by Russell Atkins


Former grand prix winner John Watson reckons Lewis Hamilton could become one of the biggest names in sporting history if he can maintain his present run of scintillating form, and believes should the young Briton triumph in Monaco this weekend, he may just prove unstoppable.

Hamilton has taken the early championship lead in 2007, despite it being his maiden campaign in the top flight and a number of the circuits being new to him. Monte Carlo, though, is a track the 22-year-old knows well, having raced there three times before - and won on every occasion.

"If Lewis can qualify on the front row of the grid and doesn't clip the wall or make an error then he can win the race, there's no doubt about that," Watson told during last weekend's GPlive celebration at Donington Park. "It's all about getting the right grid position in Monaco.

"He has shown extremely high levels of ability - both mentally and physically - inside the car, and he is an out-and-out racer which is something I also appreciate. Not many racing drivers today are actual racers. Lewis has a quality and confidence right now that could see him just walk into Monte Carlo and walk out again undefeated."

As a driver who has been a team-mate to Alain Prost, raced against Ayrton Senna and watched Michael Schumacher's staggering career with great interest, Watson is well-placed to comment on Hamilton's potential. Lewis could, the Ulsterman argues, just turn out to be the best of the lot.

"He is the most significant driver to make an impact on Formula 1 of all time," the 60-year-old enthused. "He is a breath of fresh air across every aspect of motorsport. I know the pain Fernando Alonso is feeling. I think Alonso fundamentally is still the best driver in Formula 1, but for sure Lewis has rattled his cage so badly that Fernando is wondering if he is punch board or counter-sunk. It's a wake-up call like he has never had in his whole life

"I think it's just fantastic that a young kid, through the support of his family and McLaren International - and it's important to make sure McLaren get the credit they deserve too because they've done a great deal for Lewis - has got this far.

"Of course, he is now repaying McLaren's investment in bucket loads. People who are not really motorsport fans are suddenly talking about Lewis Hamilton, and that's what we need. We need more drivers who capture the public's imagination and draw audiences back to motorsport."

As to whether the Hertfordshire ace can actually go on to lift the crown in his debut season, Watson was a little more circumspect, though should Lewis succeed in doing so he argued it could herald the beginning of an era the likes of which Formula 1 has never before seen.

"People are saying it's possible and I think yes it is possible," he stressed, "but it's an enormous ask for a young man in his first year of grand prix racing to go out and win the world championship. What he has done so far, though, indicates he has the capacity to do so, and what a story that would be! Forget about the Football World Cup or the Olympic Games - the only name on the lips of people who follow sport over the next ten years is going to be Lewis Hamilton."




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