Kazuki Nakajima has been given a resounding vote of confidence by his team boss Frank Williams, following an encouraging and impressively composed debut to his Formula 1 career in 2008.

Though the Japanese GP2 Series graduate is not strictly a rookie this year - having made his maiden appearance in the top flight in place of Alex Wurz in Brazil last year - he still only has nine grands prix under his belt, and has finished inside the points in three of them, notching up just one point less than more experienced and extremely highly-rated team-mate Nico Rosberg so far this season.

Such has been his progression, indeed, Williams has tipped the man from Aichi - son of 1980s Lotus and Tyrrell F1 star Satoru Nakajima - to have all the capability for a successful future in the sport, with the 23-year-old now the only Japanese driver left in the uppermost echelon after Takuma Sato lost his place in the wake of Super Aguri's demise.

"Kazuki is very intelligent [and] never panics," international news agency Reuters quotes Williams as having told reporters at Magny-Cours at the weekend. "He has a bit to learn about his driving and he knows it, [but] he exercises his mind about [it] to make himself better, perhaps more than anyone I have seen for a very long time."

Should Nakajima prove able to polish off those rough edges - the like of which saw him handed a grid penalty for the Malaysian Grand Prix after accidentally turfing erstwhile world championship leader Robert Kubica off the road in Melbourne back at the start of the campaign - Williams is confident that his future will be assured.

Even if he did earn his seat at the Grove-based concern as part of the Toyota engine deal - being a member of the Japanese manufacturer's young driver programme - Williams insisted Nakajima had more than justified his signing, and would likely remain at one of the two Toyota-powered teams next year, though he did not stipulate which.

"He is in more on his merit than not," the 66-year-old underlined, "but he's still got some way to go. There is no pressure on him; that's the best way of avoiding accidents. Rather, there is modest, sculpted pressure on him.

"I would think he will have a long-term future in Formula 1. He is clever and he does a lot of overtaking, some of which does not please the stewards - he knocked Kubica off and got a ten-place penalty, fair enough.

"He just needs time. If he were at McLaren or one of the top three [teams], you guys would say 'Kazuki, he's actually pretty good', because he could shine up there. I would imagine he will be at one of the two [Toyota-powered] teams [in 2009]."

Nakajima struggled in the French Grand Prix, however, as Williams' recent strong form nosedived, coming home a lowly 15th - just in front of Rosberg, who had started from the rear of the grid with his Montreal penalty - and barely featuring race-long.

"It was a difficult race for us," he acknowledged afterwards. "We decided to go for a two-stop strategy, which was the best direction to take under the circumstances. All weekend we've been suffering with a lack of pace and that hurt us during the race. We couldn't have done much better."

"In Canada, I was fighting the Ferraris and the BMWs, and here I was fighting at the back of the pack," rued a similarly downbeat Rosberg. "It's incredible, and not a very nice feeling.

"I thought I would be able to fight a bit more; I was giving it my all as usual, but the car simply didn't have the speed and it was very difficult. I am now looking to score some points at Silverstone - at least I won't have a grid penalty there!"

The multiple world championship-winning outfit's esteemed director of engineering Patrick Head was also adamant that the squad cannot afford too many more weekends like that endured in mid-France, if it is to successfully defend the fourth position in the constructors' title chase it accomplished last year. Williams currently sits nine points adrift of Red Bull Racing, the present occupiers of the spot.

"Obviously that was a very mediocre performance," Head stressed. "From here, we must go away and try to understand our mistakes and put them right to come out fighting at Silverstone, because I am sure that we can do better than we managed [at Magny-Cours]."