Damon Hill hailed Lewis Hamilton as the “GOAT” as he and Jackie Stewart led tributes on Monday following their compatriot’s record-breaking 92nd win in Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
“Well I guess I can’t say I’ve beaten the best driver in F1 anymore. I had a good run though. Thanks @schumacher and welcome @LewisHamilton. GOAT,” 1996 world champion Hill said on Twitter.
Stewart was less effusive, referring to Hamilton’s “remarkable success” and “hugely impressive career”, but without declaring him one of the sport’s greatest drivers.
“He is undeniably one of the best athletes in history and an inspiration to so many young people,” he added, just weeks after excluding him from his leading all-time greatest F1 drivers.
The comments provoked argument, not least because Hamilton’s statistical landmark of 92 wins is likely to be enlarged by him after passing seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher’s 14-year-old record of 91 wins.
He is also set to equal Schumacher’s haul of drivers’ titles this season and, in all likelihood, claim an eighth next year.
Stewart’s reluctance to include either Hamilton or Schumacher alongside his idols Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and fellow Scot Jim Clark sparked widespread debate.
Few paddock observers agreed, but clues to Hamilton’s success since being beaten by team-mate Nico Rosberg, were articulated late Sunday by the team’s track performance boss Andrew Shovlin and rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
Stewart, an admirer of Alain Prost’s ‘professorial’ style, has often said he values studied and well-prepared consistency and “smooth” driving above raw speed and aggression in his evaluations.
It is why he overlooked three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, Schumacher and Hamilton.
Yet, since 2016, Hamilton has transformed his approach and style to become the sport’s most consistent finisher with a record 45 consecutive points finishes and 161 career podiums. -AFP