Former Mercedes technical executive director Paddy Lowe says that Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Turkey last week proved how important the driver remained in Formula 1 and that it’s not just about who has the best car.
Mercedes struggled at Istanbul Park, with Hamilton only qualifying in sixth place in wet conditions. But on Sunday, he was able to bounce back to win the race and with it a record-equalling seventh championship.
But several of his closest rivals this season – including team mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Alex Albon – continued to struggle on Sunday, which is what makes Hamilton’s achievement all the more remarkable according to Lowe.
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“It was pretty clear he made the difference in that car,” Lowe told Motorsport.com this week. “If it’s not 100 per cent him in that individual race then it’s certainly in the high 90s.
“Yes it’s a good car,” he continued. “But if you compare him to his teammates, and you compare him to the mistakes of many other great drivers in that race, then he produced a perfect performance.”
Six of Hamilton’s championships have come since he moved from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, and Lowe acknowledged that even the best driver needed top of the line equipment to succeed.
“If you take his entire career so far, and seven world championships, then you have to average out the massive contribution of the teams in making great cars,” he said.
“But then if you’ve got a leading driver like Lewis – who over 14 seasons, generally in one of the leading cars, has delivered seven championships – then it is down to his driving.
“They weren’t all easy and other factors come into play such as endurance, consistency,” he added. “To win seven requires a very special consistency and endurance.
Lowe believes that this is what sets Hamilton apart compared to the likes of Senna, Hakkinen, Villeneuve and Mansell.
“None of them have had that persistence to stay in there and keep working year in, year out to win multiple championships,” he said. “He’s made great, great sacrifices to do that.”
And Lowe dismissed criticism of Hamilton for only ever competing for two teams since making his F1 debut in 2007.
“People say he’s won all those races in a Mercedes and in a 14-year F1 career that he’s only driven for two teams.
“Well, analyse that. There’s a story in there about consistency, loyalty, and management of relationships,” he pointed out. “If you stay in the same team and build performance together, that’s how it comes.
“That requires you to maintain relationships as much as anything else. So that’s again part of the package of delivering so much long-standing success.”
For his part, Hamilton continues to insist that Formula 1 is a team sport and that he owes his success to the talented engineers at Brackley and Brixworth.
“Of course you’ve got to have the equipment,” Hamilton said. “Of course you’ve got to have it and that’s something that will always be in this sport.
“You have to have a good team and of course you have to have a great car,” he added. “There is no driver that’s ever won – really won – the championship in the past without it.
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