Lewis Hamilton is 'probably the greatest driver in the world', his proud father Anthony has reflected following the 2008 F1 World Champion's stunning German Grand Prix triumph last weekend – what he described as 'one of his greatest [performances] ever' and a springboard to a belated title challenge this season.
Hamilton arrived at the Nürburgring sitting 95 points adrift of runaway F1 2011 World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel at the midway stage of the campaign, and with few truly offering him a prayer of clawing that deficit back. He left again with his 16th top flight victory in his pocket – drawing him level with British racing legend Sir Stirling Moss, not to mention Vettel himself – and having reduced the gap to 82 points, as a lacklustre effort from his Red Bull Racing rival saw the home hero miss out on the podium for the first time in twelve races.
Anthony Hamilton contends that the result served to underline his son's status as the best driver on the grid, and is effusive about the manner in which the 26-year-old pulled it off, with a sublime overtaking manoeuvre around the outside
of former arch-nemesis Fernando Alonso that saw him make all of his moves out on the circuit rather than in the pit-stops. It is that same relentless, hard-charging, uncompromising and ultra-committed on-track style that makes the British star the driver that he is – and that, his father assures, will never change.
“Lewis' win on Sunday was a fantastic performance,” he told The Guardian
. “I think the win proved that whatever anyone says or writes about Lewis Hamilton, he is a consummate professional as a race driver. Nothing and nobody will ever change the way he drives and approaches his racing – and I thank God for that, because Sunday, for me, showed that Lewis is probably the greatest driver in the world...and I dare anybody to argue with me against it.
“He didn't get pole, he didn't lead the race from start-to-finish and he didn't win it in the pits. If you look at most F1 races of this day and age, most drivers win from pole, unchallenged, such as the Red Bulls, who have had more speed and power than anybody else this season, and certainly last season – or they will win it in the pit-stops because the team that changes the tyres the quickest is the fastest in-and-out.
“On Sunday, Lewis lost the lead and overtook for the lead and won the race on merit – and that's a rarity nowadays. If you look at his overtaking of Fernando Alonso on the outside, it qualified Lewis' performance as one of his greatest ever. Alonso is a great driver – he's as good as Lewis. Lewis and Fernando are the top two drivers in the world. I think Lewis nicks it, on the basis of the fact that they raced together at McLaren and Lewis beat him in his first season, in 2007.”
In the light of his well-aired frustrations with McLaren in 2011 – and the vast majority of observers dismissing his title chances virtually out-of-hand – Hamilton Snr confesses that what continually impresses him the most about his son is his ability to bounce back and come out fighting again when everybody else is convinced he is out-for-the-count.
Anthony managed Lewis for the majority of his formative career prior to their very public 'divorce' and painful professional and personal estrangement early last year. Though they are now happily reconciled, the former insists: “I don't want to go there; that period is 18 months ago. I've got nothing to say about it. I want to look forward now – and right now, Lewis and I have a great relationship.”
“I have always struggled to understand how he has become such a great driver when he's in the car,” confessed the 51-year-old, now managing Force India F1 rookie Paul di Resta. “I mean, most of his learning has come outside the car. Inside the car, there is some sort of natural talent that he doesn't have to learn much about, just control.