BERNIE Ecclestone has defended Michael Schumacher amid criticism of the seven-time world champion's lacklustre return to Formula One.
The 41-year-old German's comeback with a three-year deal at Mercedes was the talk of the pre-season.
But his form hit a low in China last weekend, when he was trounced by his teammate Nico Rosberg in qualifying before finishing a minute down at the finish in the sort of slippery conditions in which previously he would have thrived.
F1 Chief Executive Ecclestone said the criticism of his performance so far is not justified.
"Anybody who criticises Michael is wrong. He deserves better," the Briton said in a joint interview with Mercedes' Norbert Haug.
Haug agreed: "No, for sure he doesn't deserve that."
The German told F1's official website that Schumacher's effect at the Brackley based team is being tangibly felt behind the scenes.
"He stimulates everybody, including Nico."
Ecclestone said he is not surprised that 24-year-old Rosberg currently has the upper hand, and tips Schumacher to be back on top soon.
"Nico is very talented and Michael was on holiday for three years. Ask me the same question after another two races," said the 79-year-old.
There have been theories that Schumacher will - or should - make a quick retreat in order to cease the humiliation and safeguard his legacy.
It has also been suggested that his form reflects the fact that he has only returned to beat the boredom of retirement.
"We all know that Michael would be his first and foremost critic if he realised that this job is not for him anymore. But that's not the case," said Haug.
"Within the team, Michael is extremely constructive. This enthusiasm is firing up the whole team."
Ecclestone agreed: "Michael would have never returned had he not been convinced that he can do the job. He is not a tourist in the paddock -- he's here to win. And he will win again."
Montezemolo Steps Down At Fiat, Wants Rossi In F1
LUCA di Montezemolo has stepped down as Chairman of the Italian carmaker Fiat.
He will, however, remain President of Ferrari, with 34-year-old John Elkann - a descendant of the founding Agnelli family - replacing him at Fiat because Montezemolo has "finished the task" he began in 2004.
Montezemolo, 62, denied the move is a precursor to moving into Italian politics or even founding his own party, insisting he is staying on the Fiat board and will not stop heading Ferrari.
On the same day, Montezemolo announced that he still wants "major teams" such as Ferrari "and McLaren" to be allowed to enter third cars in grands prix.
"We want a third car and I would do everything to have Valentino (Rossi)," he told reporters.
"When he wins this year's MotoGP, enough is enough, he must also win in formula one," the Ferrari Chairman and President added.