Bernie hails Hamilton impact

F1 supremo delighted by new generation

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Lewis Hamilton 'saved' F1 last season.

Many predicted the sport would be dull following the retirement of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher at the end of the 2006 season.

However, F1 experienced one of its best seasons in recent history during 2007 after a closely fought battle between McLaren's Hamilton and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

The fight for the World Championship was only settled in the final race of the season in Brazil.

Ecclestone believes Hamilton's emergence was one of the big reasons for the sport's resurgence.

"We are very pleased with the evolution last season," he told Spanish magazine FHM

"With the departure of Michael Schumacher, the year could have been disastrous and boring, but fortunately along came a youngster called Lewis Hamilton and saved the season. It was phenomenal."

Schumi comparison

Ecclestone also compared Hamilton to Schumacher.

"If it wasn't for the helmet, when you see Hamilton behind the wheel you might think it is Schumacher driving. He drives the same way that the impeccable Schumacher did.

"That is what I have said about Hamilton from the beginning: he doesn't make mistakes.

"This will be the big year of Hamilton, and I am not saying he should win the World Championship, but will he will have to prove that he is competitive."

The F1 boss believes the rivalry between Hamilton and World Champion Kimi Raikkonen can only be beneficial to the sport.

"He (Raikkonen) won the World Champions and demonstrated what a good driver he is. However, he goes unnoticed because he is so discreet and never generates publicity around him," Ecclestone said.

"He is the complete opposite of Hamilton, who talks quite a lot. Hamilton's attitude benefits us because he draws more attention and generates more publicity because he likes to talk.

"The rivalry between Raikkonen, Hamilton and others will be very beneficial."