Christian Horner, the man regarded as Bernie Ecclestone's favoured son in the paddock, has played down suggestions that he could become the new head of Formula One.
Horner, 38, who has led Red Bull to a drivers' and constructors' world championship double in each of the past two seasons, enjoys a good working relationship with Ecclestone, the sport's commercial rights holder and most dominant personality.
But when it was suggested that he could be the man to take over, Horner said on Wednesday: "I can't imagine that. I certainly wouldn't be equipped to deal with that role. I'm totally happy and focused with what I'm doing. I don't think there could be any one individual who does what Bernie does."
When Horner was reminded that the sport would still need a figurehead when Ecclestone goes, he replied: "But that's a long time away, the rate he's going."
That may be true. Ecclestone is going nowhere and will remain in charge after the £7.5bn-valued sport's stock market flotation, which has been delayed because of the miserable financial climate.
But even Ecclestone cannot go on forever. He will be 82 in October and his future involvement can only be the source of increased speculation.
Horner, bright and articulate, became the youngest of the team principals when he took charge at Red Bull in 2005 and was particularly impressive when the team dominated again last year.
David Coulthard, who joined Red Bull at the same time, is impressed with his former boss. Coulthard, a BBC commentator, said: "I'm a big fan. Christian is very driven and very single-minded. Beneath that friendly, affable exterior he's a tough and shrewd negotiator. When you get to a certain point with him you know you're wasting your time if you keep arguing.
"He has proved himself as a team principal and he's capable of going on to do something beyond that. But I'm not sure anyone could replace Bernie Ecclestone."
Another paddock insider, who did not want to be named, said: "Christian is not always popular with his peers, because he seems to say 'no' to everything, such as a resources restriction agreement. And he's still learning his job. But he's an intelligent man. And while people say he's lucky to have Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel working for him, he's the man who put the team in place.
"Eventually, I don't think there is anyone who can replace Bernie. He will ultimately be replaced by an executive board. But I think Christian can play a part on that board. Looking at the other team bosses, he is the only one."
Meanwhile, Horner has renewed his praise for Vettel, one of the favourites for this weekend's British Grand Prix. The double world champion was a winner at Silverstone in 2009 and was fastest in the last race in Valencia, until he had to retire with a faulty alternator.
Horner said: "Seb's incredibly mature for a 24-year-old. His strength of mind is one of his big assets. The more pressure, the better he deals with it. As he gains experience he gets stronger. He's only done 89 races so he's still relatively inexperienced compared with some of the other drivers.
"The best is yet to come. He's the type of guy who will look at all areas. He's never totally satisfied with his own performance so he wants to be constructively criticised. He's always looking for more from himself. He's like a sponge. He wants more and more information about what he's doing and how he can improve, which is very healthy attitude."
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