaking Aussie did, however, warn that in such an unpredictable climate in which so many variables can influence performance, Hamilton's honeymoon period may not last all that long.

"After the Schumacher era we had a lot of fans who ran out of interest for watching F1," the Red Bull Racing star underlined, "so a four-way fight for the championship last year was great for the sport. It's a fickle industry, though; Michael didn't challenge for the championship every year, nor has Fernando [Alonso] and nor has Kimi [Raikkonen]. Lewis won't either; it always goes round in circles.

"As in any sport it's a five-minute phenomenon; if McLaren have produced a shed this year no one will be interested. The way Lewis performed last year was a credit to both himself and the team, but it won't stay like that. There are peaks and troughs in any sportsman's career."