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Lewis Hamilton – the Greatest

1 year ago

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Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


6 March 2023

After 15 rounds of voting and with more than 20,000 votes cast on our Twitter page, The Intercooler audience has declared Lewis Hamilton the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. He won 56 per cent of the final vote, narrowly beating Ayrton Senna in the closest poll of the lot, which closed on Friday evening.

Michael Schumacher and Jim Clark fell in the semifinals, while the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost failed to progress beyond the quarters. But now we can finally put this one to bed – Lewis is the best there has ever been, and there’s nothing more to be said about that.

Apart from all the qualifications I’m about to run through now… We do of course have a mostly UK-based audience, so it may not be terribly surprising that a British driver prevailed. It would be interesting to see the results of a similar poll run by a Brazilian publication, or a German one. And as is always the way with such things, recency bias has clearly played a role here too. For instance, is Fangio, with five World Championships for four constructors and a still unapproached 47 per cent hit rate of wins to entries really not worthy of a place in the semis?


But this was a democratic process across a meaningful sample of a knowledgeable audience – there must be some truth in the outcome. It’s also telling that the names that rose to the top of the tree are the same few that always come out on top in polls or individual top 10 lists concerning the finest ever F1 drivers.

Besides, only one driver could win, and who would argue that Hamilton is not worthy? For me, it isn’t the fact that he’s won more Grands Prix than anybody or that he has seven World Championships, equal to Schumacher but more than anybody else. It isn’t the fact that he is supreme over a single lap, or quicker than most through a stint while preserving his tyres, or that he’s a maestro in the rain and in wheel-to-wheel combat. Instead, I think back to 2007, his maiden season.

Still looking like not much more than an adolescent, a 22-year-old Hamilton scored nine consecutive podiums from his debut in Australia to his home race at Silverstone, winning two in between and four in total that year. But for a calamitous error in the pit lane at the Chinese GP and a mysterious gearbox issue at the final round in Brazil, he would have won the World Championship in his rookie year. Second in the standings, a point shy of first but ahead of his reigning double World Champion teammate, is still quite comfortably the best debut year in F1 history.

Lewis the Greatest
Canada 2007 – Hamilton’s first F1 win

So maybe we’ve known Lewis Hamilton would become one of the greats all along, and we have simply watched that process play out gloriously over the 16 seasons and seven titles that have followed. But the debate about the GOAT will rumble on, and rightly so, for no one poll or set of statistics will ever put this one to rest – only lyrical debate repeated over and over and over will get close to the heart of the matter.

By the way, if you came here this morning expecting to find a full-length feature article, please check back at 5pm. The instant the embargo lifts, we will publish Henry Catchpole’s review of the Aston Martin Valkyrie, which it was his very happy lot to drive at the Bahrain Grand Prix track last month. I promise the slight delay will be worth it.