Fernando Alonso has echoed David Coulthard in springing to the defence of Sebastian Vettel in the wake of recent criticism of the runaway F1 2011 World Championship leader, arguing that his Red Bull Racing rival is 'a great champion' with 'remarkable qualities'.

As Vettel speeds towards what looks inevitably to be a second consecutive drivers' crown this season - with a 92-point advantage in the title standings and only 175 remaining up for grabs - there are still those who claim he is only dominating in such a fashion due to the fact that he has the best car at his disposal in the shape of Adrian Newey's all-conquering Red Bull RB7. Put him in a situation where he has to fight his way through traffic, they contend, and he goes to pieces.

Former RBR ace Coulthard, however, has rejected notions that Vettel is merely 'an average racing driver', countering that the 24-year-old could just be on his way to becoming 'the best driver ever' in F1 as he 'continues to sweep all before him' [see separate story - click here]. Alonso - whose tally of two world championships the young German stands to equal this year - broadly agrees.

"I don't understand the criticism about him, that he is not a real racer," the Ferrari star told German publication Auto Bild Motorsport. "He is a great champion about to win his second title and he has remarkable qualities, a lot of speed. Yes, he has the best car that gets a good place on the grid, but you need to be able to get the most out of it at every race and Sebastian does that very well. Even in difficult moments or when he makes a mistake, he is always fighting for the win. That is proof of his great qualities."

The Spaniard did acknowledge, however, that Vettel would not have achieved the tremendous success that he has done in the top flight were it not for the team behind him, and specifically Red Bull's chief technical officer Newey, arguably the greatest designer in F1 history.

"They have played to the regulations better than us and the others, and this year they have a great car," he reflected. "Adrian Newey is obviously the key person, but behind him is a strong team. Ferrari attracts drivers but also technicians, so if Newey wants to come to us, it would be a pleasure to drive his car..."

Meanwhile, the 27-time grand prix-winner conceded that he will remain at the Prancing Horse until he has lifted the laurels for the third time in his F1 career - as a minimum.

"It's very important to me," he confessed. "I will not stop my career until I am champion with Ferrari. If it doesn't come by 2016 (the end of his current agreement with the Scuderia), then I will stay in F1 until 2021 - for 20 years like Michael [Schumacher]!"