Dani Pedrosa will never win the MotoGP title if he does not take this year's crown, reckons Honda boss Shuhei Nakamoto.
The HRC chief is utterly convinced that Pedrosa will be the 2013 champion based on his '12 form, and believes it could open the floodgates to much more success. Last year Pedrosa blossomed in the second half of the campaign to put Jorge Lorenzo under pressure in the title race.
"I think if he doesn't take the title this year, he probably never will, but if he does then it's quite possible he'll go on to be champion several times," Nakamoto said.
"He's beaten his big rival one on one, ridden through the rain to win at Malaysia, managed to keep his speed high even in wet conditions, which were previously his weak point. There's no question about it – Dani has progressed to another level and is now a very strong competitor.
"I'm so confident that he will take the title next year, I can't really imagine not seeing him on that podium."
Nakamoto thinks Honda's midseason upgrades transformed Pedrosa.
"In the first half of last season, he was having a hard time with the bike as we struggled to fix the balance after the new weight rules, and then the tire change," said Nakamoto. "But once we introduced the new bike, he just kept getting better and better.
"At the Czech GP he fought a tremendous battle with Jorge, overtaking then being overtaken, until finally Dani crossed the line ahead. I don't think he has had a race like that since his days in 125cc, so I think that marked a new stage for him.
"He turned in a superb performance at the final GP in Valencia too, under conditions so bad that the only dry part of the track was on the line itself. He astonished everyone with the speeds he was getting there - it really sometimes looked as if the other riders were just standing still.
"Our new machine has much improved braking and cornering, and getting his hands on such a good bike seems to have filled Dani with fresh confidence."