AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost has revealed that he believes that Red Bull driver Max Verstappen will emerge triumphant in this year's Formula 1 drivers championship battle.
This year's contest is proving one of the closest and hardest-fought in over a decade, with the lead in the standings swapping back and forth between Verstappen and reigning champion Lewis Hamilton.
But while Hamilton has seven titles under his belt and is going for a record eighth, Tost feels that Verstappen now has the upper hand and the advantage as he seeks his maiden title.
The 65-year-old Austrian has some insider knowledge on the matter, having been Verstappen's first boss in F1 when the Dutch driver made his bow at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix for the then-Toto Rosso squad.
"The answer was his home race at Zandvoort," Tost explained to the F1-Insider website this week. "If you can dominate in front of the frenetic fans in your home country with all the pressure of expectation, you no longer have to fear anything.
"That impressed me very much," he added. "I would be happy if Max wins the title in the end.
"Max cannot be thrown off balance," he continued. "He focuses from race to race. He wants to win every race. If a collision is to be avoided, then he will. If not, then not. And that's that!
"There will still be some exciting racing scenes in the future," Tost commented, adding that he believes Verstappen's future career will take the same path as that of one of the sport's greatest icons, three-time champion Ayrton Senna.
"I think that he is most likely to go in the direction of Ayrton Senna in terms of his willingness to take risks and the will to absolutely win," he said.
Tost recently confirmed that his own team would run an unchanged driver line-up of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda for next season.
That's despite Gasly seeking a return to Red Bull, and Tsunoda admitting his surprise at being kept on after an incident-strewn rookie campaign.
But Tost also admitted that he's looking at a rich pool of Red Bull driver programme talent for future openings as they search for the 'next Max Verstappen'.
"Formula 2 is very busy this year," he commented recently to German website SportF1. "With us they are Liam Lawson and Juri Vips, who will also contest the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi - Lawson with us, Vips with Red Bull Racing.
Others mentioned by Tost included Robert Shwartzman, Theo Pourchaire and F2 championship leader Oscar Piastri.
“There were always too few places in Formula 1," Tost admitted. “At the moment there are 20 cars and they have the best drivers.
“Another alternative would be to let them drive another season in the F2, or in the DTM or IndyCar. You can also create the path from these series.
"If you have the right talent, you will end up in Formula 1 at some point.”