Mercedes technical director James Allison says Lewis Hamilton’s aversion to “ugly” tactics means he has an “utterly unblemished record” that’s unprecedented amongst Formula 1’s most successful drivers.
Six-time world champion Hamilton, who has won five titles at Mercedes and three since Allison joined in 2017, is behind only Michael Schumacher in statistical terms.
Schumacher has seven titles and 91 race victories, although both records appear in Hamilton’s grasp if the suspended 2020 season begins in time for a championship of significant length, or if he extends his stay at Mercedes beyond his current contract, which expires this year.
Many multiple world champions have had their on-track conduct questioned, and although Hamilton has been implicated in sagas like the lying scandal at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix with McLaren, his own actions and his behaviour in battle have rarely been criticised in that way.
In a wide-ranging video interview shared by Mercedes, Allison was asked about the importance of integrity to him, and said that is a “characteristic that marks out Lewis”.
“He’s one of the oldest drivers on the grid now, still drives like one of the youngest, but in a career of multiple championships and countless wins, you’ll struggle to find a moment on the track where you see Lewis do something ugly,” said Allison.
“You’ll see him do many, many breathtaking things. You’ll see him do brave things.
“But you won’t see just crude dodgem car, bumper car stuff or any sort of artifice to the way he drives.
“I hope that he manages to keep this going for the remainder of his driving career, because it’s an utterly unblemished record.
“And I think amongst multiple world champions, it is also unprecedented to have to have all that success without anything that has even the sort of hint of a shadow of poor sportsmanship hanging over it.
“I think it’s impressive.”
Hamilton, who turned 35 in January, has expressed a desire to stay in F1 beyond 2020 and extend his relationship with Mercedes, having joined the works team from McLaren in 2013.
Last year his former team-mate and 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg said Hamilton had been overtaken by youngster Max Verstappen as the fastest driver in F1 because at Hamilton’s age outright speed decreases.
Rosberg also said that “experience will outdo the small decrease in your natural ability as a human as you get a bit older”, but Hamilton dismissed the suggestion he was in any way slower.
Allison said that a driver’s ability does decline with age but believes one of Hamilton’s assets is that he has shown no sign of losing his raw speed, in addition to maintaining incredible dedication.
“The level of drive that Lewis has and indeed, all these multiple champions have, is quite staggering,” said Allison.
“You can think you’re a competitive person, you can think you’re a driven person, and then you bump into someone who really is and you realise that actually, you’re a sort of middle of the road, lackadaisical drifter by comparison!
“I don’t know that it’s easy to compare the (five-time world champion Juan Manuel) Fangio generation of driver to the current.
“There’s probably a lot more people doing it now than there were back then, it’s a more competitive market, and the ability to judge the performance levels of the drivers is so much higher than it was back in the day.
“And I do think that there comes a time where the driver’s racecraft is still incredibly strong, but that last little extra special something that gives them the qualifying genius starts to slip through their fingers.
“One of the interesting things about Lewis is that that’s still very much with him.
“I think he is blessed with extraordinary physical talents to go along with this mental dedication that is quite freakish.”