Lewis Hamilton will 'get better year-by-year' and could well 'end up as the greatest of all time' in Formula 1 by smashing the records set by the great Michael Schumacher, reckons the sport's legendary commentator Murray Walker.

During his 16 seasons in the top flight, Schumacher lifted the drivers' trophy on an unparalleled seven occasions, triumphed in a staggering 91 grands prix, ascended the podium no fewer than 154 times and amassed a staggering 1,369 points - almost twice as many as the next man on the list, quadruple title-winner and a record-breaker in his own time, Alain Prost.

Having secured 2008 glory at the end of a thrilling campaign and a nail-biting closing few laps in the Brazilian Grand Prix finale at Interlagos, however, Walker argues that with time on his side, McLaren-Mercedes star Hamilton has all the potential and promise to go on to better that.

"At the age of 23, he's got at least another ten, maybe 15 years ahead of him," the much-loved former BBC and ITV commentator told Crash.net Radio. "If he continues to have good cars and he continues to have good back-up in terms of designers, engineers, mechanics and everybody at the factory, there's no reason why potentially he shouldn't beat Michael Schumacher's records.

"He's got one world championship now; if he gets another seven he'll have beaten them, and in 15 or so years, given his skill and the fact that he is now going to get better year-by-year until he reaches his peak - which is a long way off - I would be very optimistic about him ending up as the greatest of all time.

"Lewis can win the championship next year; whether he will do or not remains to be seen. It's like I always say to people - Formula 1 is a team event, and the best driver can fail if he hasn't got a good enough car and if he hasn't got good enough back-up from the rest of the team.

"Since Lewis Hamilton drives for McLaren, who have consistently produced good cars and have got one of the best team and back-up organisations in the world, there's every reason why he should go on."

Walker also had some words of comfort for Hamilton's season-long Ferrari rival Felipe Massa, who agonisingly missed out on the crown by the tiniest of margins on home soil in S?o Paulo after doing everything that was asked of him, but who - the 85-year-old contends - would have made just as deserving a winner.

"For about ten or twelve seconds he actually thought he was world champion," he acknowledged. "Of course I was delighted that Hamilton won, but I would equally have said the same thing about Massa."

by Russell Atkins



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