LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Red Bull's double world champion Sebastian Vettel reminds Stirling Moss of Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentine all-time great who denied the Briton a Formula One title with his dominance in the 1950s.
Speaking to reporters at a Motor Sport magazine Hall of Fame event, the greatest driver never to win the Formula One crown poured praise on the fresh-faced 24-year-old German with the mischievous grin.
"Vettel is a modern Fangio, really, in Formula One. I can't see, other than his natural ability, how he is that good, how he can be that good," said the 82-year-old Briton, his walking stick poised by his side.
"I think Vettel is quite outstanding, but then he has got the best car, which is fair enough because normally the best driver gets the best car.
"Fangio went around and took what he wanted and one took whatever was left.
"Where we're lucky is that Vettel has a great sense of humour. He is a damn good world champion. I can think of a lot of other people who get to that position and they don't give back as much as they get out, but he really does."
Moss was runner-up in the Formula One championship four times while Fangio, regarded by many as the greatest driver of all time and the Englishman's team mate at Mercedes in 1955, won five titles.
Vettel dominated last season, taking his second successive crown with four races to spare and chalking up 11 wins from 19 races.
McLaren's British duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, both champions, will be among the German's main rivals when the new season starts in Australia on March 18 and Moss felt his money was more on the former.
"Their problem is that they're against a better outfit. The Red Bull is so good, it's enormously difficult to be as good as that is and I don't think they are yet," said the octogenarian who survived a three-storey plunge down a lift shaft in 2010 and formally retired from racing only last June.
"Vettel is outstanding. They (the McLaren drivers) are up there, but not as far as he is.
"Lewis does funny things, so one can't be sure," he said. "I would put my money on Jenson. Yes I would. Lewis is terrific, he really is exceptionally quick, but Jenson thinks about certain things better than Lewis will," said Moss, who was always a real racer living life to the full.
"Like when it's raining and whether or not to go in for a change of tyres. For all those sorts of things he has a better understanding of it, and experience is a lot of it."
In a year of 'ugly' new cars, Moss - looking forward to a vacation cruise from Hong Kong to Dubai on a liner that he hastened to say was not Italian - said the Ferrari was 'hideous' and hoped it had a facelift over the course of the campaign.
"Can you think of an ugly car that ever won anything?," he enquired.
"There's the saying that if it looks right it probably is. That's what worries me about the Ferrari because it doesn't look very nice, but maybe it's particularly effective." (Editing by Alison Wildey)