Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has “no doubt” that Lewis Hamilton will clinch a fourth world championship in 2016.
Hamilton has won three F1 titles since making his debut back in 2007, the last two coming in 2014 and 2015 with the all-conquering Mercedes team.
A rocky start to the year saw Hamilton fall as many as 43 points behind Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, only to mount a fightback that saw him take the lead before the summer break.
Wins for Rosberg in Belgium and Italy have caused Hamilton’s lead to shrink to just two points heading into the final seven rounds of the season.
In an interview with the official F1 website that also featured Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff, Ecclestone expressed his belief that Hamilton would win the title again.
“Of course he will win,” Ecclestone said. “No doubt about that.”
Wolff remained coy given his role as team boss, managing the seasons of both title contenders.
“If you switch off the microphone I can give you my personal opinion…” Wolff said.
“But I try to be as neutral as possible with the two of them. I would be happy with either of them winning.”
Ecclestone and Wolff also discussed their talks in 2015 over a possible Mercedes engine supply for Red Bull, something the F1 CEO was pushing to make a reality.
Amid ongoing difficulties for Red Bull with existing supplier Renault, Ecclestone tried to help broker a deal for Mercedes to supply its rival with power units.
However, Mercedes rejected the deal, ultimately leading to Red Bull to stick with Renault for 2016 before ultimately signing a further two-year contract.
“We never did, and probably never will agree on that,” Ecclestone said.
“Yes, I understand the reasons – I would have reacted just like them in their shoes. Toto was in a very difficult position back then, because maybe – in his heart – he would not have minded, but he had to look at what’s the best for his team and him personally.”
Wolff added: “In all the discussions we had about this topic, we both always understood why the other had that standpoint.
“If I had been in Bernie’s shoes I would have wanted the most sensational fight for the titles. I always accepted that, but I could not follow that path.
“Running a team means you very much have to look out for yourself, for your team. Running Formula One you naturally want to have the most competitive and entertaining platform – which can translate into very different objectives.”