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Who is the greatest F1 driver of all time?

  • Lewis Hamilton

    Votes: 11 37.9%
  • Michael Schumacher

    Votes: 4 13.8%
  • Alain Prost

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Ayrton Senna

    Votes: 10 34.5%
  • Fernando Alonso

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Jackie Stewart

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Nelson Piquet

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Niki Lauda

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Jim Clark

    Votes: 1 3.4%
  • Fangio

    Votes: 3 10.3%
  • Other

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    29
21 - 40 of 88 Posts

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Not sure about that... I think he'd still give them a run for their money as I believe he is fitter and more experienced than them (based on the tools available to him today). :)

Remember, he's a karting champion too - and in a kart it's very raw, 100mph+ (superkart's can do 160mph, but not sure if he had access to that in his professional karting days). In 2000, at age 15 he won the European Karting Championship - with a fractured scaphoid and his arm in a cast! He is relentless, intensely competitive, and I think there's a good chance he'd still win in their cars.

Thanks!

Z.
Certainly only my opinion...but I think it’s fair to assume that it’s FAR easier for an old timer to jump into modern technology than it would be for a new driver to jump into old technology. Meaning...the learning curve would be shorter to learn the new tech than vice versa.

Keep in mind as well...if you were doing a genuinely realistic comparison it would be over a season of racing where their fitness would absolutely be improved due to modern tech/fitness/diet/safety/travel etc.

The one thing you can’t do with a new driver...is know how they’ll deal with the insane danger of driving an older car to the limit. It was fairly normal for someone to die back then...literally 50/50. New drivers have ZERO concept of that. That is huge. Don’t under estimate it’s impact. Even Senna showed his melancholy and depression during the weekend of his own death when Ratzenburger passed and Barichello had a nasty accident. In the old days...that was darn near a normal race weekend. Now that is something...
 

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Certainly only my opinion...but I think it’s fair to assume that it’s FAR easier for an old timer to jump into modern technology than it would be for a new driver to jump into old technology. Meaning...the learning curve would be shorter to learn the new tech than vice versa.

Keep in mind as well...if you were doing a genuinely realistic comparison it would be over a season of racing where their fitness would absolutely be improved due to modern tech/fitness/diet/safety/travel etc.

The one thing you can’t do with a new driver...is know how they’ll deal with the insane danger of driving an older car to the limit. It was fairly normal for someone to die back then...literally 50/50. New drivers have ZERO concept of that. That is huge. Don’t under estimate it’s impact. Even Senna showed his melancholy and depression during the weekend of his own death when Ratzenburger passed and Barichello had a nasty accident. In the old days...that was darn near a normal race weekend. Now that is something...
You might assume it's easier to go from old tech to new tech, but I don't think so when it comes to F1. Road cars, yes, F1 cars, heck no... Old F1 cars didn't have KERS, DRS, an insane number of engine modes, party modes, etc. They would be so lost in the cockpit, even with hours or even days of training. However, the older cars had less technology that was critical to driving the cars (hence my karting analogy) that the modern driver would have no issues understanding it immediately.

I think there's an assumption here that older cars were harder to drive, and that's where I beg to differ... As I said, if you talk road cars, I agree - e.g. almost no-one today knows how to operate a manual gearbox in the US today, and few people in the world could operate one without synchro's (double clutching, synchronizing your own revs, etc). So the newer road cars, that do everything for you, yes, it's WAY easier. In Formula 1 it's an entirely different story. The newer the F1 car, the more knobs the driver is given to alter the performance of the car in real time. They are regularly fiddling with settings MID-CORNER at 180MPH! Not to mention the constant stream of data they have to read. Lets take a look at their cockpits...

Here's what Fangio would have used:

197235


Now Senna - a little better, I think I see a button or two.

197236


This is Schumacher-era 2006 F1 (the end of his glory years). Much better, more buttons, and an LED display.

197237


Now lets look at Hamilton's Mercedes F1 2019 steering wheel...

197239


So by that we can see that the driver of a state-of-the-art modern F1 car has to control... DRS, 100+ control sensors, pit lane speed control, pit signaling, brake balance (coarse and fine grained), points of interest for the engineers, race start mode, radio, strat modes, rotary menu settings, MGU-K settings, and a giant LCD they have to read. Then they have to shift the gears of course too. All in real time (pit crew are not allowed to adjust anything for them).

Honestly, I think Fangio and Senna would have trouble getting off the line in a modern car, let-alone driving a fast race lap. They'd be as confused as the Wright Brothers getting in to a space shuttle and told to fly it. I know there's been much talk of the safety, and yes, modern cars are safer, but think about those settings... A wrong setting at the wrong part of the track (brake balance, power, DRS, KERS, etc), and an F1 driver could easily end up dead (or very slow). It's not as visceral as it was, but the danger is still clear and present.

If we're going to take in to consideration the historical drivers ability to manage their deathtrap cars, then we have to give credit to the modern drivers for their mental discipline and focus in the face of these technological space ships.

Lastly, lets discuss experience:

Fangio - 51 starts over a 7 year career - 35 podiums, 24 wins, 5 championships - win pct: 47% (this one is anomalous considering the low number of races driven, with seasons only 7 or 8 races long)
Schumacher - 306 starts over a 21 year career - 155 podiums, 91 wins, 7 championships - win pct: 29.7%
Senna - 161 starts over a 10 year career - 80 podiums, 41 wins, 3 championships - win pct: 25.5%
Hamilton - 248 starts over a 12 year career - 150 podiums, 83 wins, 6 championships - win pct: 33.5%

Lewis has way more track experience than Senna and Fangio, and while Schumacher has 58 starts more, Lewis has almost as many wins in the same period, with nearly half the career length (I know, Schumacher had a 6 year gap, but he didn't go to sleep during that time).

Anyway, I still think Lewis would trounce them ?

Thanks!

Z.
 

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You might assume it's easier to go from old tech to new tech, but I don't think so when it comes to F1. Road cars, yes, F1 cars, heck no... Old F1 cars didn't have KERS, DRS, an insane number of engine modes, party modes, etc. They would be so lost in the cockpit, even with hours or even days of training. However, the older cars had less technology that was critical to driving the cars (hence my karting analogy) that the modern driver would have no issues understanding it immediately.

I think there's an assumption here that older cars were harder to drive, and that's where I beg to differ... As I said, if you talk road cars, I agree - e.g. almost no-one today knows how to operate a manual gearbox in the US today, and few people in the world could operate one without synchro's (double clutching, synchronizing your own revs, etc). So the newer road cars, that do everything for you, yes, it's WAY easier. In Formula 1 it's an entirely different story. The newer the F1 car, the more knobs the driver is given to alter the performance of the car in real time. They are regularly fiddling with settings MID-CORNER at 180MPH! Not to mention the constant stream of data they have to read. Lets take a look at their cockpits...

Here's what Fangio would have used:

View attachment 197235

Now Senna - a little better, I think I see a button or two.

View attachment 197236

This is Schumacher-era 2006 F1 (the end of his glory years). Much better, more buttons, and an LED display.

View attachment 197237

Now lets look at Hamilton's Mercedes F1 2019 steering wheel...

View attachment 197239

So by that we can see that the driver of a state-of-the-art modern F1 car has to control... DRS, 100+ control sensors, pit lane speed control, pit signaling, brake balance (coarse and fine grained), points of interest for the engineers, race start mode, radio, strat modes, rotary menu settings, MGU-K settings, and a giant LCD they have to read. Then they have to shift the gears of course too. All in real time (pit crew are not allowed to adjust anything for them).

Honestly, I think Fangio and Senna would have trouble getting off the line in a modern car, let-alone driving a fast race lap. They'd be as confused as the Wright Brothers getting in to a space shuttle and told to fly it. I know there's been much talk of the safety, and yes, modern cars are safer, but think about those settings... A wrong setting at the wrong part of the track (brake balance, power, DRS, KERS, etc), and an F1 driver could easily end up dead (or very slow). It's not as visceral as it was, but the danger is still clear and present.

If we're going to take in to consideration the historical drivers ability to manage their deathtrap cars, then we have to give credit to the modern drivers for their mental discipline and focus in the face of these technological space ships.

Lastly, lets discuss experience:

Fangio - 51 starts over a 7 year career - 35 podiums, 24 wins, 5 championships - win pct: 47% (this one is anomalous considering the low number of races driven, with seasons only 7 or 8 races long)
Schumacher - 306 starts over a 21 year career - 155 podiums, 91 wins, 7 championships - win pct: 29.7%
Senna - 161 starts over a 10 year career - 80 podiums, 41 wins, 3 championships - win pct: 25.5%
Hamilton - 248 starts over a 12 year career - 150 podiums, 83 wins, 6 championships - win pct: 33.5%

Lewis has way more track experience than Senna and Fangio, and while Schumacher has 58 starts more, Lewis has almost as many wins in the same period, with nearly half the career length (I know, Schumacher had a 6 year gap, but he didn't go to sleep during that time).

Anyway, I still think Lewis would trounce them ?

Thanks!

Z.
Z,

Isn't your argument akin to saying that Leibniz was not as good a mathematician as the average MIT undergrad is because Leibniz didn't know how to use a laptop to solve problems that today's undergrad could knock off in a few seconds?

Your numerical comparison of different drivers' results is independent of how competitive their cars were. Hamilton has racked up his humongous wins total mostly through driving what was usually the best car on the grid.
To illustrate:
  • In Nico Rosberg's first 8 seasons in F1, before he started to drive the dominant Mercedes hybrid, he won 3 races and his average final position in the WDC was 9th. Win pct: 2%.
  • In Rosberg's 3 seasons driving the Mercedes hybrid that Hamilton too was driving, he won 20 races and in the WDC he was first once and second the other 2 times. Win pct: 34%.
Unless we're going to say that Nico Rosberg underwent a miracle transformation as a driver at the start of 2014, it is obvious that his considerable success was hugely dependent on the car he was driving, not who was driving it.

Jim Clark won 25 races out of 72 starts. However, he retired with mechanical problems in 23 of those starts. In other words, he won more than 50% of the races in which he finished.

Not to diminish Fangio's greatness, but the reason that he won his 5 WDCs driving for 5 different teams (his last title was with a team he had left 4 years previously) was that he kept switching to the team that had what he thought would be the best car for the forthcoming season.

Let us not forget that today's pampered pooches of the Formula One grid do no other racing during the season. During the same seasons in which he was driving so brilliantly in F1, Jim Clark was winning the Indianapolis 500, driving touring cars in the UK, driving Grand Nationals in NASCAR and doing the Tasman Series and Formula Two. (As you probably know, he was killed in a Formula Two race.)

How do you think Lewis would fare if he had to jump into a 1960s F1 car, surrounded by flimsy aluminium fuel tanks, and use a manual gearbox - in which a single mis-shift would cause an over-rev that would destroy the engine? In this era of halos, HANS devices, constant pit-to-car communication and virtual safety cars, how would he cope with 2 1/2 hours of the Nordschleife in the cold rain?

A few years ago at the Goodwood Revival, a then-current Formula One driver entered in a race for early '60s sports cars could barely make it around the circuit during practice laps - he had never before needed to heel-and-toe and didn't know how!
 

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Z,

Isn't your argument akin to saying that Leibniz was not as good a mathematician as the average MIT undergrad is because Leibniz didn't know how to use a laptop to solve problems that today's undergrad could knock off in a few seconds?

Your numerical comparison of different drivers' results is independent of how competitive their cars were. Hamilton has racked up his humongous wins total mostly through driving what was usually the best car on the grid.
To illustrate:
  • In Nico Rosberg's first 8 seasons in F1, before he started to drive the dominant Mercedes hybrid, he won 3 races and his average final position in the WDC was 9th. Win pct: 2%.
  • In Rosberg's 3 seasons driving the Mercedes hybrid that Hamilton too was driving, he won 20 races and in the WDC he was first once and second the other 2 times. Win pct: 34%.
Unless we're going to say that Nico Rosberg underwent a miracle transformation as a driver at the start of 2014, it is obvious that his considerable success was hugely dependent on the car he was driving, not who was driving it.

Jim Clark won 25 races out of 72 starts. However, he retired with mechanical problems in 23 of those starts. In other words, he won more than 50% of the races in which he finished.

Not to diminish Fangio's greatness, but the reason that he won his 5 WDCs driving for 5 different teams (his last title was with a team he had left 4 years previously) was that he kept switching to the team that had what he thought would be the best car for the forthcoming season.

Let us not forget that today's pampered pooches of the Formula One grid do no other racing during the season. During the same seasons in which he was driving so brilliantly in F1, Jim Clark was winning the Indianapolis 500, driving touring cars in the UK, driving Grand Nationals in NASCAR and doing the Tasman Series and Formula Two. (As you probably know, he was killed in a Formula Two race.)

How do you think Lewis would fare if he had to jump into a 1960s F1 car, surrounded by flimsy aluminium fuel tanks, and use a manual gearbox - in which a single mis-shift would cause an over-rev that would destroy the engine? In this era of halos, HANS devices, constant pit-to-car communication and virtual safety cars, how would he cope with 2 1/2 hours of the Nordschleife in the cold rain?

A few years ago at the Goodwood Revival, a then-current Formula One driver entered in a race for early '60s sports cars could barely make it around the circuit during practice laps - he had never before needed to heel-and-toe and didn't know how!
And my rebuttal ?

I don’t really make the mathematician link as in the case of Leibniz, I’m assuming you are saying that the laptop today is solving the problem for them, but the laptop would need to be programmed with the theorems already - thus it just becomes a macro, and in the case of math, 1 always equals 1 - i.e. it’s absolute logic (leaving quantum mechanics to one side for now).

In the case of an F1 driver, the electronic controls give the driver such granular control over the car that the previous greats simply had no access to. Essentially they helped tune the car, jumped in, and all they had to do was worry about steering, power, brake and shifting. That’s it. They couldn’t make real time changes and thus never learnt to think that fast.

Lewis on the other hand has to literally think in real time. His crew might give him suggestions, but the majority of tweaks he’s doing for 2 hours is purely based on instinct and feel. Something drivers in the past have never learned.

As for him being in the best car, sure, there is an element of that. However, Ferrari and Red Bull are perfectly capable of mounting a challenge against him, and LeClerc won several races, and Vettel has won several championships with Hamilton around. This past weekend Hamilton came 3rd!

The difference is consistency, doing what matters when it matters, being relentless, and being able to think multithreaded - the last bit something that he would do better than the earlier greats.

Hamilton has a teammate in an identical car every week - why aren’t they neck and neck if it was just a function of the car? Bottas is no slouch (and won the last race), and Nico snatched the title from Hamilton before he retired too (else Lewis would be on number 7). Humans make errors, and on some days they just don’t get in a groove - if it were the car, he’d walk all over every race.

The crux of the opposing argument here really seems to be laser focused on the “bravery” of the driver, not really the total package. Unfortunately the base argument can never be tested (Lewis racing in a 50’s or 60’s car, Fangio/Senna racing in the latest Petronas). I’m of the opinion that Lewis is so competitive that he would do whatever it takes for though, making him in my mind the current GOAT of F1 ?

Oh, and your point about Fangio looking for the best car hence his skewed ratio - I totally agree. I think he jumped like 4 times over just 50-ish races! Insane. For that reason alone that disqualifies him. Back then the performance between cars was much greater than it is today (Alfa’s had the supercharged engine which trounced all others for a while!)

Thanks!

Z.
 

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And my rebuttal ?

I don’t really make the mathematician link as in the case of Leibniz, I’m assuming you are saying that the laptop today is solving the problem for them, but the laptop would need to be programmed with the theorems already - thus it just becomes a macro, and in the case of math, 1 always equals 1 - i.e. it’s absolute logic (leaving quantum mechanics to one side for now).

In the case of an F1 driver, the electronic controls give the driver such granular control over the car that the previous greats simply had no access to. Essentially they helped tune the car, jumped in, and all they had to do was worry about steering, power, brake and shifting. That’s it. They couldn’t make real time changes and thus never learnt to think that fast.

Lewis on the other hand has to literally think in real time. His crew might give him suggestions, but the majority of tweaks he’s doing for 2 hours is purely based on instinct and feel. Something drivers in the past have never learned.

As for him being in the best car, sure, there is an element of that. However, Ferrari and Red Bull are perfectly capable of mounting a challenge against him, and LeClerc won several races, and Vettel has won several championships with Hamilton around. This past weekend Hamilton came 3rd!

The difference is consistency, doing what matters when it matters, being relentless, and being able to think multithreaded - the last bit something that he would do better than the earlier greats.

Hamilton has a teammate in an identical car every week - why aren’t they neck and neck if it was just a function of the car? Bottas is no slouch (and won the last race), and Nico snatched the title from Hamilton before he retired too (else Lewis would be on number 7). Humans make errors, and on some days they just don’t get in a groove - if it were the car, he’d walk all over every race.

The crux of the opposing argument here really seems to be laser focused on the “bravery” of the driver, not really the total package. Unfortunately the base argument can never be tested (Lewis racing in a 50’s or 60’s car, Fangio/Senna racing in the latest Petronas). I’m of the opinion that Lewis is so competitive that he would do whatever it takes for though, making him in my mind the current GOAT of F1 ?

Oh, and your point about Fangio looking for the best car hence his skewed ratio - I totally agree. I think he jumped like 4 times over just 50-ish races! Insane. For that reason alone that disqualifies him. Back then the performance between cars was much greater than it is today (Alfa’s had the supercharged engine which trounced all others for a while!)

Thanks!

Z.
The point I was trying to make with the Leibniz analogy was that, as I understand you, in part you are saying that in a modern car Hamilton has to do all these additional tasks that Jim Clark (for example) didn't have to do, Hamilton's job is thus more complex than Clark's was, and that is why, other things being equal, Hamilton is the greater driver.
This is an unfair form of assessment. For one thing, it ignores all the things that Clark had to do that Hamilton does not have to do (such as rev-matching hundreds of times a race, the need to operate a dog-box flawlessly, getting no help from the pit-wall during the race, coping with the incomparably greater mental strain entailed in the dangers of racing fifty years ago, or even such a prosaic thing as the lack of in-car drinking).
More fundamentally, it presumes that one would take Fangio or Clark - as they were many decades ago, with their lack of modern physical conditioning, simulator preparation and digital familiarity - and parachute them into a modern car. Obviously they would not be competitive on that basis, but that does not mean that, on a level playing field, they could not compete.

Was Usain Bolt a greater sprinter than Carl Lewis and Lewis greater than Jesse Owens? Sure, Bolt was faster than Lewis who was faster than Owens, but what was humanly possible in 2009 was not possible in 1988 and not even imaginable in 1936.

To compare the greats across different eras, we need to assess how they did relative to what was possible at the time, not to put the older athlete in a time machine and expect him to be modern.
 

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Drivers today are chosen/selected and groomed/trained from a much larger pool than early years — no surprise that today’s drivers are better.
You assert "today's drivers are better" as if that were an established fact. It is not.
Certainly it is true in those sports (and other activities) in which the barriers to entry are no higher than they used to be that we have had larger pools of participants and thus a larger pool of talent: basketball, baseball and tennis are examples.
Does it apply to motor racing? I would be interested to see reliable and comprehensive numbers. Unlike in basketball, baseball and the others, however, the cost of participating in motor sport at even a moderate level is far higher than it used to be.
In the US in the '50s and '60s, there were at least a couple of hundred oval track races a week. Cars were largely home-built at a total cost in the hundreds. Many men of whom almost no one has ever heard were able to support themselves on their race winnings. Over time, the best of them rose to compete at Indy, Daytona, Le Mans and occasionally F1: Foyt, Pearson, the Unsers, Andretti.
It is my impression that the cost of racing at a moderate level is relatively higher than it was a few decades ago, and acts as a discouragement to potential new participants. Unlike in other sports, have we seen a significant intake of new racing drivers from less wealthy countries? Not in Formula One.

With regard to the notion of a greater talent pool, I am reminded of an anecdote told by JP Montoya when he was winning races in F1 for Williams, in about 2005 - at the height of his powers.
Montoya is 36 years younger than Jackie Stewart and was born in Colombia: clearly he should have been part of a larger talent pool than Stewart was.
Montoya said that he and Stewart were at some sponsor event at Silverstone. Part of the event was that the two of them were put in a road car with the other as passenger and asked to set their fastest lap-time in competition with each other.
Stewart drove first. According to Montoya, Stewart drove his three practice laps and then the timed lap exceptionally smoothly, took his time with his gear shifts and was quite relaxed with his steering inputs. The whole experience reminded Montoya of a Sunday drive. Montoya said that, whilst he rode along, he kept thinking, "What a shame how Jackie's racing skills have diminished through the years. I know he was a great champion, but that's just ancient history now." He said he felt sorry for Stewart.
Now it was Montoya's turn. He said that he set out to prove a point, to demonstrate to Stewart how it was done in the modern age by today's best. Montoya said that his every gear shift was as fast as he could move the lever, he braked as hard and deeply as he possibly could, he spared nothing when he got back on the throttle.
Satisfied that he had made his point, Montoya came back to the pits where he and Stewart would be told their lap-times.
Montoya's fastest lap was 0.4 seconds slower than Stewart's. :cool:
 

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The point is not complex. When a youngster sits in a car from birth they absorb driving skill information. And the sooner they get to drive (karts included) the better their driving skills develop. Early exposure to vehicles by a larger population has expanded the pool of drivers from which the best rise.
 

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The point is not complex. When a youngster sits in a car from birth they absorb driving skill information. And the sooner they get to drive (karts included) the better their driving skills develop. Early exposure to vehicles by a larger population has expanded the pool of drivers from which the best rise.
Then why is the standard of road driving in the US so appallingly bad?

According to your thesis, with all present drivers having sat in cars from birth and absorbed driving skill information, the standard of road driving in the US should have risen markedly in the last few decades. Instead, it has sunk to a level that is a national embarrassment.
 

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Correct. But we are talking about the pool of F1 drivers. Granted sitting in a USA freeway driven car may not give our kids the best exposure....
:oops:
 

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The point I was trying to make with the Leibniz analogy was that, as I understand you, in part you are saying that in a modern car Hamilton has to do all these additional tasks that Jim Clark (for example) didn't have to do, Hamilton's job is thus more complex than Clark's was, and that is why, other things being equal, Hamilton is the greater driver.
This is an unfair form of assessment. For one thing, it ignores all the things that Clark had to do that Hamilton does not have to do (such as rev-matching hundreds of times a race, the need to operate a dog-box flawlessly, getting no help from the pit-wall during the race, coping with the incomparably greater mental strain entailed in the dangers of racing fifty years ago, or even such a prosaic thing as the lack of in-car drinking).
More fundamentally, it presumes that one would take Fangio or Clark - as they were many decades ago, with their lack of modern physical conditioning, simulator preparation and digital familiarity - and parachute them into a modern car. Obviously they would not be competitive on that basis, but that does not mean that, on a level playing field, they could not compete.

Was Usain Bolt a greater sprinter than Carl Lewis and Lewis greater than Jesse Owens? Sure, Bolt was faster than Lewis who was faster than Owens, but what was humanly possible in 2009 was not possible in 1988 and not even imaginable in 1936.

To compare the greats across different eras, we need to assess how they did relative to what was possible at the time, not to put the older athlete in a time machine and expect him to be modern.
I remember my grandaddy sitting me on his knee in Alabama one day when he said "son, never whoop the boss when ya playin' wit him. Alwayz gonna lose in da end"
 

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Obviously someone on here is a huge Hamilton fanboy...which is fine...we all have preferences...However I think your idolization has clouded your vision. This is absolutely no disrespect to Lewis as he clearly deserves to be in the conversation.

You do realize unequivocally that modern cars are easier to drive. Period. More complicated sure...but easier. Remember the 1992 Williams? Why was it so dominant? Active suspension. It wasn’t Mansells genius...it was the engineers genius. Think about all of the aids that modern drivers have...I can’t even begin to list them all. They ALL make the car EASIER to drive, not harder. Period. There is no argument to this. The older cars were far more raw...where driver impact mattered more. Like motocross which is 90% rider and 10% machine. F1 is nearly the opposite.

How can you watch some of Senna’s Monaco laps and not be in awe of the skill, control and balls. No active aero, traction control or paddles. All benefits modern drivers have and they still complain it’s too dangerous!

Imagine running the ‘ring’ back in the early 1970’s = balls! Big ones. Imagine ANY race in the 1950’s where you truly and genuinely didn’t know if you were gonna finish alive. Do not under estimate that.

Last analogy as this is getting too long...People used to say modern tennis players were so much superior because watching matches with wooden rackets compared to modern equipment looked so slow. Then Jimmy Connors (who mostly played in the wooden racket era) made the US Open semi’s in 1991 against what was supposed to be a newer, more modern and powerful generation. Talent is talent. Period. The best are the best for a reason and they all deserve credit regardless of era. Cheers!!!
 

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It is not fan boy. I like Verstappen, Vettel and Leclerc rising from F2 as well as Hamilton today. Also liked Schumacher, Senna, Stewart, Hakkinen, Moss, Hunt and others. I have no problem with those who think the older generation of drivers were as good or better than the current drivers. Today’s drivers are traveling at much higher speeds and with much higher g forces.
‘Easier’ to drive or easier to make a race losing mistake?
 

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Obviously someone on here is a huge Hamilton fanboy...which is fine...we all have preferences...However I think your idolization has clouded your vision. This is absolutely no disrespect to Lewis as he clearly deserves to be in the conversation.

You do realize unequivocally that modern cars are easier to drive. Period. More complicated sure...but easier. Remember the 1992 Williams? Why was it so dominant? Active suspension. It wasn’t Mansells genius...it was the engineers genius. Think about all of the aids that modern drivers have...I can’t even begin to list them all. They ALL make the car EASIER to drive, not harder. Period. There is no argument to this. The older cars were far more raw...where driver impact mattered more. Like motocross which is 90% rider and 10% machine. F1 is nearly the opposite.

How can you watch some of Senna’s Monaco laps and not be in awe of the skill, control and balls. No active aero, traction control or paddles. All benefits modern drivers have and they still complain it’s too dangerous!

Imagine running the ‘ring’ back in the early 1970’s = balls! Big ones. Imagine ANY race in the 1950’s where you truly and genuinely didn’t know if you were gonna finish alive. Do not under estimate that.

Last analogy as this is getting too long...People used to say modern tennis players were so much superior because watching matches with wooden rackets compared to modern equipment looked so slow. Then Jimmy Connors (who mostly played in the wooden racket era) made the US Open semi’s in 1991 against what was supposed to be a newer, more modern and powerful generation. Talent is talent. Period. The best are the best for a reason and they all deserve credit regardless of era. Cheers!!!
Watch a journalist sit in an old classic race car of say the 50s or 60s and listen to inane comments of how exciting the car is to drive with his silly little head getting blown around in the wind and his face getting pulled back. The fact is he would be driving the car to some degree reasonably close a zone around the limits of the car

Watch the same driver in a modern F1 one car and all you can hear is a terror and anxiety of someone not able to reach not even remotely close to the threshold of the car in braking, cornering, or acceleration. It's always comical.

I think the skillset needed to become a champion in either era are equally admirable. Do not underestimate what is required from a current F1 car, the lap times between the eras are astonishingly wide.
 

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Obviously someone on here is a huge Hamilton fanboy...which is fine...we all have preferences...However I think your idolization has clouded your vision. This is absolutely no disrespect to Lewis as he clearly deserves to be in the conversation.
The issue I think with discussing a current driver as the greatest driver is the inevitable ad hominem argument. Accusing those that think Hamilton is a much more capable and greater driver than the drivers from the earlier eras of being fanboys, in an attempt to dismiss the argument, is a bit of a cop out. Also I think including Hamilton right now is divisive because, of course, people support other current drivers on the grid, so can’t even entertain him as the greatest yet - just look at the comments section after any race.

I like Hamilton for being who I think is the best driver on the grid bar none, of course. However, I rather like Norris and Verstappen too as two up and coming drivers competing with the front runners, with both having lesser cars, especially Norris in that respect (though here’s hoping McLaren are competing for wins again soon!!)

Anyway, fundamentally it still seems we’re arguing from two points of view - driving skill vs bravery to push a limited car to its limits. I think Lewis (or even Vettel, Verstappen, etc) would if they were in a competitive situation push those earlier cars just as hard as the earlier drivers, while also being able to handle the significantly faster cars of today. Just things like lateral G forces that requires extreme training of the neck muscles is something that early drivers didn’t contend with.

Then again, maybe we should just give the greatest title to Rindt. He was so great he won the World Drivers Championship like a boss by winning just 5 of the 13 championship races, no other points at all, and to top it off he (tragically) died in race 10 qualifying, but still won the WDC as no one caught him in the remaining 4 races (including race 10 itself which he didn’t compete in of course).

Then again (again), it does seem like I’m not the only one saying he’s the greatest....


Thanks!

Z.
 

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Then again (again), it does seem like I’m not the only one saying he’s the greatest....


Thanks!

Z.
Z,

I'm not sure that that is the most reliable source for opinions on who is/was the greatest driver ever.
First, the authors limit themselves to Formula One drivers, an arbitrary and possibly fallacious narrowing of the field.
Of the article's three authors, the only one with any credibility, David Tremayne, does not say that Hamilton is the best-ever. He says only that Hamilton has never been more consistent than he has been in 2019, and that Hamilton may top Schumacher's records of most wins and most WDCs. As we have I think established in this thread, and has been established countless times in related debates, career numbers can mean little when they are achieved with the benefit of superior equipment.
Of the other two authors, Buxton works for Liberty Media and has a patent interest in glorifying current Formula One drivers at the expense of all previous Formula One drivers and all other forms of racing.
Stuart is just a kid whose primary career experience has been working in the PR department of Red Bull. He appears to know little of racing history and, in any case, he is now an employee of F1 and, like Buxton, has a vested interest in claiming without substantiation that Hamilton is the best-ever.
I'd like to know the opinions of people who have been around long enough and understand the sport well enough to have true insight, such as Andretti, Moss, Stewart, Stuck Jr, Ickx, Oliver, Fittipaldi, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, maybe Piquet and Prost. If it works out I should be seeing Tony Brooks in the near future: his thoughts would be worth a lot more than those of a couple of dudes writing for a biased website.

:)
 

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I think where this discussion gets off course is when people try to cherry pick an era as if that person from the 1950’s would be plucked from their bed and immediately put into a modern car etc and vice versa. Clearly that wouldn’t be the case...if they raced today, they would have the exact same benefits as any other modern driver...including the luxurious travel.

Thus...what we are really comparing is ‘the man.’ There simply is no other way to compare it. God himself in a 1950’s F1 car couldn’t beat me in a modern F1 car. Hence we are left to compare the men. Which is extremely hard to do. Many in this discussion are acting like Hamilton is some genetic freak. Nope...he’s just a man. Just like Fangio or Senna or Schumacher et al. Giving everyone the same advantages in training/technology severely levels the field.

I know I’ve beat this long enough..,but it takes a special person to hop in a car every weekend knowing that death is a genuine, real possibility. What test pilot today would even consider doing Chuck Yeagers job? The military wouldn’t allow it even if the pilot insisted. That’s how different the era’s are. Is Stefan Belloff a worse driver than the recent guy who broke the ring record?? Which lap was more dangerous? See where I’m going with this...We can argue and go round and round...and get nowhere. Respect each era’s greats for what they did vs. their competition.

They all deserve respect.
 

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Z,

Isn't your argument akin to saying that Leibniz was not as good a mathematician as the average MIT undergrad is because Leibniz didn't know how to use a laptop to solve problems that today's undergrad could knock off in a few seconds?

Your numerical comparison of different drivers' results is independent of how competitive their cars were. Hamilton has racked up his humongous wins total mostly through driving what was usually the best car on the grid.
To illustrate:
  • In Nico Rosberg's first 8 seasons in F1, before he started to drive the dominant Mercedes hybrid, he won 3 races and his average final position in the WDC was 9th. Win pct: 2%.
  • In Rosberg's 3 seasons driving the Mercedes hybrid that Hamilton too was driving, he won 20 races and in the WDC he was first once and second the other 2 times. Win pct: 34%.
Unless we're going to say that Nico Rosberg underwent a miracle transformation as a driver at the start of 2014, it is obvious that his considerable success was hugely dependent on the car he was driving, not who was driving it.

Jim Clark won 25 races out of 72 starts. However, he retired with mechanical problems in 23 of those starts. In other words, he won more than 50% of the races in which he finished.

Not to diminish Fangio's greatness, but the reason that he won his 5 WDCs driving for 5 different teams (his last title was with a team he had left 4 years previously) was that he kept switching to the team that had what he thought would be the best car for the forthcoming season.

Let us not forget that today's pampered pooches of the Formula One grid do no other racing during the season. During the same seasons in which he was driving so brilliantly in F1, Jim Clark was winning the Indianapolis 500, driving touring cars in the UK, driving Grand Nationals in NASCAR and doing the Tasman Series and Formula Two. (As you probably know, he was killed in a Formula Two race.)

How do you think Lewis would fare if he had to jump into a 1960s F1 car, surrounded by flimsy aluminium fuel tanks, and use a manual gearbox - in which a single mis-shift would cause an over-rev that would destroy the engine? In this era of halos, HANS devices, constant pit-to-car communication and virtual safety cars, how would he cope with 2 1/2 hours of the Nordschleife in the cold rain?

A few years ago at the Goodwood Revival, a then-current Formula One driver entered in a race for early '60s sports cars could barely make it around the circuit during practice laps - he had never before needed to heel-and-toe and didn't know how!
Honestly, I think Hamilton would be a fucking animal in a 60s F1 car. The level of concentration and consistency to be fast lap by lap with degrading tires, fuel loads, brake wear, etc is insane, the car control to catch "slides" even before they have initiated. There's a reason why he is a beast in the wet. Not to mention his racecraft would be something 60s drivers couldn't comprehend. A 60s car would be like driving in slow motion in comparison to today's cars. Hamilton was very very handy in a NASCAR when he tried it for the first time at Watkins Glen.
 

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I think where this discussion gets off course is when people try to cherry pick an era as if that person from the 1950’s would be plucked from their bed and immediately put into a modern car etc and vice versa. Clearly that wouldn’t be the case...if they raced today, they would have the exact same benefits as any other modern driver...including the luxurious travel.

Thus...what we are really comparing is ‘the man.’ There simply is no other way to compare it. God himself in a 1950’s F1 car couldn’t beat me in a modern F1 car. Hence we are left to compare the men. Which is extremely hard to do. Many in this discussion are acting like Hamilton is some genetic freak. Nope...he’s just a man. Just like Fangio or Senna or Schumacher et al. Giving everyone the same advantages in training/technology severely levels the field.

I know I’ve beat this long enough..,but it takes a special person to hop in a car every weekend knowing that death is a genuine, real possibility. What test pilot today would even consider doing Chuck Yeagers job? The military wouldn’t allow it even if the pilot insisted. That’s how different the era’s are. Is Stefan Belloff a worse driver than the recent guy who broke the ring record?? Which lap was more dangerous? See where I’m going with this...We can argue and go round and round...and get nowhere. Respect each era’s greats for what they did vs. their competition.

They all deserve respect.
The recent lap of the Ring was more dangerous. Not even a question. It's like watching a sped up video game
 
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