Formula 1 boss Ross Brawn believes Lewis Hamilton “has to be” the driver of the 2020 season after proving beyond all doubt that he belongs in the “higher echelons” of the sport’s greatest drivers of all time.

Hamilton claimed 10 victories from the 16 races he contested as he charged to a seventh world title last season to equal the all-time record previously held by Michael Schumacher.

Not only did the Briton match Schumacher’s benchmark for world championships, he also eclipsed his tally of most wins, ending the year with 95 victories to his name.

Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Brawn sounded out his reasons for Hamilton being the clear standout driver of the year, citing his ability to win races “he shouldn’t have won”.

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“I think it has to be Lewis, and I say has to be in the sense that he has set a new benchmark in terms of world championships,” Brawn replied when asked for his driver of the year.

“I think it’s very easy for people to assume that he had the best car. It’s an easy exercise and it’s far from the case. He definitely won races he shouldn’t have won.

"We think of Turkey, probably the most difficult race of the year, and he sat there quietly getting on with it until the opportunity came and there he was in the pound seat and he won the race.

“He just endorsed what we already knew, that he is a truly exceptional driver. Definitely in the higher echelons of the Schumacher’s and the Senna’s, he’s in that group, there’s no doubt about it.”

Brawn was also particularly impressed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who managed two victories on his way to third in the championship as he single-handedly took the fight to the ultra-dominant Mercedes team.

“I thought Max matured very well this year, if we think back to Max of a couple of years ago,” Brawn added. “He was pretty unlucky this year, I have to say.

"There were a couple of times the car didn’t quite… and he got caught up in accidents that were not his fault and we were deprived of seeing some great races from him.

“But I’m optimistic with the group of drivers that we have, that we are going to have some great races in the future, particularly when we are going to try and improve the cars and the competitiveness of the teams and the ability to follow.

“We’ve got a really great run of drivers and I think we were all massively excited by George Russell getting in the Mercedes. That was a fairy story that didn’t quite happen but I don’t think we will forget that. We’ve had some great stories this year.”