DECEMBER 15, 2016
Ecclestone admits worrying about Rosberg successor
Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he is worried Lewis Hamilton will utterly dominate in 2017.
We reported on Tuesday that, following Nico Rosberg's shock resignation and Mercedes' limited options to replace him, F1 supremo Ecclestone was in touch with Toto Wolff about the identity of Hamilton's next teammate.
"It (Hamilton dominating) would be bad for everybody and bad for Lewis as well, because I think he wants to win fair and wants to beat somebody," said Ecclestone.
So Bernie, 86, told Britain's Sky that Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel might have been able to beat Hamilton.
"They (Mercedes) have said they couldn't have Fernando, because of the tangle (spygate) with McLaren. So they didn't try with him.
"Sebastian I think is happy with Ferrari and he certainly wouldn't break his contract," he added.
The leading candidates are therefore Valtteri Bottas and Pascal Wehrlein.
Ecclestone said: "I think one or two of them would be capable of performing. But I don't think anybody's going to beat Lewis.
"I hope I'm completely wrong and whoever goes and sits in the same team can beat him or hurry him up that he makes mistakes. My personal opinion is that it's not going to happen," he added.
Ecclestone said Max Verstappen might be one driver who can actually beat Hamilton, but the young Dutchman's boss Christian Horner said Red Bull will not let him go.
"They are all on long-term contracts so it wouldn't make any sense to feed one of your main opponents with one of your assets," Horner, also referring to Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz, told BBC radio.
Mercedes has instead targeted Valtteri Bottas, but although Wolff has made an offer, Williams is not willing to let him go, especially after signing 18-year-old Lance Stroll.
"Keeping Bottas will be crucial," Williams technical boss Pat Symonds told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Losing him would have a heavy impact on the team, especially in a season in which the rules are changing."
Therefore, Horner advised Mercedes to take a leaf out of Red Bull's book by taking a punt on a young driver like Wehrlein.
"You give these guys a chance," he said. "Let's see what people can do in a front running car."