Lewis Hamilton can equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 grand prix victories this weekend — but former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has told AFP he believes the German had it tougher in his day.
A win in the Eifel Grand Prix at Germany’s Nurburgring on Sunday would also take six-time world champion Hamilton a step closer to equalling the record of seven world titles held by Schumacher.
Hamilton replaced Schumacher at Mercedes for the 2013 season. In December that year the German suffered a severe brain injury while skiing and has been out of the public eye ever since.
Ecclestone, who oversaw the transformation of F1 into a global multi-billion-dollar commercial giant, said Schumacher, who made his F1 debut in 1991, raced in a different era.
“Schuey was driving on his own more or less when he was racing in his car,” Ecclestone said by phone from his home in Switzerland.
“Hamilton has got God knows who helping him, telling him what his tyre pressure is, speeds through corners.
“In the old days Alain Prost, who I have great admiration for, when the flag went to start the race he was on his own and it ain’t like that any more.”
Ecclestone, who turns 90 later this month, said he was not trying to undermine Hamilton’s achievements during a spell of extraordinary dominance for the British driver.
“You cannot say anything bad about Lewis, you cannot say he is not good, that is not the point,” he said.
“How good he is compared to somebody else, well he is super, super talented and would be amongst the top five drivers for the last 30 years.
“Was he better than Michael? Would Michael have been better in that car (Mercedes)? You can’t say.”
Ecclestone says Hamilton, 35, comes from a different mould to drivers of earlier generations, who were easily identified as racing car drivers.
“In general I would say he is limitless in what he gets up to,” he said.
“The way he dresses, if you did not know Lewis was a race driver you would never say he was a racer whereas with Nelson (Piquet) and Schuey, if you saw them you would say they were race drivers, they dressed for the role.”
Hamilton has been a vocal campaigner against racial injustice and has set up a commission to tackle the lack of diversity in motorsport.
Referring to the reigning F1 champion’s predecessors, Ecclestone said: “Their life was what they did, which was racing and for Lewis racing is not just racing, which is probably an easier way of trying to explain it. A different way of living.”
The only driver Ecclestone can compare Hamilton to is the late Ayrton Senna.
“Senna would most resemble Lewis from the older generation due to his religious beliefs, I suppose, as he was firm about them,” he said.
“The other guys I don’t think there was anything they would lay down and die for.”