Legendary grand prix drivers Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart foresee a new F1 champion being crowned in 2003, but French-Sicilian racing personality Jean Alesi disagrees.

Legendary grand prix drivers Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart foresee a new F1 champion being crowned in 2003, but French-Sicilian racing personality Jean Alesi disagrees.


Three-time F1 world champion and former Jaguar team principal Niki Lauda believes this season's driver's title will be won by Colombian Williams-BMW star Juan-Pablo Montoya.


The Austrian is convinced Montoya, who has won two grands prix so far this year, has what it takes to deny Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher a record sixth world championship.


"Montoya can become world champion by himself. To do so he must win two points more than Michael Schumacher in each of the remaining four races," said Lauda. "In Montoya's current situation, this is not only possible, but even probable. If the BMW Williams team can maintain their form, Ferrari are hardly going to stand a chance," Lauda said.


Fittipaldi, a double world champion, said: “Montoya is an animal full of gas and the type of racer that always thinks: ‘I am the best’. Juan-Pablo has all the attributes necessary to win a world championship."


Triple-world champion Jackie Stewart has also praised the Colombian, stating that Montoya had changed much since winning the drivers’ championship has become a possibility.


“Men of his calibre smell the success. Juan has changed in the last four months,” Sir Jackie said.


However, German touring car and former F1 star Jean Alesi disagrees with the three former champions and predicts Schumacher and Ferrari will remain victorious.


"Michael is a great champion and has the experience that his rivals do not have," Alesi told . "That can make the difference."


Even though Montoya and Williams-BMW seem to have the best package at the moment, the former Ferrari driver is convinced that his good friend Michael Schumacher will use his experience and exceptional talent to his advantage in this battle.


"Michael has been here before and he understands what is needed to win the championship," added Jean Alesi. "The rest do not have that experience. Of course it will be difficult, but you should never underestimate Michael Schumacher. He can get results when other drivers can't."