Stewart credits Hamilton for breaking his 44 years record after fourth F1 title
With Lewis Hamilton clinching his fourth title in the last weekend's Mexico Grand Prix, he became the most successful British driver in the all-time list, in terms of Formula 1 championship victories.
The 32-year-old overcame Sir Jackie Stewart's 44 years old record of three titles, which the 78-year-old held since winning his third one in 1973. “I think Lewis is a worthy winner this year, particularly the second part of the season," said Stewart to the official F1 website.
"A lot of questions have been asked of me because Lewis has now surpassed my record, in the British sense, of holding three world championships. I held it for 44 years, which is a ridiculous amount of time.
"From my point of view I have no regrets whatsoever – records are made to be broken. It’s almost disappointing that no other British driver has come along during that period of 44 years to beat my record. Therefore I congratulate Lewis completely for joining the likes of Alain Prost, Schumacher, Fangio and Sebastian Vettel [as four-time title winners]."
In fact, Stewart went ahead to state that Hamilton could even break the all-time record of seven titles held by Michael Schumacher, which will also mean beating Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five titles.
"There’s no reason to assume Lewis won’t go even further and challenge Schumacher’s and Fangio’s records, and I wish him the very best of luck on that. He’s earned everything and deserves every recognition for winning four world championships," he said.
Having started his career in 2007, Hamilton took his first title in 2008 itself, but then he had to wait until the 2014 and 2015 seasons respectively for his second and third titles, which is when he was able to match Stewart's record.
However, with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg beating him in 2016, the British driver could only get his chance to become Britain's best, in terms of title wins, in the current season, where he managed to claw back into the championship to beat Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
One of the key factors, Stewart believes that has led Hamilton to win four championships, is his decision-making - something which has held back two-time winner Fernando Alonso. His decision to switch to Mercedes in 2013 resulted in a masterstroke, which led him to win in 2014, 2015 and now 2017.
"Lewis has of course been much assisted by driving for two of the best teams in the world, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz. You need to be with those top teams to achieve [titles], you can’t do it just as a driver," he said.
"He’s made the right decisions of being with the right people. Fangio won five world championships with Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes and so on. He drove a variety of different cars and teams because when he saw who was going to be the best team, he went there.
"That’s part of the reason for success - that you make the right decisions. You’ve got to have the team behind you to achieve. You need reliable engineering of the highest level," adding that Hamilton certainly has more in him left.
While Hamilton is yet to confirm his future, but it is most likely he will extend his Mercedes contract until the 2020 season, with the motivation to not let Vettel or anyone else to catch up on the records he has set or is hoping to set.
"It’s kind of cool to be in this battle with Vettel. He got 50 poles in Mexico and I’m kind of like, I don’t want to give him any more poles because he gets closer to me. That’s inspiration to keep pushing it, you know?
"Then the same with wins, same with championships and so then I see him sign for another three years with Ferrari and I’m like, Ferrari are not going to like me for the next couple of years. But it’s OK, because we’re going to make it as hard as it can possibly be for them to win championships but I really am looking forward to that battle with them.
"They’ve been such a great team this year, it’s been great to see Ferrari back on form and as I said, I really hope others join that battle. Red Bull have been great in Mexico, big congratulations to Max, he’s really the brightest young star that we’ve seen for some time. But there will be many more [battles] to come and I hope that in his early era that I can be a good force and a good battle for him," Hamilton explained.
On a separate note, with the talk of Hamilton probably getting Britain's honour of 'knighthood' by Her Majesty in her New Year's Honours, Stewart dismissed the likelihood of it, as he argued that Hamilton should be happy with the title wins, public recognition and money he is earning - for now.
Stewart believes it will be too early for Hamilton to get that kind of honour, since Sir Stirling Moss only got his due 40 years after his retirement, with Stewart himself receiving it 30 years after his - while the likes of Graham Hill and Jim Clark (with two titles) haven't been knighted, also adding Ron Dennis, because of whom Hamilton got his chance in F1.
"Her Majesty, the Queen is the greatest woman I have ever met in the world. I never felt overlooked before I received my knighthood. Actually, I didn't feel I deserved it. I hope Lewis feels the same.
"There was a period when knighthoods were given out too spontaneously. For now, Lewis should take the trophies, the money and the public recognition that comes with success, and be proud of that. He has not achieved that on his own.
"For example, Ron Dennis has not been knighted and without him there may not have been a Lewis. Stirling Moss had to wait 40 years after retiring to receive his. I don't think he had any regrets during all that time about not having one.
"It is wonderful he has it now and he justly deserves it. Graham Hill did not have a knighthood. Jim Clark did not get one. So I don't think anyone should expect it just because he is a good sportsman and has won a few sports events. I like to think it goes much deeper than that," he said.