By Andrew Benson
World champion Fernando Alonso could become one of Formula One's greatest drivers, says Damon Hill.
Alonso will take Schumacher's status as the world's greatest driver
The Spaniard took his second successive title by finishing second in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix to become the youngest double champion in history.
"It's too early to call him legendary, but he has that shine to him," said Hill. "He certainly has the ability."
Triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart says Alonso is an "exceptional" talent and F1's latest "genius".
Here, two of Britain's greatest F1 drivers examine the qualities that have helped the 25-year-old Renault star shoot to the top of his sport.
HOW GOOD IS ALONSO?
Damon Hill: "He's exceptionally good, no question about it. What marks him out is he very clearly has an enormous amount of fight in him. He just does not let things overwhelm him.
"He's not only got the speed, but he's got a kind of certainty about him, which makes you have confidence in him.
"He has made his determination apparent in his reactions to some of the things he sees as injustice. That sort of brings out what Alonso is all about."
Jackie Stewart: "He is the best new arrival in recent years.
"There was obviously excitement when Kimi Raikkonen came on the scene, but he hasn't been able to deliver the number of wins people expected him to have.
"That's partly because of the unreliability of the McLaren on certain events but also to do with his own errors, with collisions, going off the road, etc.
"But if you take a holistic view of Alonso's maturity at such a young age, his mind-management, the way he has controlled the pace of races that he has won or played a part in, then he is exceptional.
"For 25 years of age, it is quite unusual for somebody to be as well adjusted as that."
WHAT MAKES HIM SO GOOD?
Hill: "I like Alonso's style. Watching him drive gives me a buzz. He's got a little bit of the Nigel Mansell about him.
"He's a very determined competitor, and I like that. I'm sort of riding with him a little bit when I watch him drive.
"In Suzuka, he was just pounding away at Michael. I think he broke Michael. The car broke. It had to break some day.
"Michael has had six years without an engine failure, but put under serious pressure for lots of laps and something had to give.
"Alonso just didn't give up. He's that kind of driver, quite apart from being incredibly talented.
"There is also a sense of honour with Alonso. I think there is a way in which he wants to win which is as important to him as winning, and that was manifestly apparent with his reaction to happened to him in Monza, when he felt he'd been unjustly treated.
"I don't know the whole history with Alonso, but it seems that this is something that is necessary for him, to show he is the best in an honourable way."
Stewart: "It's probably his mind-management. I saw some weaknesses appearing in that around the period of the Monza debacle when he was put back on the grid for supposedly having slowed down Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
"I think his reactions to that showed his age, but I think he had every right to complain.
"The very next day, of course, he delivered a performance which was enormously impressive, and he has done in almost every occasion when there has been any form of controversy.
"He has over-ridden any suggestion that being a young driver his head might not have gone in the right direction. That's why I admire what he's doing because for such a young head it's very mature.
"Alonso very seldom has a bad race, so I have to say his talent is very high."
WILL HE BE SEEN AN ALL-TIME GREAT?
Hill: "He's definitely on target. He is of the calibre of the great drivers, the drivers whose names have gone beyond reading about them in Autosport magazine.
"He's a national hero in Spain, and a world champion, but apart from that he has that fire in his belly. It's too early to use the word legendary about him, but he has that shine to him.
Alonso's determination and consistency marks him out, says Hill
"He certainly has the ability. He is able to tackle all kinds of circuits, all kinds of conditions, adversity, already in a very short time span."
Stewart: "Of the 22 Grand Prix drivers there's usually only about six that are really, really good. And out of those six there are usually only three extraordinary talents at one time. And out of those three there is generally only one genius at any one time.
"For a short window of time there might have been Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna together, but that was a rare occasion.
"There is generally only one genius at any one time and I think you're going to see Alonso taking on that mantle.
"I think the time has come when it is clear that Alonso is tomorrow and Michael is yesterday."
CAN HE MAINTAIN HIS MOMENTUM AT MCLAREN IN 2007?
Hill: "The one thing that he has not had yet is a really crap season with a crap car. If you've been used to running at the front, and I've seen this with drivers, they lose heart.
"This is the slight worry with Alonso's career. Unless he knows something about McLaren, or they are able to do something pretty dramatic, he could find himself doing two, three years without a win.
"Then it'll be very difficult to deliver performances like the one in Japan, for example.
Stewart praised Alonso for a strong drive at Monza under pressure
"There's an extra energy that comes from running at the front which deserts you if you just don't have the equipment.
"That aspect of the sport is very sensitive and he didn't help himself by starting off the season announcing he was going to be driving for another team. I'm not sure what sort of advice he's getting.
"There are things that can affect your success as a driver if you handle them wrongly, having had the very bitter experience myself.
"He needs a good car. McLaren are definitely a bit in the doldrums. They just don't seem to be showing signs of strength, You might even say Honda are doing better than them, so it's a worry."
Stewart: "You've got to have the car to do it with. Generally speaking, I think it's true to say Michael Schumacher re-shaped Ferrari and made the Ferrari the car it is today.
"Without Michael Schumacher that would not have happened. Whether Alonso has that same skill is another matter."