Mika defends Bernie, Kimi

(GMM) Two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen has leapt to the defense of two of formula one's leading figures.

The 40-year-old Finn, who retired as a McLaren race driver in 2001, said his countryman Kimi Raikkonen will bounce back to form after a lackluster season with Ferrari this year.

"Kimi did not have a good year, but in 2009 he will attack again and win races," Hakkinen told laola1.at.

"He knows what went wrong and will stop it from happening again."

Hakkinen also backed the sport's 78-year-old chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, following suggestions the time for the so-called 'supremo' to step down may be nearing.

"In the past decades he was the one who moved formula one forwards," the winner of 20 grands prix insisted. "He is absolutely the right man for the job."

Meanwhile, Hakkinen tipped 21-year-old Sebastian Vettel, the youngest ever race winner following his 2008 Monza victory, for a F1 title within a "few years".

"Vettel has the right stuff," he said. "He is still very young, but exceptionally fast, performing like an old hand. Certainly in the next few years he will take the title."

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