Speaking ahead of the season opening Australian Grand Prix, Ecclestone also reckons Mercedes is the dark horse for this year.
“I very recently spoke to (Ferrari team principal) Stefano (Domenicali) who was in London to see me and he said that he still expects Red Bull to be the danger for them,” he told the Official F1 website.
“And I agree: they are – and they are super competitive. And from Red Bull’s point of view their biggest competitor will be Ferrari.”
“[Mercedes] have shown that they are much more competitive than in previous times. When I spoke with them about taking Lewis [Hamilton] I said if you take him you get the right sort of people because they think they are joining a winning team now. Niki [Lauda] and Toto [Wolff] – that looks good, so I am sure that they will be competitive. I would be hugely surprised if they don’t win races – on merit and not for other reasons!”
Ecclestone also thinks Hamilton’s move to Mercedes will benefit McLaren’s Jenson Button.
“Maybe we will see that McLaren’s ‘second driver’ will not really be second driver – that he [Perez] is as good as everybody believes. I think it will be good for Jenson (Button) too, as he will now feel that he is in charge, whereas before he might have thought that he was ‘number two’. Now he is ‘number one’ and we will very likely see a different Jenson. That might be good for him. Perhaps.”
One team that won’t be on the grid in 2013 is HRT. The Spanish team struggled throughout their three year stay in the sport and Ecclestone insists that was down to finance.
“No, it wasn’t a case of a poor business model. It just cost too much money and they couldn’t find it – and the people weren’t prepared to put in any more money. That’s why they stopped,” he said.
Ahead of the 2013 season, Ecclestone also hinted at what he wants in the sport in the future, most prominently a female racer.
“Danica [Patrick] would be good to have with one of the teams now. All the things that people worry about – whether a woman can cope with the G-forces and all that – she has proven that she can. She’s been there and done it. What I think – and I cannot blame her for it – is that she will hardly want to give up the exposure she has in the US to come here and maybe not make it. I have been looking for a woman for years! I always thought that this could be a good idea.”
Ecclestone also reiterated his belief that the sport will continue its gradual departure from Europe.
“The fact is that we are a world championship, not a European championship, so maybe we are going to lose a couple of European races because we are going to other parts of the world. There are lots of countries knocking at our door and it is a case of finding the right places for Formula One.”