Sir Jackie Stewart is “disappointed” Lewis Hamilton thinks he’s trying to diminish his success, saying he is the best of today’s drivers but Juan Manuel Fangio still stands apart.
Ahead of Hamilton’s run to a record-equalling 91st grand prix win, Stewart was asked for his opinion on who is the greatest of all time.
The Scot mentioned several names before Hamilton’s, adding that the Brit had an “almost unfair advantage” over his rivals on today’s grid given the superiority of his Mercedes F1 cars.
Hamilton, who equalled Michael Schumacher’s win record at the Eifel Grand Prix, wasn’t impressed.
“I get knocked by many people, particularly by older drivers,” he told the Daily Mail. “They have a bee in their bonnet. I don’t know why.
“I have so much respect for the past legends, even though they continue to speak negatively about me.”
Feeling really honoured to be mentioned in the same likeness as a driver like Michael. What happened today is beyond my wildest dreams. I can’t express how grateful I am to all the fans, and to my amazing team for being with me on this journey. This is for us #91 pic.twitter.com/ZXaq17qd06
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 11, 2020
Stewart, however, says he by no means is trying to minimise what Hamilton has achieved, nor does he have an issue with the 35-year-old.
The triple World Champion the PA news agency: “I am not trying to diminish Lewis Hamilton and I hold his performances with incredible respect.
“He is the best driver of the present time.
“I am not knocking him down and I am disappointed he thinks that way. What do I have to gain from that? I am 81 years of age.
“I was asked what did I think about Lewis becoming the most winning driver of all time and if that made him the greatest there has been.
“I said it is very difficult to say that.
“The greatest I believe there has been is Juan Manuel Fangio, followed by Jim Clark.
“But even then, is it correct to say someone is the best?
“Is Lionel Messi better than Pele or Sir Stanley Matthews, who was the greatest of all time when I was a child? Is Roger Federer better than Rod Laver?
“They are different eras.
“You can say Lewis is the best of his time and that is not in any way demeaning towards him.
“He is doing one hell of a job, and he is his own man, which is different to Niki Lauda, different to Jackie Stewart, different to Jim Clark and different to Graham Hill.”
💬 "It’s not the most important thing for me to be remembered as the best or the greatest, because I have so much respect for those drivers in the past. I don’t feel like I need to compare myself to them because I’m different. We all are different and unique." – @LewisHamilton 💜 pic.twitter.com/8juImQx209
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) October 14, 2020
Hamilton is well on his way to a seventh World title, another Schumacher record that the Brit can match this season.
The Brit has a 69-point lead over Valtteri Bottas with six races remaining.
Stewart added: “Lewis’ achievements are amazing but he is driving the finest racing car in the world and it has been that way for a very long time.
“I have got nothing against Fangio or Jim Clark, but when I beat their records I was very pleased I had done it. For me, they are still my heroes and I regard them as beyond me.
“Lewis made a terrific decision to move to Mercedes from McLaren. I take my hat off to him. He did the right thing.
“But is he better than Fangio who won his five titles with four different teams? Or is he better than Jim Clark or indeed Michael Schumacher? You simply cannot say.”