Niki lauds Button

Three-time world champion Niki Lauda has tipped Jenson Button to take over from Michael Schumacher as the next big talent in Formula 1.

Niki lauds Button

Button, who switches to Benetton after losing his seat at Williams-BMW to Champ Car ace Juan Pablo Montoya, has made a big impression this season, notching up 12 world championship points and out-qualifying team mate Ralf Schumacher six times.

"Button has been quite the most impressive driver of the year," Lauda told Autosport's sister magazine Autocar. "I was alerted to his early promise by Gerhard Berger and the way in which he set the fastest time during Friday free practice at the Nurburgring really got my attention."

Lauda also added fuel to the debate over whether Montoya should be replacing Button at Williams. The 51-year-old expressed doubts over how the former CART champion will compare to the young Brit's impressive debut year.

"It's certainly possible Button could be F1's next big star. It's always difficult to judge these things, but I'd say Frank Williams has taken a big risk with Montoya. I will be very impressed if he is better than Button."

The former advisor to the Ferrari team was speaking at the final round of the DTM championship at Hockenheim, where he drove members of the German Olympic equestrian team in the McLaren-Mercedes two-seater F1 car.

The Austrian also quashed any rumours concerning the financial worries of his airline Lauda Air.

"We have put a package together which satisfied one of our minority shareholders, Austrian Airlines," he said.

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