Red Bull’s Max Verstappen becoming Formula 1 world champion is “just a matter of time”, says his former Formula 3 team boss.
Verstappen, 18, became the youngest race winner in the sport’s history at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
It was the Dutchman’s first race for Red Bull since being promoted from its junior team Toro Rosso.
“He’s an exceptional guy. I think he’s one of the biggest talents in decades in racing,” said Frits van Amersfoort.
“For the insiders Max’s talents were pretty obvious 10 yeas ago when he was still doing karts,” Van Amersfoort, team boss to Verstappen at Van Amersfoort Racing in 2014, told BBC World Service.
“Everyone knew there was a brilliant talent coming up. It’s just a matter of time until he is champion, I have no doubt about that.”
Verstappen made his F1 debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix at the age of 17 years, 166 days.
With new rules in the sport meaning a driver can no longer compete until the age of 18, his record as a race winner aged 18 years and 228 days looks a mark which will prove hard to beat.
In 32 starts in Formula 3, Verstappen recorded 10 wins to finish third in the FIA European Championship.
Van Amersfoort said Verstappen has “special feeling” and “timing” and credits his father – former F1 driver Jos Verstappen – with schooling the teenager in how to communicate in order to set a car up efficiently.
“Before he came to us he had that ability to talk about car behaviour,” added Van Amersfoort.
“Max is brilliant in terms of car control and also in the feeling of when he is fast and not fast. That is very difficult and in racing terms we are speaking about a few tenths [of a second] a lap, which makes it hard to identify if you are quick or not.”
Verstappen, who came from fourth on the grid to beat the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel into second and third in Spain, will next race in Monaco on 29 May.