Sir Jackie Stewart believes that Lewis Hamilton is not on the same level as the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio or Jim Clark despite his success in Formula 1.

The Mercedes driver is on the verge of equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 grand prix victories and remains on course to match the German’s unrivalled benchmark of seven drivers’ world titles this year.

Hamilton has claimed five of the six world championship titles on offer since the start of the V6 turbo era in 2014 and theoretically could surpass both the wins and championship records before the start of the next regulation cycle in 2022.

The Briton has won six of the opening 10 races of the 2020 season and has subsequently opened up a 44-point lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

But speaking as the latest guest on the In the Fast Lane podcast, Stewart argued why he does not consider Hamilton to be among the sport’s all-time greats.

"I don't think that you can account that sort of level of success, just because today there are 20 or 22 races," Stewart said.

"Juan Manuel Fangio is in my mind the greatest driver that ever lived, with Jim Clark the second greatest, even ahead of [Ayrton] Senna. But those people only raced sometimes six to eight or nine races a year in Formula 1. They were driving sportscars, GT cars, etcetera.

"But the world championship now, Lewis Hamilton, or any of the other top contenders, are doing 22 races – but only in Formula 1. Not in touring cars, not in GT cars, not in IndyCars, not in Can-Am cars...

"The pressure today is much more relaxed. Of course they go to the factory and do the simulator, but that's not quite the same. It's a different world."

And Steward feels the current period of dominance enjoyed by the Mercedes team means that Hamilton has an “almost unfair” advantage over the rest of the field.

"Lewis drives extremely well, make no mistake. I'm not in any way diminishing his skills. But it's not the same," he said.

"[Fangio] drove in such a way, it was quite extraordinary – he would choose Ferrari, and then he would think 'well Maserati next year might be good', so he never did more than a one-year contract.

"And then he drove for Mercedes-Benz and won two world championships with them, because they were the best cars in the world at that time.

"Lewis made a very good decision when he left McLaren at that time and went to Mercedes-Benz. I take my hat off to him for making that decision. But frankly, the car and the engine are now so superior that it's almost unfair on the rest of the field.

"Now you can't say that, you must take your hat off to Mercedes-Benz, to Toto Wolff and to Niki Lauda for making one hell of a team, for choosing the best engineers, getting the best money that most other teams couldn't get, apart from Red Bull.

"It's not quite the same respect, if you like, of being able to do it in less than the best car. And that's where sometimes there was a difference between the very, very great drivers and the ones that were very successful.

"It's difficult to say that about Lewis, not being as good as Fangio was, in my mind. And a lot of people would find fault in that. But I've been watching motor racing [since] I was a wee boy.

“My brother was a racing driver, I was going with him to races and seeing [Alberto] Ascari and [Tazio] Nuvolari and [Rudolf] Caracciola and people like that. Some of the best racing drivers in the world, I saw.

“To say Lewis is the greatest of all time would be difficult for me to justify, in sheer power of what the other drivers were doing.”

 

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