In a typically frank, forthright, irreverent and entertaining interview, much-loved former grand prix ace Perry McCarthy has offered his assessment of the respective performances of the five F1 2010 title contenders - pleasant reading for four of them, but if your name's Fernando Alonso, it's probably best you stop reading right now...

On the eve of this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix - the top flight's third-ever night race, albeit one whose spectacle McCarthy jokes would be enhanced even further were the spotlights to be systematically extinguished 'every five laps' - Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel are all blanketed by a mere 24 points in the standings, or less than the reward for a race victory.

In such a situation, a betting man is a brave man indeed, with the campaign having ebbed-and-flowed from one of the crown-chasing quintet to another, all five having ascended the top step of the podium at least twice and all five of them having led the way in the points at one stage or another. Here is McCarthy's evaluation of form.

"We're having a fantastic season, we really are," enthused the man who valiantly attempted to qualify the hopeless Andrea Moda S921 for eleven grands prix in 1992, ultimately to no avail. "I really wouldn't have counted Alonso in too much this season, even though a few races back he was barking that he could still win the world championship, and I was thinking 'hmm, how can you do that mate?' But no, he's been saying it for a reason, Ferrari have come back, and of course it's a real see-saw [battle] with McLaren and Red Bull.

"I think most people will think that Red Bull should already have a lot more points than they've got, but Adrian Newey has produced a fantastic car and Mark is driving out-of-his-skin. We always knew Mark was a fantastic talent, but to see him ahead of Sebastian on such a consistent basis just shows that he is doing a superb job. For me, Lewis, Mark or Jenson to win the world championship - you can't get a lot better than that, it's fantastic!

"We've got Singapore coming up, and night races are good fun - they're doing this because they want to make grands prix more entertaining. Personally, I think to make Singapore even more entertaining, every five laps they should turn the lights out for ten seconds! I think Bernie [Ecclestone - F1 commercial rights-holder] would love that!"

So who, then, does Perry reckon will ultimately lift the laurels (if you're still reading Se?or Alonso, I really suggest you ought to turn away at this point)..?

"I am personally a fantastic fan of Lewis'," the 49-year-old went on. "Everybody's got different styles - there's a driving characteristic, there's a trait, there's a personality going on there - and for me I probably most closely associate with Lewis, which is pure 'going-into-battle'. The overtakes that Lewis is capable of and the space he creates is just amazing - I think it's awe-inspiring, I really do.

"Jenson is very bright, and of course Jenson is incredibly fast - let's not forget that. A lot of people think he's some kind of guy who plays the numbers - he's not, he's very, very fast - and Mark, of course, is kind of like the middle ground. He's got a real fighter instinct in him as well, so those three are the people I'd favour.

"Alonso I don't really like very much - he's a whining little mutt as far as I'm concerned - but a great driver, you can't knock that. I think [the Red Bull Racing favouritism furore] is a real shame for Sebastian, because just previous to all of this stuff, he was painted as the angel of the pit-lane - everybody liked him, his fresh face always had a smile and of course he's supremely talented - but there's some things I think he probably could have had a little better advice on, certain things he's come out with like pointing the finger at Mark. I don't think that was correct, I really don't.

"Sebastian may have done better to have looked a little bit brighter and happier and kept his mouth shut a couple of times, but there again that's me talking about somebody keeping their mouth shut - pot calling the kettle black, I think!

"I think he's got more of an uphill struggle obviously points-wise [to claim the F1 2010 championship], and secondly, psychologically I think Mark really is on top this year. Sebastian no doubt will have another title challenge at another point in time - it could be this year, but in my own book, I don't think it's going to happen for him this year. Crikey, though, a few years ago look where Kimi [Raikkonen] was halfway through the season, and he came back and nobody would have bet ten pence on Kimi winning the world championship back then."

Ah yes, Kimi. If McCarthy was once The Stig, then Raikkonen was - and still is - The Iceman, and if recent speculation is to be believed, he could just make a sensational return to the grand prix grid next year with Renault F1 alongside Robert Kubica. Tongue slightly in-cheek as ever, Perry confesses that in all honesty, he would be delighted to see the Finn come back.

"I think the rumours are strong enough to believe them," he opined. "I miss Kimi from TV. [Puts on a Raikkonen voice] I love hearing Kimi's accent on the television all the time, it really makes me thrilled to hear how excited he is about everything, you know... I think it would be great to have Kimi back. I was with him recently, and I said 'Kimi, you don't hear that name everyday, do you?' and he said 'I do!'"