Lewis Hamilton’s “clean” and “very impressive” Formula 1 career makes him a greater world champion than Michael Schumacher, according to Jacques Villeneuve.

Villeneuve said he rates Hamilton - who will be crowned a five-time world champion if he finishes inside the top seven in the Mexican Grand Prix - “miles above” Schumacher in a recent interview with Reuters.

When asked how he would justify his claim during the build-up to this weekend’s race in Mexico City, Villeneuve told Sky Sports F1: “Because he’s had his career always clean.

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“He’s never resorted to any questionable actions to win and he’s always on top of his game. It’s been very impressive.”

The Canadian beat seven-time world champion Schumacher to the 1997 title in controversial circumstances, after Schumacher deliberately rammed Villeneuve at the final round of the season. Schumacher’s actions led to the German being disqualified from that year’s drivers’ standings.

F1’s all-time record-holder also collided with title rival Damon Hill in the 1994 finale, which resulted in both drivers retiring as Schumacher sealed his first world championship crown.

Hamilton’s recent success has seen him surpass Schumacher’s pole position tally and close in on his records for most wins and world championships, while he is on the verge of becoming just the third driver in history to win five or more titles.

Asked why he feels Hamilton is not as appreciated as other drivers, Villeneuve said: “It’s hard to judge from the outside what they really do, we see now with social media, you don’t know what is real or what is fake.

“It’s really hard and that normally has a positive effect for some fans and a very negative one for others.

“Normally you are loved once you die or much later on.”

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