Cal Crutchlow believes Bradley Smith has a lot to prove before he is ready to step up to MotoGP and possibly replace him in the Tech 3 Yamaha team.
Oxford rider Smith has agreed to move from Tech 3's Moto2 outfit in 2013.
This switch could be at the expense of Coventry-born Crutchlow, who will fight with new team-mate Andrea Dovizioso this season to remain with the outfit.
"It will be difficult for him [Smith] to go from a Moto2 straight into a 1000cc bike," Crutchlow told BBC Sport.
Crutchlow and Dovizioso's contracts run out at the end of the 2012 season.
The previous campaign saw Crutchlow claim the rookie of the year award as he finished in 12th place in the standings, 39 points and three places behind ex-team-mate Colin Edwards.
Dovizioso was third in the championship last year for Repsol Honda before making the move to Yamaha over the winter.
Despite admitting he does not expect to finish ahead of the Italian, Crutchlow had high hopes for 2012.
"This is my year to prove a lot of people wrong," he stated. "I think this year will be a big year for the team, and if there's no space [in 2013], I'll go somewhere else."
Smith is the only rider in the Tech 3 stable guaranteed a MotoGP race seat next season. He backed Crutchlow to rebound if he is the man that makes way.
"It is an awkward situation, but we know that racing is cut-throat," Smith told BBC Sport. "There is always going to be someone to take your seat.
"I might be kicking him out of a ride but the guy [Crutchlow] is more than talented enough to find another MotoGP seat if that is the case."