Gerhard Berger believes Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will pick up wherever they leave off when the 2018 season gets underway.
The title fight has fizzled after a disappointing and disastrous Asian tour for Ferrari, and Hamilton now enjoys a comfortable 59-point lead over Vettel in the drivers' standings.
But, regardless of the outcome of this year's championship, Berger says Vettel should not consider himself a 'loser'.
"Vettel should not feel as a loser of 2017," the former McLaren and Ferrari driver told Auto Bild.
"Ferrari made a giant leap from last season and put Mercedes under much more pressure than was expected. They are on the right track," Berger added.
"In 2018 there will be a big battle between Hamilton and Vettel, both of whom will have four world championship titles by then," he said.
Berger was speaking at last weekend's DTM finale at Hockenheim which was attended by Vettel who was on hand to support the efforts of his brother Fabian in the Audi TT Cup race.
Asked why Vettel's championship campaign collapsed so suddenly in 2017, Berger said: "It may be that Ferrari was surprised how well they were doing and put too much pressure on.
"If you develop faster than planned then the risk of defects increases," he added.