by Russell Atkins


Formula 1 legend Sir Stirling Moss has waxed lyrical about Lewis Hamilton's sensational form so far in his maiden grand prix season, but warns it could prove to be something of a double-edged sword for his McLaren-Mercedes squad.

Despite the presence of reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso alongside him as his team-mate at Woking, Hamilton has nevertheless stolen the lead in the drivers' standings with the opening four races now out of the way. It is a debut the like of which has never been seen before but one not, Moss advises, without its potential pitfalls.

"I'm staggered quite frankly," he told at last weekend's inaugural GPlive event at Donington Park. "I would never have given you odds on that - to be leading after his first four races is unbelievable. It's never happened before, and I'm sure it will never happen again either.

"I must say I feel very sorry for Alonso though, because there's no doubt Fernando has done a terrific job. Winning those two titles the way he did was tremendous, but to go along to a team which I presume said to him 'we can get you the championship again' and then suddenly find you've got a guy you've never heard of alongside you and leading the world championship after four races would really shake anybody.

"I think Alonso is certainly still as good as he was, but the interesting thing I think is that Lewis is clearly of the same type. Who is going to win? People often say you're not allowed team orders anymore, but I think Ron Dennis is in a very difficult position. Normally McLaren let their drivers race each other, but we will see. Ron convinced Alonso to come across by promising him he could get him another title, but now he has someone else in the team too he can't really control."

The young Brit's pedigree has however, as Moss acknowledges, been evident for some time, with sustained title successes in karting, F3 and GP2 on his way up through the junior formulae. Describing the 22-year-old as "a breath of fresh air", the 16-time grand prix winner said he recognised in Lewis qualities that are seen only extremely rarely.

"I think he is quite a stunning driver," he underlined. "The way he drives is very interesting. If you watch him, he is always there waiting to pounce and looking for a space to put his car, and that's the sign of a true racer. In my entire career of 525 races, I don't suppose I drove against more than four or five real racers, so to see Lewis coming in like that is a breath of fresh air.

"I'm really very impressed with him, and not just by his driving but by his personality too. Here is this guy who is very down-to-earth - not in any way big-headed about anything - and at the same time also a racer."

The next outing on the 2007 calendar - Monaco - in addition to being the jewel in Formula 1's glittering crown, is equally a venue at which in three appearances Hamilton has yet to lose. Not only does Moss believe the young prodigy can secure his breakthrough grand prix victory around the tortuous streets of the Principality, he also argues a tilt at the title in his maiden campaign in the top flight is far from out of the question.

"Monaco is a funny place," the 77-year-old stressed. "It's a tough race and very fickle with it. In my day it was 100 laps; it's shorter now but of course a lot faster too. I think Lewis has the ability to win there, and if the car keeps going and he gets a good start to the weekend I would think he is as likely to do it as anybody. It's fairly important for him to be at the front when the lights go out, which will hopefully allow him to pull away and open up a lead. That would give him potentially a tremendous advantage.

"I wouldn't have thought [Lewis winning the championship in his debut season] was for a moment a realistic prospect if you had asked me at the end of last year, but one has to say it is a possibility now."




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