Jean-Eric Vergne has hailed this year's Formula Renault 3.5 line-up as the strongest outside of Formula 1.
The Toro Rosso driver, who graduated to Formula 1 after racing in the Renault-backed series last year, believes that the championship has stepped up a level for 2012 with a new car and an influx of drivers from all over the junior racing ladder.
"This is the strongest championship this year, stronger than GP2," said Vergne, who attended the FR 3.5 season opener where he performed demonstration runs in the 2010 world championship winning Red Bull RB6.
"It is a really really strong field, and the guy who wins this championship will definitely deserve a place in F1. There are so many good drivers, I don't think you will see anyone win more than three or four races."
The Frenchman, who finished second in the series last year to Robert Wickens, added that he wished the new car had been introduced while he was still racing in the category.
"I must say I'm a bit disappointed we didn't have the new car last year, it looks really nice," he said. "I was talking to some of the guys who have driven in other top categories and they tell me the grip is unbelievable.
"When you drive in a championship like this, it is to one day be able to drive in Formula 1. The car is much quicker than last year so it is getting ever closer to F1.
"This is a really good championship to prepare you. After racing in Renault 3.5 last year I felt at the end of the season that I was ready for F1."