Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes that current series leader Nico Rosberg is now ready to follow in his footsteps and win his first title in 2016.
Rosberg has finished second to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the past two seasons, taking the championship to the final round in 2014.
Having won the last six grands prix, Rosberg is in the form of his career and is the early leader in the 2016 championship, enjoying a 36-point advantage over Hamilton after three races.
Rosberg has cooled talk of the championship with 18 races still to go in the season, but Hakkinen now believes the German is ready to win his first world title.
“I remember how he walked around as a four or five-year-old with a small helmet in his hand,” Hakkinen told Spox.
“When I see him now, I’m very proud of him. He has developed fantastically. He has became a man and a father with the responsibility of a family.
“What many people underestimate [is that] the path to being world class is incredibly long, arduous and painful. The emphasis is on pain. Since it does not matter if your own father himself was world champion or not.
“Although he has his friends and family on the side, at the end you are still alone, with an immense burden, especially mentally, to cope.
“The physique and talent were always there. Now he has the goal clearly in mind and says with conviction: ‘Yes, I want to become world champion!’ He has risen to the challenge.
“Therefore my answer is yes, he is ready for the world title.”