Let's open up the debate: is Lewis Hamilton the GOAT?
Let's get this straight from the outset. There is no evidence to suggest that Senna would have been the fastest driver, had he been racing in today's F1, and there's no way to correctly assess whether Hamilton could have been just as successful in yesterday's F1.
Formula 1, just like any other sport, has changed consistently generation after generation. Cars, technology, regulations, engineering, strategy. Everything changes year after year, let alone decade after decade.
On one side of the argument some might say that yesterday's cars were harder to drive, more mechanical and visceral, and that's probably true. On the other hand, today's drivers have to worry about engineering and technological feedback, not mechanical, and that's something that yesterday's drivers didn't even need to consider. One example? There's a gazillion buttons on the steering wheel alone, Senna and Mansell didn't have to worry about that sort of thing while Vettel and Hamilton do, and being able to use those makes a difference.
Being a successful driver isn't just about being the fastest in a single lap. You need skills, yes, but you also need a cool head, the ability to understand and interpret the rules as they change, the response from the car. There's more: working with your team, working and occasionally clashing with your teammate. The list goes on and it is a whole world of details and that's why whenever somebody says that or this driver is faster than this or that driver, period, it is, in my opinion, always a fraction of the truth.
Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver of his generation, facts and figures tell us this, because he manages to be faster, colder, more apt when it comes to working with his team, more of the time. And, of course, he's got one of the fastest cars right now.
But is he the GOAT*? The greatest of all time?
Lifestyle & personality
Hamilton hops from continent to continent, jetting himself to Barbados and China on the same weekend. He attends fashion shows and gala dinners with Hollywood celebrities and then he climbs into the hard seat of his Mercedes and goes on to win races. No other driver can do this.
On September 4, last year, Lewis flew to China to introduce his own clothing brand with Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy X Lewis, then he won the next race in Singapore.
F1 drivers used to be rockstars but now they've gone quite, they usually keep a low profile with the sort of company man attitude that million-dollar sponsors like. Hamilton is the last a dwindling breed: a superstar driver. This has a positive effect on what happens on the racetrack because that, this is crucial, having a strong personality can make a difference.
Psychological like Lauda
Lauda was a scientist at the wheel. He liked to know everything and he provided great feedback to help his team improve the car. Very few drivers match him for that talent. Hamilton wasn't really born with this talent, he used to be more careless in the past, but he's learnt how to do that as well.
Fast like Mansell
Mansell was a very a fast driver. Let's forget about strategy and feedback and what-not for a moment. You'd give him a car, he'd turn it into a rocket. Hamilton is kinda like that. He is an incredibly fast driver, especially in the rain.
Adaptive like Alonso
Alonso has a very strong personality. If you're on his team, he knows he can be faster than you, but he never takes it for granted and simply reacts accordingly. Hamilton has almost always been the fastest driver in the team and even the one time he wasn't, when Rosberg won the championship in 2016, he managed to get something good out of it. He built a stronger mentality starting from that defeat.
Technical like Piquet
Piquet knew how to make the most of the car and how to best use what he could get from it. We've often seen Hamilton keeping a low profile in rounds 1 and 2 of quali and during practice laps because he sometimes understands that he can only get one or two good laps with the car and so he keeps those laps for when it matters the most.
Aggressive like Senna
ph: Lewis Hamilton social media feed
This is a no-brainer. Senna was an incredibly aggressive driver, a natural-born winner. He saw gaps everywhere and wasn't afraid to take risks. Hamilton has grown more cautious and he's learnt a while ago, the hard way, that it's sometimes better to take home whatever you can get, if you can't win.
Hamilton is, along with Verstappen, the sort of driver you don't want tailing behind you. Because he's fast and relentless and ultimately ends up causing to make a mistake.
Tactical like Hakkinen
Mika Hakkinen knew how to read and interpret the information that he was given by his mechanics. Hamilton reminds me of Mika when you consider his ability to capture the moment and relay the important details to his engineers and mechanics and also his ability to read the moments in the race.
Facts and figures speak for him (like Schumacher)
A friend of mine used to say, "There are facts and there are opinions. Opinions are liquid, facts are solid."
Whatever you may think of Schumacher, he is currently, statistically, the most successful driver in the history of the sport and Hamilton is the most successful of his era and second of all time, after Schumacher himself.
LH has 84 poles and 75 wins. He's won at least one race each season since he debuted, that's thirteen years straight, and, of course, he's a 5-time world champion. He's looking good this season as well and if he wins, beating Schumacher's records could be just a matter of time.
Who's your favourite driver? Let me know in the comments
*Some believe that the acronym GOAT, was first made popular by rapper LL Cool J in his eponymous 2000 album. In today's media, professional (both active and retired) athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Maradona etc etc are often referred to as "the GOAT" in their respective sports.