Red Bull's Helmut Marko says Pierre Gasly's spell in the Super Formula series in Japan last year was a huge benefit to the young driver's character.
Gasly performed as expected in 2016, winning the GP2 championship, but was ultimately snubbed by Red Bull for a full-time drive in Formula 1.
Like raw French cheese which required maturation, Gasly was sent to Japan to hone his skills and character in the competitive Super Formula series. While he ultimately missed out on the title, the 21-year-old convinced Marko his time for F1 had come.
"Gasly won the GP2-series in his second year, he had a bit of bad luck but he also made mistakes," Marko told Motorsport.com.
"He matured in Japan, which was absolutely essential. He had to learn to care for himself, which was possible there as nobody spoke his language. He had to get his way and he actually managed.
"At the end of the day he didn't win the championship because of this strange storm, but he managed to get his team to the top. He was an absolute winner.
"It was the right decision to give him the time. Also Brendon Hartley has improved his character, now he has the experience. We expect both drivers to be in the points regularly in 2018."
Reflecting on his exile to the country of the rising sun, Gasly himself reckons it was the right move to strengthen his character.
"In a way it made me really much stronger mentally than I was in the past, and from all the experiences for me there were no bad ones," says the Toro Rosso driver.
"You always learn something from it. If it's good or bad, there are always things to take with you. It's been a long trip, but with a lot of good experiences. And useful for me."