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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.

Lewis stuns crowd with levitation act
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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

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • jakobusvdl

    Hamilton certainly is proving he is one of the very best. ‘Best ever’ can only ever be subjective, unless you’re from Scotland in which case its clearly Jim Clark, or Jackie Stewart…….
    But just to stir things up a bit, if Hamilton is the ‘best ever’, a driver who could push him hard over three seasons, and beat him to the wdc in one of them must be pretty special ;-)

    • Achim

      Spot on. One even could make the case Lewis only wins the WC this year, because his main opponents car had poor reliability. ;-)

  • p1ngu

    Keeping it to this decade, we’d all agree that Schumacher was awesomely talented, but he was more than a bit boring, had an utterly compliant team-mate, and sent everyone to sleep. Vettel is much better box-office, but he’s a very private man who just doesn’t like media attention. Nico Rosberg is duller than a wet weekend in Washington and his trousers are too short. Max is pretty tedious other than in a car, Kimi mumbles like your grandfather, and other than the nerds, no-one know any otthers.

    There are really only three drivers with any real charisma in current F1. There’s Danny Ric, Fernando (who seems to get his fun throwing barbed comments at his team) and, or course, there’s Lewis, who may very well be the best thing that’s happened to F1 in the last few decades.

    Take the CoTA podium. Despite what I can only imagine is a huge amount of media coaching, Usain Bolt remains as wooden as a pirate’s ship, so MC Lewis realised what was happening, recognised that the show needed some glitter, and champagne-bombed Usain then interviewed himself, somewhat reminiscent of an auctioneer expertly plucking bids out of thin air. Can you imagine Seb or, worse, Kimi doing that? What could have been a major TV meltdown moment was averted.

    Is Lewis the best driver, the fastest driver, the most skilled driver? I really can’t answer that, and I’m not sure there can ever be a definitive proof. What’s undoubted is that he’s the most complete driver, and the one only who’s currently transcending the sport. And not to state the obvious, but he’s massively, blindingly fast, finding speed where Bottas can’t even imagine it.

    The combination of Mercedes and Hamilton is pure gold; Hamilton is the edgy bling-boy would-be rap star** from da Stevenage ‘hood, sprinkling glitter on the previously stodgy Mercedes brand, Toto is a better-mannered Arnie – a Terminator with a very human face – and Niki is……well, Niki’s just your mad uncle. They’re seen as real, authentic racers and are part of the marketing programme that has made AMG a worldwide success and has helped Mercedes drop its average owner age by nine years since 2012.

    Mercedes have played an absolute blinder – world-best engineering delivering crushing performance, but driven by passion. A team that lets its drivers race each other. An organisation that sometimes gets it wrong but never falls apart, always works harder to improve. All topped off with a charismatic driver who lives on Instagram. Basically, a marketeer’s dream!

    ** Of course, he really isn’t. He’s a very well-spoken and polite English middle-class boy; I (briefly) met him off-camera and away from sponsors etc and he was utterly charming to me and my son. He’s about as edgy as Swiss cheese. But he knows that being a driver isn’t enough – to take the sport forward you need a star.

  • Marsyas

    Love him or loathe him, the cream always rises to the top. To understand Hamilton, it helps to have followed his early years where much of his racecraft & many of his achievements were astonishing. From a 6 year old beating adults with remote control cars, upwards. Yes, it’s the car, McLaren & Mercedes, but for 5 years & 5 championships for Schumacher it was the car & the tyres (& the cheating) & for many years, Ross Brawn. Vettel had a superior car for his championships, too. Fact is, top teams don’t usually hire crap drivers (Koveleinen & Kvyat excepted). Now, many people don’t like him or his lifestyle, but I agree with the article, Hamilton lives life & drives in colour, while many around him are in monochrome. When you look at his extensive list of endorsements & modelling assignments together with his A-list celebrity hangouts, you realise that he is A-list worldwide. Yes, much of it cringe-worthy, but the marketing people pay big bucks for marketable people.

  • p1ngu

    I wonder why my post was deleted?

  • subcritical71

    I’ve actually grown to like Lewis more over the years. You have to respect what he has done. Everybody gets lucky once in a while (Maldanado), but you can’t call his achievements luck or one-off’s when he has had so many. I also like that he does what he wants to do with no regrets and no political correctness. He’s living his life the way he wants and he has been very successful at it.
    The argument of best car for the last 4 years doesn’t hold much water for me as he has had very capable teammates in that same car and he has outscored both of them. I like Weber, but Seb didn’t have a Rosberg as a teammate as Lewis has had. I would tilt the scale to Lewis in a Lewis vs. Seb battle in equal cars. What would be interesting is Alonso vs Lewis, the score is already 0-1 in that regard… but that’s another topic.

  • Scott Gibson

    Not even close the only reason Lewis Hamilton is Champion today is because Ferrari screwed up so bad Lewis Hamilton is not the best driver and next year is going to be really sad to see him beat so bad by Max verstappen and Sebastian Vettel. He may have had the best car for quite a while but he’s not the best driver if you put Daniel ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton’s car three years ago and Lewis Hamilton and Daniel ricciardo car no one would even know who Lewis Hamilton was anymore. he is one very very very lucky man and always gets a breaks break from the officials.

  • Guy Fawkes

    Trying to argue “Best Driver” is like trying to argue “Best Guitar Player” or “Best Quarterback” or “Best Religion”. We all love to do it, but it’s a fools errand. Hamilton had the foresight to switch teams at the correct time, the talent to take the best car on the grid and not waste the opportunity and the self awareness to realize he wanted to be a “celebrity” and use his driving notoriety to achieve it. Arguing “best” is foolish but you wouldn’t be wrong to call him ONE of the best. And you could even argue he might just be “The Smartest”.