Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes rival Renault will be the Formula 1 team that makes the biggest step forward in 2018.
On the back of the major investment, Renault has made to its F1 project since it took over Lotus at the end of 2015, Wolff has singled out the French car manufacturer as the outfit that is likely to make the biggest jump this year.
Reflecting on competitors this year, Wolff told Motorsport.com: "Force India? There the duel between (Sergio) Perez against (Esteban) Ocon becomes entertaining. Both want to distinguish themselves for bigger things in 2019 – so this season is essential for both.
"Williams has a bold design, so I'm curious to see how it works. Newcomer [Sergey] Sirotkin has little experience, but his speed can make up for it. [Lance] Stroll must be a team leader at 19 in his second year [of F1].
"But Renault will make the biggest step forward for me. It will use all its resources, and has ambitious drivers with [Nico] Hulkenberg and [Carlos] Sainz."
Moving further down the field, he suggested that Toro Rosso could surprise while Sauber also could not be ignored.
"Toro Rosso also has the Franz Tost factor and Honda with new ambition. The team boss is a racer and a hard worker – so there could be some surprises.
"Haas-Ferrari will be difficult to assess because in 2017 it lost a little bit, while McLaren-Renault now has an engine to compete with Red Bull. Both claim to have the best chassis, which will be exciting.
"And Sauber with Alfa Romeo is more than just a marketing gimmick. It has the best wind tunnel in F1, with [Charles] Leclerc driver, who is regarded as a star of the future and with Vasseur, a real racer, as team boss."
Regarding his team's own ambitions, Wolff says there is no reason to believe his four-time title winning team will have an easier time this year, as he sees plenty of chances for his closest opposition.
"Ferrari made a giant leap from 2016 to 2017. The car will be fast again this year, and Sebastian (Vettel) as leader is strong and confident.
"Red Bull has a great combination of drivers: a sunny boy (Daniel Ricciardo) who can drive really well and a giant talent (in Max Verstappen) who polarises opens and lifts F1. The pairing for sure is top.
"Plus, in the second half of 2017, the team put forward a development like no other. If Red Bull remains friendly with Renault it will be a tough opponent."
Bottas decision by summer
Wolff's praise of the Red Bull driver line-up comes at a time when Ricciardo is a candidate to take a seat at Mercedes in 2019 if the team elects to replace Valtteri Bottas.
Speaking about the potential driver line-up for next year, Wolff said: "We will look at how he [Bottas] is developing this year and will decide from the summer on.
"For Lewis, an extension is just a matter of detail. I assume that we will continue together."
Interview by Gerhard Kuntschik