Formula 1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart compares how Lewis Hamilton’s accomplishments compare to those of Juan Manuel Fangio and Jim Clark.
Lewis Hamilton in well on his way to becoming the most successful driver in Formula 1 history. In 2020 Hamilton is poised to break the second most important F1 record, that for most career wins, while he looks likely to equal the most important one – that for the number of drivers’ championships.
It’s no wonder then that it’s constantly being debated who the greatest driver in Formula 1 history is. Three-time F1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart discusses how Hamilton stacks up to five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio and Stewart’s contemporary, two-time champion Jim Clark.
“I don’t think that you can account that sort of level of success, just because today there are 20, 22 races,” Stewart said on the Fast Lane podcast.
“Juan Manuel Fangio is in my mind the greatest driver that ever lived, 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. They were driving sportscars, GT cars, etcetera.
“But the world championship now, Lewis Hamilton, or any of the other top contenders, are doing 22 races – 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.”
“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-Benz and won two world championships with them, because they were the best cars in the world at that time.
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“Lewis made a very good decision when he left McLaren at that time and went to Mercedes-Benz. 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. 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,” concluded Stewart.
So that’s what Sir Jackie thinks. You’re welcome to join the debate in the comments below! 🙂