Formula One legend Sir Jackie Stewart doesn’t count six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton among his top three greatest drivers of all time.
Hamilton is well on course to equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships this year and is poised to overtake his race wins record of 91.
But Stewart, 81, believes it is too difficult to compare eras of the sport and that Hamilton’s Mercedes is ‘so superior’ it is ‘almost unfair on the rest of the field.’
Lewis Hamilton is on course to win a seventh Formula One world title – but Sir Jackie Stewart doesn’t consider the Mercedes driver among the sport’s all-time greatest
Three-time world champion Stewart, 81, says it is ‘hard to justify’ including Hamilton among the greats as his Mercedes car is ‘so superior’ to the rest of the field
It comes after a different of opinion between Stewart and Hamilton earlier this year over the issue of diversity within the sport.
Speaking on the In The Fast Lane podcast, three-time world champion Stewart said the hectic modern F1 calendar and advances in technology make naming the all-time greatest difficult.
He said: ‘I don’t think that you can account [for] the sort of level of success. Just because today there are 20, 22 races.
‘Juan Manuel Fangio, in my mind, is the greatest driver that’s ever lived, with Jim Clark as the second greatest, even ahead of [Ayrton] Senna.
‘Those people only raced maybe sometimes six to eight or nine races a year in Formula 1. They were driving sports cars, GT cars etc.
Hamilton is well on course to win his seventh world title during a shortened F1 2020 season
Hamilton’s Mercedes has left the rest of the field trailing in its wake in most races this year
‘But the world championship now, Lewis or any of the other top contenders today, are doing 22 races or 21 races, but only in Formula 1, not in touring cars, not in GT cars, not in IndyCars nor in Can-Am cars, so therefore, you can’t really compare.’
Mercedes have won the last six F1 constructors’ championships and are firmly on course for seven in a row but Stewart hopes this dominance soon comes to an end.
He added: ‘Lewis drives extremely well, make no mistake. I’m not in any way diminishing his skills, but it isn’t the same.
‘Lewis made a very good decision when he left McLaren and went to Mercedes-Benz, and 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.
‘You must take your hat off to Mercedes-Benz, to Toto Wolff and to Niki Lauda before that when they were working together to make one hell of a team, for choosing the best engineers, getting the best money that most other teams couldn’t get, apart from, say, Red Bull.
JACKIE STEWART’S TOP THREE DRIVERS OF ALL TIME
1. Juan Manuel Fangio
World championships: 5 (1951, 1954 – 1957)
His world titles may have been eclipsed by Hamilton and Michael Schumacher but his status as one of the best drivers of all time will never diminish.
The Argentine was near-impossible to stop through much of the 1950s no matter where he drove after taking his championships driving for Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes and Ferrari.
He is the oldest ever world champion at 46-years-old and had the F1 world championship started before 1950 he would have likely won many more.
2. Jim Clark
World championships: 2 (1963 and 1965)
Succeeding Fangio was the great Jim Clark, who quickly emerged as the man to beat during the 1960s.
In partnership with the innovative designer Colin Chapman at Lotus, the Scotsman collected two world titles and was untouchable when the fast but fragile Lotus car was under his control.
He was likely to add to his two titles before tragedy struck in 1968 when Clark was killed at the relatively young age of 32 while competing in an F2 race at Hockenheim.
3. Ayrton Senna
World championships: 3 (1988, 1990 and 1991)
Lewis Hamilton’s hero became an instant star in F1 following his debut in 1984 but despite over-achieving in inferior machinery it wasn’t until he got behind a dominant McLaren in 1988 that he could earn his first world title.
He saw off the challenge from team-mate Alain Prost that year, then went on to win a further two titles with the Woking outfit before moving to Williams in 1994.
The Brazilian was favourite to take a fourth world championship but at 34 he was very sadly killed while competing in the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in one of the sport’s darkest weekends
Stewart believes Juan Manuel Fangio, pictured in 1951, is the greatest F1 driver of all time
‘Therefore 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’s where the difference [is] 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, say, Fangio was in my mind, and a lot of people would find fault in that.
‘To say that Lewis is the greatest driver of all time, would be difficult for me to justify, in the sheer power of what the other drivers were doing.’
Back in the summer, Hamilton spoke out about the ‘institutional barriers that have kept F1 highly exclusive.’
The reigning world champion, who has worn t-shirts at races supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, said: ‘It is not enough to point to me, or to a single new black hire, as a meaningful example of progress.
Hamilton hit out at the lack of diversity within Formula One earlier this year, saying that the sport had ‘institutional barriers that have kept it exclusive’
Stewart denied that F1 was resistant to change, saying ‘I don’t think there’s as big a problem as there might seem’
‘Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society.’
But Stewart denied the allegation that Formula One has been resistant to change.
He said: ‘I think Lewis has been a great example to lots of people. He’s quite vocal about these elements, I don’t think there’s as big a problem as there might seem.
‘There is no resistance for change if someone is clever and good at what they do. They will be accepted in Formula One.
‘What we need to do is be sure whatever colour, man or women, they have to be educated in that particular area of engineering and if we had different races wanting to get into Formula One they have to do it through education.’