Former multiple grand prix-winner turned BBC F1 pundit David Coulthard has expressed his opinion that whoever ultimately claims the drivers' crown this season will be 'perhaps the most deserving [world champion] of all time given the unprecedented levels of competition and pressure' in 2010 - and Fernando Alonso, he reckons, is now the favourite.

Having revealed his conviction post-Silverstone - a calamitous, point-less outing that saw him slip to some 47 markers adrift of the lead in the title standings, equivalent to almost two race victories - that he was 'more convinced than before that we will win the championship', many took Alonso's statement with more than a hefty pinch of salt. Just look where he is now.

Whilst many have questioned the Spaniard's ethics and some - ex-FIA President Max Mosley amongst them [see separate story - click here] - contend that should he go on to lift the F1 2010 laurels by fewer than the seven points he inherited thanks to the team orders controversy at Hockenheim, his success will be 'devalued', Coulthard argues that if Alonso does claim a third drivers' trophy this season, it will be fully-merited off the back of a superb recent run that has seen him triumph three times in the last four grands prix.

"Fernando returned to the summit of the championship for the first time since the opening two races of the year," the Scot wrote in his column for The Daily Telegraph, conceding that whilst the Korean winner is 'a man of few words...what he does say is usually worth listening to'. "He is the man with the momentum and, on the same basis that I backed Mark Webber to win the title before Korea, is now my favourite to claim the world title in Abu Dhabi.

"When the cars are so evenly-matched, you have to back the man in possession - especially when that man is a two-time world champion, and arguably the finest driver of his generation. Fernando, for me and for most of the guys out there, has been the benchmark in the post-Schumacher era.

"I was no fan of his tactics in 2007 and would like to think that even he is ashamed of what happened in qualifying in Budapest that year when he blocked Lewis [Hamilton], but on-track I have always known him to be hard but fair. Relentless is probably the best word for him. There is a cold, calculating quality to his brilliance. Off the track, as we know, he will stop at practically nothing to secure an advantage.

"People are sure to bang on about the seven points he won in Germany when Felipe Massa pulled over for him. Get over it. I have said it before and I will say it again - every team has imposed team orders and will do so again to one extent or another. Do you notice any team principals bleating about those seven points? No - people in glass houses don't throw stones."

Logically-speaking, whilst Hamilton remains in the running for glory as does - albeit even more tenuously - McLaren-Mercedes team-mate, countryman and title-winning successor Jenson Button, in all likelihood it is now only either Webber or Sebastian Vettel who can deny Alonso the prize.

The Australian may end up paying a heavy price for his Korean error, whilst the German could well be left counting the cost of his cruel engine failure in the same race that scuppered a certain victory - but erstwhile Red Bull Racing star and ongoing team consultant Coulthard insists neither can be discounted.

"I don't believe Red Bull will favour either driver just yet, as they are both in with a fantastic chance of winning the title," the 39-year-old stated, reinforcing team principal Christian Horner's repeated protestations. "It is completely different in Ferrari's case, with Felipe out of contention.

"Actually, the levels of sportsmanship we have witnessed this season have been so impressive as to merit comment. Lewis was praised a few weeks ago for holding his hands up after an error at Monza sent him crashing out of the race. On Sunday it was the turn of the Red Bull drivers. First, Mark drove his car into a wall pushing too hard before he had found the limit. He was remarkably sanguine given he had just thrown away the championship lead. I'm pretty sure I would not have been able to react that way!

"Then, with just ten laps left, Sebastian's engine blew. Again, he walked back down the pit-lane, helmet off, hiding nothing. When a driver is fuming you will often see him keep his helmet on and dive back through a team garage in order to escape the cameras. Sebastian had every right to feel like ramming his helmet up the car's exhaust pipe, but he knew he had done nothing wrong.

"Unfortunately, their dignity was not matched by the pit crews in both the McLaren and Ferrari garages, who celebrated their retirements instantly and in full view of the cameras. I know the stakes are high, I know it is hard to control one's emotions when you feel you have suddenly been handed a gift from heaven - but particularly in the case of Mark's shunt, it disappointed me to see them punching the air before we knew the seriousness of the crash itself. What if Mark or Nico Rosberg had been injured? It may sound sanctimonious, but it is something I feel strongly about.

"That apart, this championship has been contested in the right way. Whoever ends up winning the title this year will be a deserving champion - perhaps the most deserving of all time given the unprecedented levels of competition and pressure. Let's hope the double-header finale in Brazil and Abu Dhabi lives up to the billing!"