Sebastian Vettel has jumped to the defence of Formula 1 rookie Jaime Alguersuari amid criticism from fellow drivers that he is too young to be making his debut this weekend.
Alguersuari is set to become the youngest man to start a grand prix – with him being just 19 years and 125 days old on Sunday. But his age and inexperience, having completed just straight line tests and a demonstration in Formula 1 machinery, has caused controversy among other drivers.
Felipe Massa said that he thought Alguersuari was too young, and even Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber questioned the way that the Spaniard was being brought into sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso.
"I've never been a big fan of Formula 1 being a learning school but it seems like it is these days," said Webber. "I don't think Formula 1 is a learning school.
"When you arrive in F1 you should be ready. It's not a place to learn. Anyway, some guys are doing that but it's harder without testing these days. I think we're going to see a bit more of it, maybe, in the future where guys are learning."
Vettel believes, however, that it is wrong to criticize Alguersuari – and if anything it is the fault of F1's rules that he has had so little mileage before being thrust into F1.
"I heard Mark was not so pleased about the fact that Jaime is driving this weekend," said Vettel. "I think in the end if there is anything to criticize, then I think it is the rules.
"As you can see, you end up having a situation that a driver is entering F1 without having done a single test. So I think it is extremely difficult for young drivers, independent from their age, the next generation, to get to F1 as you have no chance to prove yourself. You have only one or two days.
"If you start skiing, you know how hard it is after one or two days to really know what is going on for instance. Therefore, I wish him all the best and I think he has enough time, but for sure it is not the easiest way to go."
Vettel believes Alguersuari should take his time to build up speed this weekend.
"In the end you have to find your own way, and I think there is more than one person who gave him advice to just take his time," he explained. "That is the most important thing. If he is really quick enough or not, you can't really tell by one race. It will come or it doesn't. Every other driver has made this experience in their own way."
Despite Vettel's feelings, World Championship leader Jenson Button fears that Alguersuari could risk hurting his career if he does not show well this season.
"If someone gives you an opportunity to race in F1 you're going to take it, but at his age it could absolutely destroy his career," explained Button. "If it goes well, it's fantastic, but it's on a knife's edge. There's so much to learn. He's proved that he's quick and I'm sure he's going to be reasonably quick. Is he going to be as quick as [Sebastien] Bourdais? I shouldn't think so, he definitely won't be here.
"He might be later on in the season but I don't know how many races they'll give him. It's a difficult position to be in but it's tough, because when someone says you've got the drive it's difficult to turn around and say, 'I'm not ready yet,' because it's your dream to race in F1."