Motorsport: Lewis Hamilton can lay claim to be F1's greatest Brit

Sports Wednesday 18/October/2017 17:39 PM
By: Times News Service
Motorsport: Lewis Hamilton can lay claim to be F1's greatest Brit

Austin: Lewis Hamilton is already the most successful British Formula One driver of all time and by sunset on Sunday he could make a legitimate claim to be considered the greatest.
A fourth title would lift the Mercedes driver into the sporting stratosphere as one of a handful of men to have achieved the feat since the first championship in 1950 -- and the only Briton.
Michael Schumacher (7), Juan Manuel Fangio (5), Alain Prost (4) and Sebastian Vettel -- the current Ferrari rival who managed four in a row with once-rampant Red Bull -- are the only current members of the four or more club.
Hamilton, 59 points clear of Vettel ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin with 100 up for grabs, has already wrested away Schumacher's pole position record and is breaking new ground with 71 and counting.
One more win would take the 32-year-old's tally to 62 -- double the career haul of compatriot and 1992 champion Nigel Mansell, who is second on the British list of all-time winners.
Triple world champion Jackie Stewart won 27 races and double champions Jim Clark and Graham Hill triumphed 25 and 14 times respectively.
Hamilton has won for the past three years in Austin, and four times out of five, and nobody would be surprised to see another triumph.
That would not necessarily secure the crown, with Hamilton still needing to beat Vettel by 16 points. The championship may have to wait until Mexico a week later.
But given the Briton's superb form and Ferrari's recent reliability woes, with Vettel suffering two retirements in the last three races, it cannot be counted out.
Hamilton has scored points in his last 21 races and been on the podium 115 times in his career, more than anyone except Schumacher. He is the only driver to have won a race in every year of his career, which started with McLaren in 2007.
Deadly era
Comparisons between eras are the cause of enduring arguments and fraught with difficulty, particularly when the past was so much deadlier than the present and there were far fewer races.
There are those who revere Clark as the greatest driver of all time, let alone British, while others champion Stewart's silky skills. Stirling Moss also ranks among the greats, despite never winning a world title when Argentina's Fangio was in his pomp in the 1950s. The late John Surtees remains unique as a world champion on two wheels and four while James Hunt would rate highly in any poll for personality appeal.
But Hamilton, so often contradictory and unpredictable and with an array of celebrity friends, is a very modern hero with an aura that extends way beyond the racetrack and into new realms.
"How would he rank? Would you put him in front of Jim Clark? It’s so difficult with these things," Formula One's 86-year-old former supremo Bernie Ecclestone, whose career in grand prix racing started in the 1950s, said.
"Jim has got an incredible record but in fairness he always had a much better car than anybody, with the Lotus. Graham did a good job, won in lots of different things. It’s a little bit difficult."
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff will be taking nothing for granted as ever, even if the bookmakers are almost doing that already, but even he is running out of superlatives for Hamilton's performance.
"Lewis has driven brilliantly this year -- and since the summer break in particular, he has been on another level," said the Austrian.