Question: What makes someone the best? Pure statistics? Impact on a particular sport? How do you define greatness?
If any of Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One rivals were hoping to see the back of him sometime soon, then the driver’s father has some bad news for them.
Anthony Hamilton believes his son can continue competing in the sport for another six years — at least — as he bids to eclipse every record set before him.
After wrapping up his sixth world title in Austin on Sunday, Hamilton stands alone as the sport’s second most successful driver in history, behind only Michael Schumacher.
“I keep telling him, he’s 34 years young,” Hamilton Sr. told CNN Sport. “He was getting a bit worried about the young lads, but … 34 years … I think, personally, he could go on till he’s 40 because you’re only as young as you feel.
“And if you’re young at heart and you’re still fit and you enjoy what you do, hell, keep going!”
Schumacher was 35 when he secured his seventh and final F1 title in 2004, with destiny looking predetermined for Hamilton to equal his record at the same age.
The British racer has always insisted the German’s record hasn’t been what drives him throughout his career — instead Hamilton is intent on trying to improve his own personal performances every race.
“He always says it doesn’t matter … I don’t believe him, no,” Hamilton Sr. says with a smile.
“But actually, I’m not so sure that’s what drives him. I think what drives him is just to be the best, you know, he just wants to win. If he’s going to do something, he wants to win, he wants to perform at his best and he wants people to appreciate him.
“So he’s always trying to do the right things to please others at the same time.”
There’s a lot of baggage and criticism that accompanies Hamilton — the social media posts and interviews that have prompted a backlash — that it can sometimes detract from his talents on the track.
But strip all of that away, remove all the glitz and the glamor, and few people in any sport can boast to be as dominant as Hamilton has in recent years.
The 34-year-old grew up in Stevenage, an English town, approximately 30 miles north of London, and his father admits that everything his son has achieved seems scarcely believable given how prohibitively expensive it can be to enter the world of F1.
“I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he’s done,” says the F1 driver’s father. “I think what people forget is that when he was eight years of age, we lived in a council house and we had absolutely nothing. I was working three or four jobs just to buy tires for him to go motor racing — and we’re still the same people.
“We might be six-time world champions and Lewis might have a jet and all the other bits and pieces that go with it but, actually, we still are the same people that lived in that council house in Stevenage. Everybody that we know back then at that time aspired to be something and to be someone, but we’ve done it.
“We should be applauded for it — or certainly Louis should be applauded for it, because what he’s done and what he’s achieved in Formula One and he’s maintained his progress, he hasn’t got here and wasted an opportunity.
“I’m mega proud, absolutely mega proud. When Lewis was eight years of age, we just thought we were just gonna go karting and enjoy life as a family, let alone come here years later and now we’re a six-time world champion — absolutely unbelievable.”
World champion once again
That Hamilton made his 2019 Formula One title success — his fifth in the last six years and sixth overall — look like such a procession is testament to his superior racing skills, unmatched by any other driver on the grid.
For much of the season, the Briton didn’t even possess the fastest car but, as Ferrari found out on more than one occasion, speed is meaningless without a driver’s calm temperament and an error-free team strategy.
Even teammate Valtteri Bottas, competing in identical machinery, has only managed four race wins in 2019 to Hamilton’s 10. Though he is still one behind the German’s all-time record, at 34 years of age time is on his side.
However, should he already be considered the GOAT? Former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg thinks Hamilton isn’t there quite just yet.
“Karting together who would have thought that we’d both be F1 world champion one day,” Rosberg, who pipped Hamilton to the 2016 title, wrote. “And you? You’ve achieved it for the sixth time — on your way to becoming the GOAT.”
If Hamilton is well on his way to becoming the greatest driver Formula One has ever seen, so too is he on his way to becoming Briain’s greatest ever athlete, according to Gary Lineker.