Max Verstappen will never be ready for the title fight if he isn't ready now, according to former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve.
The Dutchman currently leads the Drivers' Championship as his battle with rival Lewis Hamilton continues. Whilst seven-times World Champion Hamilton has several more years' experience in Formula 1 than Verstappen, Villeneuve believes that the Red Bull man should be more than prepared by now for a title battle.
"He's been around long enough!" Villeneuve told Motorsport Magazin. "If he's not ready now, he'll never be ready."
In fact, Villeneuve thinks that Verstappen possesses the advantage over Hamilton of knowing how to push a lesser-performing car forward.
"Max is used to driving over the car to get the results, Lewis is not," the 1997 F1 World Champion explained.
On who has the greater chance of winning the title, Villeneuve said: "It will depend on how the season goes: If it's just to manage the lead or if he [Hamilton] has to fight like he did with Nico [Rosberg]. He's not used to that anymore.
"On the other hand, Red Bull is not used to fighting for titles anymore. They have already made mistakes in strategy decisions because of that. It's a long season, it will all even out."
Even though he believes that Verstappen is ready for the fight, Villeneuve acknowledges that Hamilton's additional experience could be valuable.
"Because he has improved a lot with experience. He has definitely matured as a driver. He can also keep that up throughout the season, which was a bit of a problem earlier in his career."
The two drivers seem to be in a league of their own at this stage of the season; Lando Norris - the nearest man to them in the Drivers' Standings in third place - is a full 47 points behind second-placed Hamilton, who is only four away from leader Verstappen.
Villeneuve is not happy with suggestions that the close battle has echoes of Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna, though.
"No! If you look at Senna vs Prost, there was a lot going on outside the car. Senna vs Prost could have happened when it was Nico. When there was real animosity that doesn't exist now.
"The gladiator side, the grudge outside the car is not there. Let's wait and see. Senna and Prost had seven titles between them!"