Hamilton not the greatest says Stewart

06/10/2020
NEWS STORY

For as long as one can remember, F1 fans have argued over who was the greatest driver to grace the sport.

In all honesty it’s a thankless, impossible task for comparing drivers from the various eras is like comparing apples with oranges.

Nonetheless, as Lewis Hamilton stands on the cusp of becoming F1's most successful driver in terms of wins - having already set new records in terms of pole positions and podium appearances, three-time world champion, Jackie Stewart, says that the Briton is not the greatest.

"I don't think that you can account that sort of level of success, just because today there are 20 or 22 races," the Scot tells the Australian Grand Prix Corporation's Fast Lane podcast.

"Juan Manuel Fangio is in my mind the greatest driver that ever lived," he continues, "with Jim Clark the second greatest, even ahead of Senna.

"But those people only raced sometimes six to eight or nine races a year in Formula 1," he adds, "(but) they were driving Sportscars, GT cars... the world championship now, Lewis Hamilton, or any of the other top contenders, are doing 22 races – but only in Formula 1. Not in touring cars, not in GT cars, not in IndyCars, not in Can-Am cars.

"The pressure today is much more relaxed. Of course they go to the factory and do the simulator, but that's not quite the same. It's a different world."

The Scot also points to the fact that Hamilton is driving the best car.

"Lewis drives extremely well, make no mistake. I'm not in any way diminishing his skills. But it's not the same. (Fangio) drove in such a way, it was quite extraordinary – he would choose Ferrari, and then he would think 'well Maserati next year might be good', so he never did more than a one-year contract. And then he drove for Mercedes and won two world championships with them, because they were the best cars in the world at that time.

"Lewis made a very good decision when he left McLaren at that time and went to Mercedes. I take my hat off to him for making that decision. But frankly, the car and the engine are now so superior that it's almost unfair on the rest of the field.

"Now you can't say that, you must take your hat off to Mercedes-Benz, to Toto Wolff and to Niki Lauda for making one hell of a team, for choosing the best engineers, getting the best money that most other teams couldn't get, apart from Red Bull.

"It's not quite the same respect, if you like, of being able to do it in less than the best car. And that's where sometimes there was a difference between the very, very great drivers and the ones that were very successful.

"It's difficult to say that about Lewis, not being as good as Fangio was, in my mind. And a lot of people would find fault in that. But I've been watching motor racing since I was a wee boy. My brother was a racing driver, I was going with him to races and seeing Ascari and Nuvolari and Caracciola and people like that. Some of the best racing drivers in the world, I saw. To say Lewis is the greatest of all time would be difficult for me to justify, in sheer power of what the other drivers were doing.

"I do think I was lucky to drive in my window of time," said the Scot, who won his three titles over the course of an F1 career that lasted 99 races, Stewart walking away from the sport in the hours following his teammate Francois Cevert's death. "We had Jim Clark and Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt, my teammate Francois Cevert and a few others that were really top racing drivers, Chris Amon, Jack Brabham. These were top, top racing drivers.

"We don't have that today, that you could identify these people at the very top of their profession. The great thing about my window of time was the Ford Cosworth. Everybody had a Ford Cosworth except for Ferrari. There was a level playing field that simply doesn't exist today."

Of course, Stewart doesn' mention the driver that won in various disciplines but never managed to win the world championship, Stirling Moss.

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Published: 06/10/2020
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