Chasing a sixth World title in seven seasons, Mika Hakkinen says “ability, fitness, application and focus” have played more of a role in Lewis Hamilton’s success than the car.
As Hamilton closed in on Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 grand prix wins, the debate over who is the greatest of all time once again made headlines.
While Sir Jackie Stewart says it cannot go to Hamilton given his “almost unfair advantage” in the Mercedes cars, Bernie Ecclestone says the Brit has had help from “God knows what” in driving the car.
Hakkinen feels that’s unfair.
The Finn, a double World Champion, says winning one Formula 1 grand prix is hard enough without a further 90 to the tally. Hamilton brought his tally up to 91 with a victory at Sunday’s Eifel Grand Prix.
While Hakkinen acknowledges that the Mercedes cars have played a big role in Hamilton’s success, he feels you cannot take away from the Brit has brought to the table.
“To win one grand prix is not easy, so to repeat that so many times over 14 years in Formula 1 is a very special achievement and one that Lewis has every right to be proud of,” he wrote in his Unibet column.
“To win races and a World Championship requires many things, including a great car, strong team-mate and excellent team of people to support you, and Lewis has benefitted from all of those things at Mercedes.
“But you also have to perform yourself, because no matter how good your car is, you have to do the driving, operate the systems in the right way, execute the right strategy and, most importantly of all, be a really good racing driver.
“Lewis’s ability to deliver victories, and then to repeat them over time, starting at the age of 21 and continuing now that he is 35, is no easy task.
“I know how much energy it took to win the title twice, and when I stopped racing in Formula 1 I knew it was the right moment – at 33 – so no one should think that what Lewis has done is simply a question of having the best car.
“It requires ability, fitness, application and focus to keep on winning, and clearly Lewis has found the way to do that.”
Schumacher’s son Mick was on hand to congratulate Hamilton on his achievement.
A moment to treasure…@LewisHamilton's record-equalling 91st win was rewarded with Michael Schumacher's helmet 🏆
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 12, 2020
The 21-year-old German, who is in line for an Alfa Romeo promotion onto next year’s F1 grid, presented Hamilton with one of his father’s helmets, worn during his time at Mercedes.
Hakkinen continued: “I was very happy to see Mick Schumacher present Lewis with one of his father’s helmets at the end of the race.
“The Schumacher family is very strong, and Michael is a formidable competitor who will be the first person to recognise Lewis’s achievements, so it was a good moment for Mick to represent him and acknowledge the record of 91 race wins being matched.
“We all now expect it to be broken very soon, and we cannot imagine what the new record will be before Lewis decides to retire.
“Michael, of course, still holds records such as the most wins in a single season – 13 – and his place in history is assured, but Lewis is right there with him at the top of the record books.”
With a 69-point lead in the Drivers’ standings, Hamilton is well on his way towards equalling Schumacher’s all-time record for the most World titles.