Niki Lauda believes Nico Rosberg will be world champion this year if nothing strange happens, following his victory in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Rosberg took his ninth win of the season, again benefitting from Lewis Hamilton's early-race dramas, to extend his championship lead to 33 points with four races remaining.
Hamilton, who dropped from second to eighth at the start, finished in third.
Lauda, a non-executive chairman at Mercedes, reckons the Briton will not be able to catch Rosberg now unless the German hits trouble.
"Nico is doing everything right at the moment," Lauda told Germany's Sky. "If everything is going normal the championship could be decided in the next few races already.
"And if everything is going normal, Lewis won't be able to catch Nico anymore. This is perfectly clear to me.
"But it's only lost and won when the points are gathered. But if nothing happens to either car, I don't think Lewis will be able to turn it around again."
Rosberg, for his part, is refusing to get carried away yet, and insists he will not change his approach.
"It is still a long way to go," he said. "I'm not at any point to change my approach now. So I am sticking with what I am doing because it is working well.
"I am aware of 33 points but will focus on race by race, still many races to go so keeping my head down."
Additional reporting by Stefan Ehlen