Shanghai, Oct 6: Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has hailed Lewis Hamilton as the saviour of the sport.
While the 22-year-old McLaren driver prepared for a Chinese Grand Prix that could make him Formula One's first rookie champion tomorrow, leading lights led a chorus of praise for the Briton.
''Lewis Hamilton has been a real breath of fresh air and has resurrected Formula One,'' Britain's Guardian newspaper quoted commercial rights holder Ecclestone, who is not in Shanghai, as saying.
''I have been in motor racing longer than I care to remember but I have never seen anyone like him. He has been nothing short of a miracle worker.
''We lost a big hero in Michael Schumacher but in Lewis we have another. But for him I'm not sure where the sport would be heading,'' he said.
Hamilton, winner of four races so far this year, leads team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso by 12 points with just one race remaining after tomorrow.
He has already claimed a string of records, including first rookie to finish his opening nine races on the podium, youngest British race winner and first driver to score 100 points from his first 15 starts.
If he dethrones Alonso, he will also replace the Spaniard as Formula One's youngest champion.
''It is painfully obvious to me that the right guy to be world champion is Lewis,'' said Ecclestone.
''In fact my main fear would be if he didn't win it. Kimi Raikkonen barely talks to anyone and as such has done little for the sport, and as for Fernando Alonso, in his two years as world champion he has done nothing.'' Damon Hill, Britain's last world champion with Williams in 1996, said he was ''totally amazed'' by what Hamilton had achieved.
Frank Williams, Hill's former boss, compared Hamilton to Ferrari's seven times world champion Schumacher and the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna.
''He is very special. Once every 10 years they come along, like Ayrton and Michael. It is a very rare event and a fantastic event and a story for Formula One,'' he told a news conference at the Shanghai circuit.
Ferrari boss Jean Todt added his compliments: ''Normally a very talented driver in their first year in F1 doesn't drive for a winning team with a winning car,'' he said.
''That was the opportunity he had and he used it very well. We can only have respect and admiration for what he has achieved this year.'' Hamilton's own team boss, Ron Dennis, said the facts were plain to see.
''He has broken more records than any other young driver and I think the records speak for themselves. We can all eulogise about his achievements but I think actions speak louder than words,'' he said.
''He is just an exceptional talent and I am sure he will set many more records in the future.''