Di Resta can join F1 elite - Sir Jackie

FORMULA ONE heads into 2011 with the strongest grid and the most competitive drivers battling it out for the title, according to three-times world champ Sir Jackie Stewart.

The veteran Scot, who lifted the title in 1969, '71 and '73, is adamant the current crop of F1 racers are the "best ever" and he's quietly confident Bathgate's Paul di Resta will join the field next year.

"I don't see any reason why Paul shouldn't be on the grid next year," Stewart said yesterday. "He's impressed everyone with what he's achieved during his Friday test sessions with Force India this year, and he's fast.

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"But he's also very clever, astute and — from what I've heard — very good with his technical feedback. I definitely think he'd help strengthen the grid even more."

And Stewart, who witnessed this year's nailbiting five-way battle for the world championship from the pitlane, is comfortable to compare the likes of 2010 champ Sebastian Vettel to legends such as Jim Clark, Jack Brabham and Graham Hill. "In my mind, definitely, I think it's the best field ever assembled in Formula One," said Stewart, who watched Vettel beat rivals Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

"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.

"I don't think 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. They all have the same desire, want, focus, commitment and god-given talent that has been developed to the highest level.

"We have got a little closer unification of the quality of the performance of the cars, so it is going to give us even better racing; for me 2010 was as good as the late 1960s/early 1970s.

"And if 2010 was a great year, 2011, because the same people are there with even more experience, is going to be another great year."