Niki Lauda has tipped McLaren to mount a serious challenge to Red Bull’s dominance in 2012.
His prediction immediately followed a Red Bull one-two in Brazil, with Mark Webber winning and Sebastian Vettel – despite a nearly race-long gearbox problem – nonetheless able to beat McLaren’s Jenson Button to second place.
“I think we can be satisfied,” said the team’s Dr Helmut Marko, “because we have already been using some of the parts that we will use in 2012.”
Triple world champion Lauda, however, warned Red Bull to expect a closer fight from McLaren in 2012.
“McLaren started this season really badly, but afterwards was the only team that could catch Red Bull,” he told German broadcaster RTL.
“Next year they will be Red Bull’s biggest opponent, if they start with a good car from the beginning.
“If they start at the same level, then it becomes a developing struggle between them and that’s where McLaren has the lead, technically,” added Lauda.
Despite Webber’s win in Brazil, it is Button who completed the season as championship runner-up to Vettel.
“He beat Lewis this year and was very consistent,” said Lauda, “while Lewis was up and down with his personal problems.
“Jenson drives with a smooth line while Lewis is like a maniac,” added the great Austrian, “so I think it is Jenson who will be significantly involved in the behaviour of the new car.”