LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Schumacher can be a winner with Mercedes this season but ideally he would be alongside double world champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Thursday.
The 43-year-old seven-times world champion is starting the third season of his comeback still chasing his first podium finish since he retired as a Ferrari driver in 2006.
Vettel has won the last two championships, taking 11 victories last season and wrapping up the title with four races to spare.
Ecclestone said he did not want to see that domination again this year, when there will be an unprecedented six champions on the starting grid, and hoped Schumacher would come good.
“It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if he did,” he told reporters after announcing a new commercial partnership. “I’d like to see him in a good car. I’d like to see him in the second Red Bull. I don’t think Sebastian would mind.”
That would not please Mark Webber, Vettel’s current team mate, but Ecclestone said he had nothing against the popular Australian.
“I’m just saying it would be nice to see him (Schumacher) in the car where you know that if he doesn’t win, it’s his fault and not the car’s.”
Asked whether he felt the older German - who has looked in fine form in pre-season testing - could still win, Ecclestone replied: “Yeah, sure.”
The 81-year-old said the season would have 20 races as scheduled with no question mark over any of them.
Bahrain, a race cancelled last year due to unrest in the Gulf kingdom, was 100 percent certain, the new U.S. race at Austin, Texas, was “cracking away” on building a circuit and South Korea was all in order.
Ecclestone said the teams were right to ask for a bigger slice of the commercial revenues but their chances of extracting more money out of him in a new ‘Concorde Agreement’ under negotiation were “slim to none”.
With no Italian drivers on the grid for the first time in more than 40 years, Ecclestone recognised that the sport needed a strong Ferrari.
“It’s better that we do have a good Italian. But if Ferrari is winning, it doesn’t make any difference,” he said.
The Italian glamour team, who have been present at every championship since 1950, have not set the testing track alight and have said they have plenty of work to do before the start of the season in Australia on March 18.
“They know what the problem is and it’s not a problem (difficult) to fix,” said Ecclestone. “So I think you’re going to find that they are going to fix it quite shortly.”
The Briton said he expected compatriot and 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton to be making the right moves again after a controversial and crash-laden season last year.
“I spoke to him the other day. I think he’s got a bit more focused,” he said, while criticising the management he had around him in 2011.
Hamilton’s McLaren contract is up for renewal at the end of the season and Ecclestone suggested that a move could be on the cards if he or the team were off the pace.
“I think if he doesn’t perform this year he’d be looking maybe to move on and the team may be also looking for him to move on,” he added.
Editing by Mark Meadows