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The Sports Lowdown’s Greatest Formula One Drivers of all time No. 4 – Lewis Hamilton

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Formula One has been blessed with some truly outstanding drivers in the past, and whilst they should all be respected in their own right as world champions – many of whom have won multiple titles – it is human nature to try and compare drivers of different generations. Here at ‘The Sports Lowdown’ our chief Formula One writers Dan Culyer and Ben Boorman attempt to do just that. In a daily countdown, they will formulate a list of the greatest drivers – past and present – in an attempt to decipher who is the greatest the sport has ever seen.

Whether it is Senna; or Schumacher; or Prost; or Hamilton; or Clark; or Stewart; or Vettel – be sure to keep an eye on proceedings at The Sports Lowdown, and as usual we would love to hear your views on our list, so any comments would be greatly appreciated.


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No. 4 – Lewis Hamilton

As Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line in dominant fashion to win the Monza Grand Prix last weekend, there was one name resonating around the Formula One world: Ayrton Senna. Lewis Hamilton’s performance had been that good and so convincing that it inexorably drew parallelisms to the Formula One legend, a man Hamilton himself has idolised his entire life. These compliments are not easily given,  nor are they often thrown around, but the way Hamilton has been driving this season has real similarities to the way Ayrton Senna drove in his illustrious career, and as Lewis Hamilton put it in his BBC Sport Column, “I am carrying the baton for Senna” – a view many in the sporting world share.

Right from a young age, Lewis Hamilton’s immense talent and potential has been evident, and he had a very successful karting career, winning numerous British Championships at various levels. His ambition was also made crystal clear where, aged 13, at an awards ceremony, Hamilton met McLaren boss Ron Dennis and said how he “wanted to race for McLaren one day”. The pair agreed that in nine years time, Dennis would call the young driver back. He stuck to his word, and at the young age of 22, Lewis Hamilton made his formula one debut for McLaren.

Few, if any rookie drivers, are given this opportunity and that speaks volume about the talent the man from Stevenage possesses. Hamilton did not let his employers down, as he had a sensational first season: out-performing his team-mate – a reigning double World Champion – Fernando Alonso, and only missing out on the title by a single point. His performances sent shock-waves throughout the motor world, and the following season the 23 year old was crowned world champion for the first time in 2008, this time winning by only one point, at the time making him the youngest world champion of all time, and the sky appeared to be the limit for the Briton.

What followed though was five barren years, where Hamilton failed to mount a serious title challenge, due largely down to the uncompetitive car he so often had to drive. As Vettel and Red Bull dominated the sport, Hamilton had to be content with coming second, if that, and for a natural born winner this is, of course, no option.

Fast forward to 2014 where, for the first time in his career, Hamilton had a dominant car – now with Mercedes – and he consequently won his second world championship. Hamilton’s dominance has continued through to 2015, where he has so far won 7 races, and had 12 poles out of 14 races – a simply incredible achievement that is on the verge of breaking numerous records.  Despite the apparent period of stagnation, Hamilton is now reaping the rewards of finally having a car that matches his ability, and he has never been as quick and consistent as he has recently been.

What makes Hamilton great though – and the reason why we have put him at number four on our list – is not his statistics. His career achievements are admirable, and he is likely to double or even triple his number of world titles, but what sets him apart from the rest is his natural ability, and pure speed.

I do not think it is an over-exaggeration to say that Lewis Hamilton is the second fastest driver of all time, as well as being one of the most naturally gifted drivers to ever grace the sport, and that is what makes him such an incredible driver. He has the third highest amount of pole positions of any driver, but baring in mind that Schumacher is only 19 ahead in a career spanning more than  twice the length of Hamilton’s, it is a fair statement to say that the 30-year old is the second best qualifier of all time – after Ayrton Senna, of course. When drivers go for pole, they put their all into that one lap – no other external factor is significant – and it is the best way to judge one’s pure speed. He is beyond all doubt – and I would happily challenge anyone who thinks otherwise – the fastest man of his generation, and that alone warrants recognition on this list.

However, he has recently added another skill to his locker: he is a far more consistent and mature racer than he was in his McLaren days, and hence the reason his statistics have rocketed in the past 2 years. This is no fluke: it has been coming ever since he first stepped into a formula one car, but for one reason or another, he would not always be able to put everything together at every race.  Now he has and does, and he is reaping the rewards of this.

So, yes in many ways Hamilton is indeed continuing Senna’s legacy. Both of them possessed raw speed meaning that, on their day, they are unbeatable; both are natural-born racers, wear their heart-on-their-sleeve and give it 100% every lap; both have the level of charisma and popularity which makes them great champions both on and off the track. I have always said that Hamilton is the closest the world has ever got to Senna, and the way he is driving right now, proves just that. Drivers likes Prost and Schumacher raced against him as an equal, but that was because they raced in a completely different way which meant they could capitalise on Senna’s occasional weakness – his inconsistency. Hamilton on the other-hand has a driving style similar to the Brazilian: both are very aggressive – hacking at the steering wheel in a concoction of movements and using as much as the track as possible, to continue the speed and momentum of the car into the straights. This is in stark comparison to the way Prost drove, for instance.

The similarities extend beyond the track though. Senna is the most mystical racer the world has ever seen, and had the charisma that endeared him to millions of fans world-wide in Brazil but also internationally, making him a household name. One can say the same about Hamilton, who lives a life of luxury, and has helped bring the glitz and the glamour to a sport so often perceived as dull. He is among the most popular of drivers on the grid and over the past decade, and is somewhat of a household name in many countries. Formula One has sometimes lacked it’s ‘characters’ off the track, and Senna and Hamilton are the exception to this statement.

But behind this is a passion for the sport and determination to win – at all costs. It is both their biggest strength, but also their biggest weakness – they just cannot accept defeat, making them more susceptible to the odd mistake, but ultimately it allows them to reach new heights on the racetrack. Senna produced laps that were truly magical, and one could sense a genius at work – levels no one else could dream of reaching. Is Hamilton as good as Senna? Contrary to what statistics appear to show, Hamilton is not on Senna’s level yet, and it is unknown whether he ever will be. But one thing I can say is that he is the current embodiment of what Senna stood for, and there has not been a faster and more naturally gifted driver than Hamilton since the death of the great man. As Hamilton himself put it “If Ayrton was still alive today, I think we would have been good friends” – and given the similarities between them, I wouldn’t disagree.

Hamilton’s career is far from over, and that just adds to his status as an all-time great. He looks odds-on favourite to win his third title this year, with a commanding lead in this year’s championship, and from that point on, one would expect his next car – whether it be a Mercedes or a Ferrari – to be the best on the grid, for he has the virtue of choice being the current top dog. If Hamilton retains his desire – and I say this with some slight hesitation given his dabbling in fashion, music and Hollywood recently – then there is no reason why he can’t win four, five, six or even more championships. He has proven that he is the fastest of his generation and the pole position record – as well as a host of other achievements – is in his sights, so there really is no limit on what he can still achieve in the sport.

So, taking everything into consideration, I think that Hamilton’s place as number four on this list is perfectly justified, and if he can eclipse the achievements of Fangio and Schumacher, he may well move higher up on this list by the time his career draws to a close.

Thank you for reading this article. Leave comments below.

@Dan_Culyer   @benboorman21

Tomorrow: Number 3 – ?


See also:

No. 5 – Jim Clark – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-time-no-5-jim-clark/

No. 6 – Alain Prost – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/the-sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-of-all-time-no-6-alain-prost/

No. 7 – Sir Jackie Stewart – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-time-no-7-sir-jackie-stewart/

No. 8 – Niki Lauda – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/the-sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-of-all-time-no-8-niki-lauda/

No. 9   – Sebastian Vettel – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/the-sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-of-all-time-no-9-sebastian-vettel/

No. 10 – Sir Jack Brabham – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-time-no-10-jack-brabham/


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2015 Ayrton Senna formula 1 lewis hamilton McLaren mercedes Racing

About Dan Culyer

I am a 17 year-old sport fanatic - particularly when it comes to football, formula one, tennis and swimming/ water polo! I am a part-time sports journalist, as well as a fully qualified football referee! I particularly enjoy doing in-depth opinion pieces, with detailed analysis of players, teams and tournaments!

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