Newly-crowned 2008 Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is a 'lucky bunny', acknowledges Sir Jackie Stewart, but having claimed his first title, the McLaren-Mercedes star can now go 'from strength-to-strength' and 'dominate the sport for a number of years'.
In lifting the laurels at the end of a dramatic and palpitating final few laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos last weekend, Hamilton became – at just 23 years and 301 days of age – the youngest man ever to claim international motor racing's ultimate crown.
Stewart is the only British driver ever to win three drivers' trophies – in 1969, 1971 and 1973 – and he predicted Hamilton could now go on to not only better that record, but fairly leave his rivals trailing in much the same way as did the great Michael Schumacher in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s…even if the Englishman did dice with throwing the championship away for the second year in succession in the closing stages in São Paulo.
“I am wary of comparing drivers from different periods,” the Scottish racing legend told the Daily Record
, “but Lewis has the ability to be the best of his era and dominate the sport for a number of years.
“He was fortunate to say the least [in Brazil], but possessed the ability to capitalise on the rain falling on Massa's parade and grabbed the required fifth place. Massa has emerged from peaks and valleys of inconsistency and come of age and was dignified in defeat.
“Lewis is a lucky bunny on another front, with youthful exuberance and innate skill coupled to backing from McLaren. He has bypassed the usual apprenticeship with a less competitive team which Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Massa have had to serve.”
The 69-year-old – who claimed his F1 glories with BRM and Tyrrell almost four decades ago – was also keen to re-iterate his conviction that Hamilton, who has long been guided by father Anthony in his career affairs, may benefit from more professional management.
The Stevenage-born ace has on a number of occasions this season come to blows with the media over what he has or has not said – but should such uncomfortable episodes become a thing of the past, Stewart argues, F1's first-ever black world champion could just go on to do what Tiger Woods has done for golf in reaching out to previously untouched audiences and taking the sport's international public recognition and popularity onto a whole different plane.
“It broadens the base of interest,” the 27-time grand prix-winner underlined, “and he is a role model to a wider audience which grand prix racing needs. Some big decisions will have to be made, and he will become even more public property, so he may need someone from beyond the family comfort zone.
“Mixing personal and professional can be difficult, [but] there is no reason why Lewis should not go from strength-to-strength as long as he remains in a competitive car with a competitive team.”