Three-time F1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart has reacted to Lewis Hamilton’s claim that some older drivers are persistently “knocking” his merits.
Last weekend at the Eifel Grand Prix, Hamilton equaled the outstanding record of 91 wins in F1 held by Michael Schumacher.
The milestone achievement logically reignited the debate over the greatest F1 driver of all-time, a deliberation that Hamilton claims is of no interest to him given the challenges in comparing drivers from different generations.
However, the six-time world champion said he took exception with the opinions of some of his contemporaries, whom he claims, “have a bee in their bonnet and I don’t know why”.
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The Mercedes driver’s remark likely alluded to recent comments from Stewart who said that he could noy justify putting Hamilton on the same level as Juan Manuel Fangio or Jim Clark, the Scot’s picks as F1’s GOATs.
“I am not trying to diminish Lewis Hamilton and I hold his performances with incredible respect. He is the best driver of the present time,” reacted Stewart, speaking to news agency PA.
“I am not knocking him down and I am disappointed he thinks that way. What do I have to gain from that? I am 81 years of age.
“I was asked what did I think about Lewis becoming the most winning driver of all time and if that made him the greatest there has been. I said it is very difficult to say that.
“The greatest I believe there has been is Juan Manuel Fangio, followed by Jim Clark. But even then, is it correct to say someone is the best?
“Is Lionel Messi better than Pele or Sir Stanley Matthews, who was the greatest of all time when I was a child? Is Roger Federer better than Rod Laver?
“They are different eras. You can say Lewis is the best of his time and that is not in any way demeaning towards him.
“He is doing one hell of a job, and he is his own man, which is different to Niki Lauda, different to Jackie Stewart, different to Jim Clark and different to Graham Hill.”
Hamilton’s remarkable success in Formula 1 has taken place during a period of hegemonic domination by the mighty Mercedes team, a fact underscored by Stewart.
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But team boss Toto Wolff believes it’s unfair to justify the Briton’s track record by him simply having the best car on the grid, year in and year out.
“In my opinion that’s not quite fair,” said Wolff. “Winning races and winning championships is always in this sport a team exercise.
“But you need to put yourself in a position that you end up in the best car. There you can see lots of talents and skilled drivers took the wrong decisions, not well-advised decisions.
“And in that respect it was him who joined us in 2013, and it is him that sits in the car and is able to execute on track with a tool that we provide to him.
“But it’s always the two that are that are part of this.”
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