Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda has suggested that Toyota now holds the role as main challenger to the sport's two main protagonists, having overtaken BMW Sauber in recent races.

The Austrian, who drove for both current pacesetters Ferrari and McLaren during his storied career, applauded BMW Sauber's rapid rise to become Formula One's 'third team', but reckoned that its performance had dipped since Robert Kubica took its first win in Montreal, with the slowly-improving Toyota squad now more than a match for it.

"[BMW Sauber] did a fantastic job coming out of nowhere to where they are now," Lauda claimed in an interview with the official F1 website, "but, when you look at Hungary, you have to clearly say that, for the moment, Toyota has passed them.

"In Budapest, they did a fantastic job, although you have to say that the circuit helped them a lot. Now we have to wait and see what they are able to do with this experience."

Lauda also ranked Toyota's Timo Glock as the leading newcomer so far this season, despite his Budapest podium being just the German's second points finish in 2008, putting the reigning GP2 champion ahead of the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr and Kazuki Nakajima. The latter, he suggested, had done well to match third-year team-mate Nico Rosberg for points, although neither driver was being helped by the team's struggles.

"It is too hard to give a judgment on the drivers because the car's performance is not good enough to make a clear decision," he opined, "As far as I can see, the team seems to have been going in the wrong direction in terms of development, so they have to solve some problems and then take it from there.

"For Piquet, it was very important to have such a result [as his Hockenheim podium], because he was very weak at the beginning of the season. He should have gained the confidence to hopefully earn some more points throughout the rest of this season."

The midfield battle has clearly caught Lauda's eye and, while he admits that Fernando Alonso has a job on his hands to turn around Renault's fortunes, he is more confident that two of the sport's more renowned technical brains will have a definite effect on their teams.

"It was obvious that Renault would not be as competitive as McLaren and Ferrari this year, [but] Alonso himself took the decision to go there, so it is up to him - together with the team - to work as hard as possible to make the car competitive," he noted, before lauding the impact Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn can have on Red Bull Racing and Honda F1 respectively.

"The 'Adrian Newey effect' is finally working [for RBR] in my eyes," the Austrian continued, "They have improved the car so much, to be amongst the top ten in qualifying. Meanwhile, Ross is definitely the right medicine [for Honda], but we have to wait until his changes take effect. How long this will take, I cannot answer."


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