Hamilton 'in the conversation' for best ever, says Stewart
Sir Jackie Stewart believes that Lewis Hamilton's achievements so far in his career means that he is "in the conversation" for the greatest Formula 1 driver, among the likes of Michael Schumahcer, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, and Ayrton Senna, but reckons the assessment can only be made after his fellow Brit's career is over.
Should Hamilton finish in the top seven or Sebastian Vettel fail to win in the upcoming Mexican Grand Prix this weekend, he will win his fifth world championship which would put him level with the tally of Fangio, with Schumacher's seven only a couple away.
Stewart believes Hamilton should be mentioned alongside other greats when discussing F1's best driver.
“Lewis has to be in the conversation,” said the 79-year-old.
“But that comes at the end of his career and he’s not there yet. You can see on the grid he still wants it and that’s partly helped by how the sport is now.
“If you look at his and the drivers’ faces before Sunday’s race, you’ll not see them particularly uptight as there’s not a serious risk of a fatality or major injury. The stress we had doesn’t exist for them now.”
Stewart believes Schumacher's record of seven championships is achievable for Hamilton, as long as he doesn't suffer burnout or decide to focus on other aspects of life away from F1.
“I see no reason why he can’t go for it but it depends on certain factors," Stewart continued.
"Will Mercedes keep going? You’d think so. Will Lewis keep going? At some point, he’ll suffer burnout. He’s got other passions in his life: the fashion, the music, for example.
“But while he’s still enjoying it, you would back him to keep winning. Plus, there’s the factor of it being nice to stop while at the top.
“But the Schumacher record is breakable. Records are there to be broken, from Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile back in the day to this one.”
While it is conceivable that Hamilton could match or surpass Schumacher, Stewart has suggested this does not automatically make him the best driver in history, such as the company he would be keeping in that conversation.
“It’s so difficult to compare between such different eras,” the Scot added.
“For example, I have absolutely no idea how I might have fared against Lewis. The way the sport is now, for Lewis it’s all about F1.
“In our era, we were racing F1, F2, touring cars and Indy Cars. I remember one year I crossed the Atlantic 86 times. It was just a different time.
“Jim Clark was the best driver I ever raced against while I thought Juan Manuel Fangio was the best of all time. What you’d have to say is that Lewis deserves to be discussed alongside them.”
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