Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has hit back at critics who say Jaime Alguersuari is too young to be in Formula 1.
Alguersuari is set to become the youngest driver to start an F1 race this weekend, but his promotion into Toro Rosso has caused controversy, with Mark Webber and Felipe Massa saying he should not have been given the chance yet.
However, Tost has jumped to Alguersuari's defence - and said he thinks the youngster will have a bright future in F1 as he is groomed for eventual promotion to Red Bull Racing.
"We expect him to be fast," said Tost. "We expect him to be a very measured and highly-skilled driver. When Red Bull and respectively Dietrich Mateschitz decided to run a second team, one of the main targets was to give the young drivers, especially from the Red Bull young driver programme, the chance to come into F1.
"And, when we decided to change the driver a couple of weeks ago, we studied all the data of the young Red Bull drivers and the result was that Jaime was the most experienced, the most successful and the most measured drivers.
"And therefore we decided to run him. I am convinced that he will come up with a good performance and that he will be successful."
Toro Rosso has not made any firm commitment about how long Alguersuari will be in the car – but Tost said the faster he was the longer he would remain with the team.
When asked by AUTOSPORT to clarify the length of Alguersuari's deal, Tost said: "It is a very easy question. That is a decision of his right foot. The faster he is, the longer he will be in the car with us. And let me tell you it this way – he will be educated at Toro Rosso and then he goes to Red Bull Racing because this is the target.
"I just want to add that I hear some people say he is not experienced enough. It is always a difficult question to answer about when is a driver experienced enough to come into F1. I can only say that Jaime has done so far 118 races. He won 17 races; he was 46 times on the podium.
"He won last year the British Formula 3 championship, and this year in the World Series he is improving his performance race by race. Last weekend at Le Mans he finished on Saturday fourth and then on Sunday he was on the podium in third position. It is quite a good basis to come into F1.
"Apart from this, as you know, the new regulations mean there is no testing any more because of financial reasons, and therefore it is not easy to bring in the new drivers into F1. You have to start them here, and I think he has a good background and he is experienced enough to do a good job."
Tost also played down speculation that Sebastien Loeb had been in the frame to replace Sebastien Bourdais in the second half of the season.
"Personally, I have not had any contact with Sebastien Loeb," he explained. "The Loeb story is quite easy (to explain). Sebastien as you know is working together with Red Bull.
"He is for me the best rally driver at this stage, and he did a really good and impressive test last year with Red Bull Racing. I can only assume that he was thinking that maybe if Bourdais is being replaced he could do some races.
"But he is driving in the WRC and this [Loeb racing] was from Toro Rosso's side never a plan. We are out with young drivers and therefore we didn't negotiate or discuss this."