Formula 1's youngest-ever race-winner Sebastian Vettel has received a further vote of confidence ahead of the 2009 campaign, with former double world champion Mika Hakkinen tipping the German for the title 'in the next few years'.

Already the sport's youngest-ever points-scorer after finishing eighth on his debut for BMW-Sauber in the 2007 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis, Vettel again broke all records in the top flight in the Italian Grand Prix just over a year later when at just 21 years and 73 days of age he put his Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 on pole position at Monza - and a day later went on to win the race too. Hakkinen has no doubt that it is a question of when rather than if the man from Heppenheim - now with Red Bull Racing - lifts the ultimate laurels.

"Vettel has the right stuff," the 1998 and 1999 F1 World Champion told "He is still very young, but exceptionally fast, performing like an old hand. Certainly in the next few years he will take the title."

The Finn was also quick to spring to the defence of under-fire compatriot Kimi Raikkonen, who replaced him at McLaren-Mercedes following his retirement in 2001, but who endured a torrid 2008 season at Ferrari with repeated question marks over both his motivation and desire in the wake of a series of lacklustre performances for the Scuderia.

"Kimi did not have a good year," the 40-year-old acknowledged, "but in 2009 he will attack again and win races. He knows what went wrong and will stop it from happening again."

Hakkinen had similar words of support, finally, for F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, who Sir Jackie Stewart earlier this week suggested should now relinquish his iron grip on the sport for the sake of its future [see separate story - click here].

"In the past decades he was the one who moved Formula 1 forwards," the former DTM star contended. "He is absolutely the right man for the job."