Two-time F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes the title battle is still very much open and he has expressed his surprise at the way Mercedes has stepped up.

Sebastian Vettel concluded the first 'half' of the season with a comfortable 38-point lead in the Drivers' Championship.

To date the Red Bull man has won four races this season, while his two nearest rivals, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, have managed only three between them.

Despite that, however, and despite the fact Vettel has finished in the top-four in every single grand prix so far in 2013, except Britain - where a gearbox issue forced him out 11 laps from the end, with the victory seemingly in the bag - Mika believes the tide could still turn against the German.

"I think that this season has been very interesting," Hakkinen said in an interview with "Of course the tyres have hurt the sport a little bit. Drivers and teams are constantly discussing tyres - it is an ever-present pressure. The race at Silverstone was horrible - with the tyres exploding and leading to many dangerous situations. That makes it difficult to do the job.

"But the fight in the championship is still open and very intriguing for the fans. Sebastian Vettel is doing a great job and so is Kimi Raikkonen, while Fernando Alonso appears not as strong as he would have liked. In my experience when your car is working well at high and low speeds it is amazing. But if it only works at high speeds, it is not too good because all the tracks are different. All-in-all it is an interesting season."

So can Vettel and Red Bull be beaten?

"Red Bull has already won three championships in a row and they are very confident. The team is strong and stable in financial terms, they have great designers [too]. Defeating a team like that is very difficult. But let's see how the situation will develop in the championship [over the final nine races]," he replied.

Meanwhile, Hakkinen admitted he has been surprised by the way Mercedes has come to the forefront, with Nico Rosberg winning in Monaco and Britain and Lewis Hamilton taking the spoils most recently in Hungary.

"Yes, I am very surprised [by how Mercedes are doing]. In the off-season, I was thinking about how things will be, and was not 100 per cent sure that they would achieve the results that they have now.

"But they have done a terrific job. Ross Brawn has again showed his ability and I am very happy for them, for Lewis and for Nico. The season is still open, in terms of what they can achieve..."



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