Bernie Ecclestone has hit out at Formula 1 fans who 'want Lewis Hamilton to lose', praising the top flight's newest world champion as 'a young man doing his best' and to whose career progression there may be 'no limit' – and insisting his title success was 'a super surprise'.
Hamilton's nail-biting fifth place finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlgaos last weekend proved to be just enough to clinch the crown at the expense of Ferrari's Felipe Massa, and F1 commercial rights-holder Ecclestone argues the McLaren-Mercedes star deserves considerable recognition for his achievement.
Whilst he has in the past accused former title-winners Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen respectively of doing 'nothing' and 'barely talking to anyone', the 78-year-old is confident Hamilton will turn out to be a different – and far more successful – ambassador for the sport, and could even do for F1 what Tiger Woods did for golf in attracting hitherto untapped audiences with his unique pulling power.
“I don't have a problem with Lewis now,” Ecclestone told British newspaper the Daily Express
. “He's great and I hope that is how he always is. Formula 1 has given these guys something; I like to see them give something back.
“My message to Ron [Dennis – McLaren team principal] would be to let Lewis be what he is, the guy we see and like. A lot of people who might not watch grand prix racing on television will switch on to see him. Things will open up commercially [and] there could be a Tiger Woods effect.”
Ecclestone was equally quick to speak out against all those – particularly in Britain – who believe Hamilton to be 'an arrogant b***ard', pointing out that what the 23-year-old has accomplished is substantially more than most could ever even dream of.
“Hamilton is a young man doing his best,” he underlined in an interview with The Times
, “and I get upset with people who say he is an arrogant b***ard and all this nonsense. Lewis has achieved an awful lot and it would be bloody difficult for any of us to be the same as him – and yet there are so many people out there that want him to lose, so he has to make sure he delivers.
“I think he comes over as a bit over-confident, but don't forget they said the same things about Michael [Schumacher]. I am sure he will grow into the position he has achieved; it just takes time. He has to be careful what he says and how he presents himself, otherwise there are no fears.”
Ecclestone also suggested there is 'no limit' to what the Stevenage-born ace will prove capable of in the years to come, after Hamilton claimed in the wake of his São Paulo title triumph that his aim was now to clinch two more. Indeed, F1's powerbroker even went so far as to assert that at the end of a fraught, see-saw season-long battle, the 'right guy' ultimately prevailed.