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Ecclestone tips Raikkonen for F1 title


February 11, 2004 21:36 IST

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is backing Kimi Raikkonen to beat Michael Schumacher this year, even if he does not think the sport needs a change of champion.

"I don't think a new champion would be good for the sport," Ecclestone told Australian reporters in a telephone link-up from London on Wednesday.

"What Schumacher has done has been very good for us. It's good to have a superstar. When people think of Schumacher, they think of Formula One," he added.

"But I think Michael will struggle to win this year. With my dollar, for what it's worth, I think I'll back Kimi."

Ferrari's Schumacher won a record sixth title last season, beating McLaren's Raikkonen by two points after the final showdown in Japan.

This year the German is gunning for his fifth successive championship, after winning two with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, while Finland's Raikkonen could become the sport's youngest champion at the age of 24.

The season starts in Melbourne on March 7 and Ecclestone said Formula One was happy to be in Australia as long as the event was run the way it is.

He was also complimentary of Jaguar's Australian driver Mark Webber, starting his third full season in Formula One and tipped as a possible replacement for Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya at Williams in 2005.

"I don't think we've seen the best of him," Ecclestone said of Webber. "It's very difficult to assess someone like him in the machinery he's using.

"If he was in a Ferrari, for example, how much better would he be?

"Michael Schumacher is someone who motivates the whole team and I'm not sure Mark is able to do that, but I suspect he may well be able to."


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