by Russell Atkins

Murray Walker says he has 'run out of superlatives' with which to describe Lewis Hamilton's unprecedented start to his Formula 1 career, after watching him scorch to pole position ahead of his maiden British Grand Prix this weekend.

The 22-year-old McLaren-Mercedes ace has so far torn up all the record books in his opening eight races in the top flight, with an unbroken run of rostrum finishes, back-to-back victories in Canada and the US and a staggering 14-point championship lead over team-mate Fernando Alonso in the drivers' title standings. He is, Walker argues, quite simply a phenomenon.

"I can't find the words to say how impressed I am with Lewis," the legendary commentator enthused, speaking to Crash.net at Silverstone. "I have long since run out of superlatives as far as Lewis Hamilton is concerned - the man is a phenomenon, the like of which has never been seen in grand prix racing before. What he did in qualifying here was absolutely sensational.

"I thought after Friday - and I still do - that Ferrari have the edge over McLaren when you take into account fuel loads. I hope I'm proved wrong from the British point-of-view, but whichever way you slice it for Lewis to do what he did in the closing stages of qualifying was quite incredible.

"Everybody - including me - expected Lewis to be very good. You've only got to look at what he did in karting, Formula Renault, F3 and GP2 to know he's something very special, but equally I and everybody else I think expected him to take time to acclimatise to F1 with a new team, new car, new tyres, new circuits, new everything. For him to have beaten a two-time world champion as consistently as he has - again, I can't find words strong enough to express my admiration and respect for him.

"Given what he's done in his previous eight races I think he's got every chance of winning at Silverstone, but then so has (Kimi) Raikkonen, so has (Felipe) Massa and so has Alonso. That's what makes the whole grand prix scene so gloriously exciting and unpredictable this year."

One man unfortunately not so much a part of the sharp end of proceedings in 2007 is former race-winner Jenson Button, as Honda endure a torrid campaign with their underperforming RA107. Walker acknowledges a point for the Briton would be almost akin to a victory in front of his loyal and partisan supporters on home soil this weekend, and remains confident while Button may be temporarily down he is far from out.

"If Jenson finishes in the points he will be doing extraordinarily well for two reasons," the 83-year-old underlined. "One is that his back is troubling him, and the second is that the car is not good enough for him to finish much higher than that. It's not me saying that behind Honda's back; Honda themselves are only too happy to admit it and are working very hard to overcome the problem. They will do so, but it will take time."

The Japanese outfit is unlikely to have resolved its issues before the German Grand Prix at the N?rburgring in two weeks' time, where Walker will be making a welcome return to the microphone for BBC Radio Five Live. It is, he insists, very much a one-off.

"Absolutely not!" he fired back when asked if it may be the prelude to a full-time comeback. "I know my limitations! I'm an old man and 16, 17 or 18 races a year with half of them these days virtually long haul is very tiring. I don't know that I could do it physically, and I wouldn't want to try to either to be honest.

"Saying that I'm looking forward to [the N?rburgring] a great deal, but I'm looking forward to it less and less as the days go by. Everyone is saying to me 'we're going to be listening to you in Germany' and I'm a bit apprehensive, because I haven't done a full grand prix commentary since the end of 2001. Yes, I did the Australian Grand Prix for the Australians in Australia this year, but that was me with several other commentators and pit-lane reporters and all the rest of it. In Germany it's going to be me, Maurice Hamilton and Holly Samos so it's a bit of a challenge, but then if you don't rise to life's challenges you're not much of a person."

 

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