Stewart: Raikkonen Now the Benchmark

Kimi Raikkonen has taken over Michael Schumacher's mantle as Formula One's dominant driver, according to former World Champion Jackie Stewart

Stewart: Raikkonen Now the Benchmark

The Scot, celebrating the 40th anniversary of his first Grand Prix win at Monza in 1965, said McLaren's young Finn was clearly a major talent despite lagging behind Renault's Fernando Alonso in the Championship.

The Finn is 24 points behind with five races to go.

"Renault should win it (the title) but there's no doubt the car of the year will be the McLaren," said Stewart.

"Raikkonen at the present time, I think, has already taken over the position of the dominant driver, even ahead of Schumacher and Alonso.

"Alonso has got a very good mind for such a young person and I don't think his car is anything like as fast as the McLaren. But if he uses his head, and it's clear he does, then I think he will win the World Championship."

Spaniard Alonso, at 24 on course to become the sport's youngest Champion, has won six races to Raikkonen's five this year but the Finn's efforts have been hampered by continued reliability problems.

Although he set the fastest time in qualifying at Monza, after winning the two previous races, he was relegated to 11th on the starting grid due to an engine failure.

Despite that, McLaren arrived in Monza just nine points adrift of Renault in the constructors' standings.

Schumacher Era

Ferrari's seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher has struggled this season after winning 13 of the 18 races last season.

Stewart said Schumacher had missed a chance to retire in a position of dominance and may even have tainted his reputation this year.

"He now has to win more grands prix, not just one or two, he now has to regain the World Championship and prove his dominance again if he's going to go down in history as the man of his time," he said.

"It's always nice to go out on top and he had that opportunity," said Stewart, who retired after winning his third World Championship in 1973.

"You are judged on what you last did against the competition of the day. And sport is cruel. Suddenly someone else can become the man," he added.

"And even though you have won seven World Championships or four like (Frenchman) Alain Prost, it was immediately taken over by someone else."

Stewart said Schumacher still had the drive and the ability to succeed but the last few years had been easy for Ferrari, with rivals underperforming, distracted and restructuring.

"Michael Schumacher was the best racing driver of his time but that period may have moved," he said.

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