Three-time World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart says he rates the current Formula 1 pack as the "best ever", and believes the likes of Sebastian Vettel can be compared to legends such as Jim Clark, Jack Brabham and Graham Hill.
The 2010 season saw one of the most spectacular title battles in F1 history, as Vettel narrowly overcame Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in a season-long, five-way fight.
"I think it's the best field ever," Stewart told AUTOSPORT. "Red Bull had a good car this year but right down to the last race there were four drivers battling for the championship, and there were five for most of the season really in contention.
"Up there was a Red Bull, a Ferrari and a McLaren, and a Renault pushing and shoving, so you cannot ask for much better than that. It was a long season and it came down to the very last race. It was close racing, too."
Asked if he felt the 2010 grid was as strong as the fields he faced when winning his titles in 1969, 1971 and 1973, Stewart replied: "Absolutely. I think the animal is exactly the same. I don't think Sebastian Vettel is any different from what Jim Clark was, or Graham Hill was, or Jack Brabham was, or people who have won the World Championship more than once.
"These drivers are the same – all the same desire, want, focus, commitment and God-given talent that has been developed to the highest level. So they are not different as individuals, but we have a crop of them just now and we have got a little closer unification of the quality of the performance of the cars, so it is going to give us better racing – and I see 2010 was as good as the late 1960s/early 1970s.
"And 2010 was a great year, but 2011, because the same people are there with even more experience, I think it is going to be another great year."
Stewart believes Vettel has the potential to get even better, but that Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Robert Kubica are all good enough to challenge the German for future titles.
"[Vettel] is a young driver. He is 23 years of age," said Stewart. "I remember when I was 23, and I told him when I saw him at the AUTOSPORT Awards, that was the age when I started to race racing cars. I was 23, and he is World Champion at 23.
"Mark Webber is 34. I know when I was 34, I was a better man than when I was 23, so therefore I think there is a lot more to come from Sebastian.
"Webber is still in there, and Kubica could one day be World Champion. You also have Jenson driving in the smoothest and cleanest way of any driver, and Lewis is probably the best racer of the whole lot – and the best equipped is still Alonso. You have such a group of extraordinarily skilled people."