IndyCar's latest new winner Danica Patrick has dismissed criticism from a former world champion that she is not good enough for Formula 1, by insisting she is 'dead set' on making the move into the top flight in the future.

Whilst three-time title-winner Nelson Piquet suggested the IndyCar Series was an inadequate training ground for someone wishing to switch across to grand prix racing [see separate story - click here], Patrick herself has hinted that it is something she is seriously considering - after she fights for the IndyCar title, that is.

The 26-year-old from Wisconsin became the first female to emerge victorious in a premier open-wheel race when she triumphed at Motegi in Japan a week ago, but she admitted in an interview with British newspaper the Daily Star that her heart had been set on F1 from an early age, right back to when she competed in the UK at the tender age of 16. During that period she went on to finish runner-up in the prestigious Formula Ford Festival - the best result ever achieved by either an American or a woman in the high-profile event.

"During my three years in England, I followed Formula 1 closely and became dead set on racing in it," confessed Patrick, currently competing for Honda-powered Andretti Green Racing across the Pond. "F1 is regarded as the highest level of racing with the best drivers in the world, and it's very flattering to have that as an opportunity.

"First I want to contend for the IndyCar championship, though, and then we'll see what opportunities arise."

Scuderia Toro Rosso ace Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions from some drivers - amongst them Jenson Button - that women would not be physically strong enough to race in F1.

"Well, I'm not exactly a bear!" the young German joked.

Honda star Button had previously joked in an interview with men's magazine FHM that "a girl with big boobs would never be comfortable in the car, and the mechanics wouldn't concentrate. Can you imagine strapping her in? You wouldn't want to be on the circuit with them, would you?"

The last woman to enter the top flight was Giovanna Amati, who attempted to qualify three times for Brabham back in 1992 before being replaced at the ailing British outfit by Damon Hill.