Daniel Ricciardo says Max Verstappen's coronation this season would put a "fresh face" at the top of F1's pyramid and produce a "feel good story" for the sport.
Ricciardo's former Red Bull team reclaimed the lead in the title fight last weekend in Turkey where Verstappen finished second behind winner Valtteri Bottas while fellow championship contender Lewis Hamilton clocked in P5.
Verstappen will therefore head to Austin next week with a six-point advantage over the seven-time world champion with six rounds remaining in the 2021 campaign.
Since the advent of Grand Prix racing's hybrid era in 2014, Mercedes has upheld its dominance in every single season, cumulating seven consecutive team and driver championships, with Hamilton only defeated once during his tenure with the Brackley squad, in 2016, by teammate Nico Rosberg.
The epic battle this season between Formula 1's two protagonists is immersing the fans, and Ricciardo is no exception, even though the Aussie steered clear of naming his favourite for the world title.
"I think just kind of ‘may the best man win’,' said the McLaren driver in Turkey last weekend, quoted by RaceFans.net.
"The rivalry they’ve had this year has been pretty awesome. As a fan, I think they’ve left it all out there. So from that point of view, I think they are where they are.
"I think it’s fair at the moment in terms of they are nip-and-tuck. So no preference."
This year's Italian Grand Prix winner won't risk a prediction on the outcome of the title fight but suggests that Verstappen is likely the winner of the popular vote among fans.
"I think obviously people do like to see like a fresh face, so maybe Max is the more popular vote because it would be a first title for him and it’s something new and exciting for everyone," commented Ricciardo.
"So that’s always like you’ve got that feel-good story.
"But I think as long as no misfortune is involved, then I think the guy that wins is the one that’s going to deserve it."