Lewis Hamilton has delivered what appears to be a stinging riposte to Sir Jackie Stewart by dismissing negativity surrounding his achievements from former drivers.
Hamilton won the Eifel Grand Prix on Sunday and, in doing so, equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 race victories. He stands to also match his record tally of seven championships this season and will almost certainly surpass the the legendary German to become the most successful driver in Formula One. Yet for some that is not as impressive as it seems.
Before the race at the Nürburgring Stewart, who with three titles was Britain’s most successful driver until being overtaken by Hamilton, said he found it hard to justify including the 35-year-old among the greatest of all time, in large part because he enjoyed an “unfair” advantage with his Mercedes car.
“I don’t think you should knock anybody for the way they do things,” Hamilton said after Sunday’s race and having been presented with one of Schumacher’s race helmets by his son, Mick. “I get knocked by many people, particularly older drivers. I don’t know why. Maybe one day they will get over it but I have so much respect for the past legends, even those who continue to talk negatively about me all the time. I still hold them in high regard. It was a different time in history. It was incredibly tough for them.
“There is always talk in sport about who is the greatest, past and present, but it is impossible to compare. It is not important to me.”
Hamilton is in his 14th season in F1. The new breed of drivers such as Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and George Russell are more than a decade younger than him and he insists that, in contrast to the likes of Stewart, he will offer nothing but encouragement to younger competitors after he leaves the sport.
“In 20 years’ time when I am looking back, I can promise you this, I will not be talking down any young driver who is coming through and succeeding,” Hamilton said. “Because a responsibility as an older driver is to shine the light as bright as possible and encourage those.”
Hamilton has also revealed he is once more enjoying a strong relationship with his father Anthony and praised him for his role in helping him to achieve such incredible levels of success. Hamilton’s father dedicated his career to supporting his son’s racing and managed him until 2010, when the pair’s relationship broke down and Hamilton sacked him.
Earlier this year Hamilton admitted he missed their father-son bond and that he was trying to reconnect with Anthony – that now appears to have happened with Hamilton having called his father and stepmother after the race on Sunday.
“My dad and I have never been so close,” Hamilton said. “It is remarkable and makes me so much happier that we talk a lot, which I never thought we would do.
“It has been an emotional rollercoaster and it was so hard, for my dad. I can only try to imagine at his age how it was mentally, how it was to struggle with work, I can only try to comprehend how difficult that was. We talk about it a lot and we were there together through it all. He was proud of me.”
Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, had to retire at the Nürburgring because of a power unit problem and the failure to score points has all but ended his championship hopes. Hamilton now leads the Finn by 69 points with six races remaining. If the British driver is 78 points ahead in three races’ time – after the Turkish GP – he will claim that seventh championship.