Fernando Alonso says that judging F1's younger generation is "complicated" because of the prevalence of a driver's equipment, as George Russell demonstrated in Bahrain last year.
Russell substituted for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir GP when the Mercedes driver was sidelined by a bout of COVID-19.
The talented young Briton, who up until then had spent most of the 2020 season in the lower tier of the field with Williams, promptly qualified second before he dominated proceedings on race day until a pitstop blunder in the Mercedes deprived him of a sensational win.
Alonso believes there is no lack of exceptional young talent in F1 but wonders just how much of a young gun's performance should be credited to their equipment.
"The Russell case is striking in explaining this version of F1," said Alonso, speaking to RAI Sport.
"In five days, not a hundred, he went from last to first. All without a divine touch, without meditating in Tibet or sh*t. It was enough just to get into a Mercedes.
"Evaluating the drivers is complicated. Of course, if we think about who Hamilton or Bottas see more often in their rear-view mirrors, we find Verstappen.
"Leclerc is an exceptional talent but to really gauge him it takes a few years."
By the same token, Alonso reckons that Hamilton owes a lot to Mercedes' engineering excellence.
"There is no domination if there is not a winning car," added the Alpine driver. "When you conquer a series of titles it means you have a decisive technical superiority.
"It happened to Hamilton, it happened to Vettel that with Red Bull when he triumphed and then he could not win [the title] again. The same happened to me with Renault in 2005 and 2006."
But Alonso was remined that his five-year stint at Ferrari, while it yielded 11 wins, failed to return the world crown to Maranello, while Sebastian Vettel's quest for the title with the Scuderia was equally unsuccessful.
"We didn't win, of course, but we came close to the World Championship twice fighting until the last race, I say this because nobody remembers second places," he said.
"The truth is that in the last seven years only one team has won."