Having equalled Michael Schumacher’s number of championships and beaten his number of wins, it is beyond dispute that Lewis Hamilton is the most successful racing driver the world has seen. Whether he is the greatest is a specious argument because it is impossible to compare the generations.
How can you say Hamilton is better or worse than Juan Fangio, who won just five titles and 24 races but nearly half of all those he started compared with around a third for Lewis, and raced cars with no power or grip but on lethal tracks with zero consideration of safety? You can’t.
Whether Lewis now deserves a knighthood is another matter. Is he not a better racing driver than is Sir Andy Murray a tennis player? Does he not rank alongside Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave among our greatest living sports people? To me, there is no question. Then again, no British driver has been knighted until long after their career was over. Jackie Stewart was 61, Stirling Moss no less than 70.
On wins alone, I’d hold back the honour until after his career was over and the final tally known. But surely there is more to it than that. As much as I admire him as a driver, I admire more how Lewis has left behind an at times brattish past and now uses his place on the world stage to call out racism, inspire the young and campaign for equality of opportunity.
Jackie wasn’t knighted just because he won three titles. He was knighted for doing more than any other to bring safety to his sport. He used his celebrity for the greater good, just as Lewis does today. He should never have had to wait until his 60s for those efforts to be recognised. And nor should Lewis. Or Sir Lewis, as I hope he will shortly be known.