Red Bull's motorsport consultant Helmut Marko has likened teenager Max Verstappen to Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna and suggested that the Dutchman possesses the level of talent only seen once in a decade.
The 16-year-old will race for Toro Rosso next season, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne in the Red Bull junior team, and his much-publicised move into the sport at an early age has been met with criticism from some quarters.
However, Marko is convinced that the Austrian outfit's development programme has uncovered a rare gem in Verstappen.
Marko told Formula 1.com: "[He is] Most likely Ayrton Senna and in such a case you must not look at his age. He has been talking with people who are experts when it comes to the development of youngsters and they all say that [in terms of] his mind he is more like 22 than 16.
"Regarding his skills behind the steering wheel, he has been racing since he was four years old - professionally. So we expect him to be competitive from the first race. We are not playing the lottery - we know what we are doing and success proves us right.
"He is an exceptional talent that comes along only once in decades."