It doesn’t really matter if you like Lewis Hamilton or not, the plain fact is that he has done a terrific job of becoming a champion, re-writing the record book and taking his craft to the highest level he possibly can. He is on the verge of sealing his 4th world championship and that’s no easy task.
Like Sebastian Vettel, who is a 4-time champ, Lewis is getting into rare air and only a few have a better record. While Hamilton fans are quick to deride Vettel for his four titles because he had the best car at Red Bull, they seem to forget that litmus test as Lewis has had the best car at Mercedes for four years running. Regardless, in either case, having the best car doesn’t mean it is easy or that a title is a given. They both had to work for it and they both made a few enemies along the way.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reckons Lewis is going to break all the records and be the best Formula 1 driver of all time.
‘Lewis is about to break all records that have been set in Formula One, and it is just a matter of time that people will say he is on track to being the best driver that has ever existed,’ Wolff said.
‘The high performers often polarize because they have strong opinions and they express those. You don’t want to be down the middle and boring, and in today’s day and age if you polarize you stand out. Lewis stands out.
‘Those sport icons that polarize eventually get the credit, but maybe after their career ends. This is the best Lewis — both on and off the track — that I have worked with since 2013.’
I don’t think it will take Lewis’s career to end for people to realize that he’s a rare talent and one of the best the sport has produced. Best to ever exist? I would take exception to that just like others take exception to the same notion offered about Michael Schumacher.
There is also that interesting component about drivers who never really had the best car or didn’t have it for long in the form of Sterling Moss or Fernando Alonso or Gilles Villeneuve. Jochen Rindt rates very highly on my chart of best and unfortunately we didn’t get to see the entirety of a career in his case.
Things can turn quickly in F1. If Mercedes do start their progression downward and Lewis doesn’t claim 8 world championships, will that mean he isn’t one of the best? Not in my book. Lewis has his own panache and style that aren’t my cup of tea but I’m no grand judge of people, he’s done more for the sport from a marketing standpoint than any other driver since Senna and Schumacher. He’s a naturally talented driver, champion and surely one of the best.
So is Alonso and Vettel and even though Fernando has only two titles, he may be the best on the grid depending on who you ask. Then there is Max Verstappen who very well could erase Lewis’s records if he gets his timing right with the team and car like Lewis did. That’s an “if” and I resonate with that thought about as favorably as I did when Lewis came into F1 in 2007 and the British press were already ascribing 5+ titles and the best-ever moniker to him. In my book, you have to prove it before you get the accolades and much to Lewis’s credit, he has proved it.
There is also the argument of comparing eras and When I was young, I thought that was a bit of a cop out but as I grew older and watched more F1, decades proved that it is true. Comparing Tazio Nuvolari to Lewis doesn’t work very well. Even comparing Schumacher to Hamilton doesn’t fit quite the same either. Different decades, different cars and different tech.
People then try to number crunch and determine win strike rates versus starts but all of that is subjective to the car and team resources, and number races etc. At some level, it’s a gut feeling and you look at the entire package instead of just what a driver does on track. Their ability to develop a car and work with a team and take their craft seriously and with the respect it deserves. Schumacher was ace at this. Vettel is too. Fernando is good at it and Lewis has gotten a lot better but this is where his jet setting, celebrity-filled lifestyle has gotten the better of him from time to time. Vettel’s anger could be his Achilles heel. Fernando’s bad timing and propensity of being in the center of controversy (crashgate/spygate) hasn’t helped his career either.
I find Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton all awesome in their own right and true champions of the sport and some of the best drivers the sport has ever produced. In equal cars, there would be very little between them and the bigger crime isn’t a lack of willingness to call Lewis the best ever, it’s that the sport is so screwed up now that we can’t truly see these three battle it out for a title. In a perfect world, Lewis, Seb, Fernando, Max and Daniel would all have an equal shot at winning on any race weekend and they would all be battling it out for a title. What an epic make believe world I have.
Jim Clark RULES!
Hat Tip: Mail