Fernando Alonso 'is still the best driver around' in Formula 1, would 'represent an exceptional duo' with Ferrari and 'could beat Lewis Hamilton easily' - those are the views of three expert commentators after speculation linking the Spaniard to a future in scarlet re-surfaced again recently.

It was reported in Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport last week that Alonso and Ferrari had agreed a four-year contract as of 2011 - if not earlier [see separate story - click here] - and some of the sport's most seasoned observers reckon should the rumours indeed turn out to be true, it would be a match made in heaven and one that could prove to be nigh-on unbeatable.

"Two years is a long time," contended former F1 team owner Giancarlo Minardi, who handed Alonso his break in the top flight back in 2001. "Since Fernando hasn't lost the taste of victory, why wait so long? Joking apart, though, I know that there are contracts in place and only Ferrari knows what happened to Kimi Raikkonen last season.

"I haven't seen Alonso since the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, so we haven't spoken about his future, and for Christmas we simply exchanged wishes, but it's undeniable that for Ferrari such a driver would be very useful. At the end of the day, he's the driver who up until now has given Hamilton the hardest time in equal equipment, and he could beat him easily."

Those sentiments are echoed by ex-Minardi technical director and now Sky TV pundit Gabriele Tredozi, who pointed to the way the man from Oviedo had helped to turn Renault's fortunes around in 2008 as evidence of his outstanding calibre and prowess.

"It would be like having another [Michael] Schumacher there," the Italian mused of the possibility of Alonso joining forces with the Scuderia. "He's quick and technically strong, and above all his consistency is unrivalled. He never has ups and downs during the season, except for those caused by the lack of competitiveness of his car.

"Moreover, he's sincere - as he demonstrated during his difficult period at McLaren - he's a driver who needs to feel the support of the team behind him like no other, and he knows how to motivate the team too.

"He knows how to assess a car's strong and weak points without wavering, he has exceptional racecraft and he knows how to manage the tyres well. He is also capable of getting himself out of even the most difficult situations; last season is the most obvious example of that."

Erstwhile Ferrari team principal Cesare Fiorio, finally - the man who gave the double world champion his F1 test debut with Minardi at Jerez in 1999, the Asturian-born star lapping 1.5 seconds faster than any other young driver trying out on the same day - argues that an Alonso-Ferrari combination would give the entire field cause for concern.

"In situations like this [with the raft of new technical and aerodynamic regulations for 2009], a team can gain an advantage over another because its engineers have had a hunch that turns out to work better," the 69-year-old reasoned. "In that context I have no doubts - I would prefer to have Alonso in my team, because for me he is still the best driver around.

"He is stronger even than Lewis Hamilton; the two are equal in terms of raw speed, but Fernando has a lower propensity to make mistakes. He's consistent, has a good rhythm inside the car and he's intelligent.

"He and Ferrari would represent an exceptional duo. In winning the constructors' world championship, Maranello showed that it had worked the best, both in the factory and at the races - but if you miss out on the drivers' title, perhaps the fault for that lies with the man in the cockpit..."