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Alonso rates rivals and hits back at criticism

Fernando Alonso has given a fascinating insight into how he rates his closest rivals in formula one.

The Ferrari driver was asked by the Spanish sports daily AS to summarise his feelings about challengers Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and his own teammate Felipe Massa.

On world champion Vettel, Alonso answered: “Very fast and precise.  If he is coming first in a race, he is difficult to stop.”

In the other Red Bull, Mark Webber is “experienced, calm and very consistent.  It is very rare to see him fail.”

According to Alonso, 2009 world champion Jenson Button “has a great instinct for difficult races in rain or with the safety car.  This is an unique talent,” he added.

Michael Schumacher had a difficult return to F1 in 2010 but “he is the champion, we all respect him and he is a driver always capable of surprising”, 29-year-old Alonso said.

Alonso said his own teammate Massa is “very quick, knows the team and is very hungry to win”.

Arguably the highest praise, however, is reserved for Alonso’s former arch nemesis Lewis Hamilton.

“He is a great driver and maybe the fastest at the moment in formula one,” he said.

Alonso also hit back at claims that while he is universally rated as perhaps F1’s best driver, he is far from the most popular.

“There are more than 30,000 people here,” he marvelled at last week’s Jerez test.

“The people who speak badly about me then tremble and cry when they want to have their picture taken with me.

“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,” added Alonso.

“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,” he said.