Lauda Tips Williams for 2004 Title

Three-time Formula One Champion Niki Lauda believes the Williams team are the favourites to take next year's World Championships.

Lauda Tips Williams for 2004 Title

Three-time Formula One Champion Niki Lauda believes the Williams team are the favourites to take next year's World Championships.

"At the end of the day it will be a duel between Ferrari and the WilliamsF1", Lauda was quoted as saying by the BMW-Motorsport website. "And in my opinion, the WilliamsF1 team will enjoy a slight advantage next year.

"The team seems to have the best overall package and in 2004 they will be competitive from the very first race of the season; particularly as they have started to test their new engine for 2004 as early as in September."

The BMW-powered squad finished in second place in last season's Championship, losing out to the Ferrari team, who clinched their fifth consecutive constructors' title.

The Italian squad's star Michael Schumacher took a record-breaking sixth drivers' title, while the Williams drivers finished in third and fifth places, with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya beating his teammate Ralf Schumacher.

Lauda believes the situation will change next year and the German driver will be stronger than Montoya.

"This year Ralf and Juan Pablo have been evenly matched," the Austrian added. "But I expect Ralf to have an advantage in 2004 as Juan Pablo has manoeuvred himself into a strange situation by flirting with McLaren."

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