Double world champion Fernando Alonso has offered an assessment of his closest rivals - and with comments that might cause some of his detractors to eat their words, he is highly complimentary about each and every one of them. And just wait until you read who he considers to be the quickest driver on the grid...

Alonso was asked by Spanish sports newspaper AS to rate his principal adversaries Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, his own Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa and the man he controversially tipped to be his biggest threat for glory in F1 2011, record-breaking multiple world champion Michael Schumacher. His response makes for interesting reading. Here is what he says about each of them:

Vettel: "Very fast and precise. If he is first in a race, he is difficult to stop."

Webber: "Experienced, calm and very consistent. It is very rare to see him fail."

Button: "He has a great instinct for difficult races in the rain or with the safety car. This is a unique talent."

Schumacher: "He is a champion, we all respect him and he is a driver always capable of surprising."
Massa: "Very quick, knows the team and very hungry to win."

Hamilton: "He is a great driver, and maybe the fastest at the moment in F1."

That last appraisal is undoubtedly the most surprising of all, given the acrimony and enmity between the pair when they were team-mates at McLaren-Mercedes back in 2007, leading to a fractured relationship that took some time to repair, although they admittedly will never be friends.

Meanwhile, Alonso sought to rubbish the notion that although he is held by many to be the all-round best driver in F1 at present, he is some way from being its most popular.

"The people who speak badly about me then tremble and cry when they want to have their picture taken with me," the 29-year-old asserted, pointing to the fact that more than 30,000 Spanish fans turned out to show their support for him at last week's Jerez test.

"There is a difference between how brave people feel writing on the internet, and when I see the admiration I receive all around the world. I also think it's easier to write that there are so many people who are anti-Alonso than to write that 30,000 people came to a test to see me."

Finally, the 26-time grand prix-winner added his voice to those who contend that the arrival of Pirelli and the Italian manufacturer's deliberately fast-deteriorating super-soft rubber will spice up the spectacle significantly in F1 2011.

"The tyres are not lasting as long as [the Bridgestones] last year," he told news agency EFE. "After 15 or 20 laps, they run out of life. I think it will change the way races are run this year - there will be different strategies and more pit-stops. I hope this is good for the show, but for the teams and the drivers it will be a little more stressful..."



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