The Red Bull Racing owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, has given a fresh boost to David Coulthard's hopes of staying in Formula One next year.
After saying last week that the out-of-work Scot was still of interest to his team, the Austrian energy drink billionaire praised Coulthard yesterday.
"I personally believe that he's one of the brightest characters in F1," said Mateschitz during a visit to a team test at the Barcelona circuit last week.
"What our team needs now is experience, because it's difficult for us to have two rookies only. If we look at the drivers who are totally available, DC [Coulthard] is on the very, very top because there are only two drivers who have proved to be both fast and experienced; Those are Nick Heidfeld and David Coulthard.
"When you talk about the second cockpit at Red Bull, experience and the ability to develop a car further, then DC is on the top of this list," added Mateschitz.
"I'm sure the team will talk to him and I believe that he's a great racer."
Mateschitz bought the Jaguar team from Ford last month and has renamed it Red Bull Racing.
The team have yet to sign any drivers for 2005, but the Austrian Christian Klien and the Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi are strong contenders, having been backed by Red Bull for much of their careers. Both are testing with the team.
The German Heidfeld is testing with Williams, who are also looking for a race driver.
Coulthard, 33, has won more races than any active Formula One driver other than Ferrari's seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, but lost his place at McLaren to Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya.
He had been talking to Jaguar but was considered out of the running for a place at Red Bull after Mateschitz was quoted as saying in a German newspaper that he was not part of our selection."
The Scot's manager, the former driver and television commentator Martin Brundle, would not rule out the possibility of a deal.
"We're exploring all opportunities," he said. "And Red Bull Racing would unquestionably be one of them."
Red Bull Racing will launch their 2005 Formula One car at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain on 7 February.
The roar of a Ferrari Formula One engine will reverberate in the centre of Paris on Sunday as Michael Schumacher leads a special victory parade.
Ferrari's French team chief, Jean Todt, the former Formula One drivers Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay, and Sauber's Felipe Massa will accompany the German in road-going Ferraris.
Schumacher will be in Paris to take part in a "Race of Champions" at the Stade de France tomorrow, pitting circuit drivers against rally aces. The event will raise funds for a brain and spine charity backed by Todt and Schumacher.
Sebastien Loeb, the French driver who won the World Rally Championship this year, will stage a similar parade in his Citroen earlier in the morning.