Moss: 'Hamilton is an impressive young man – a fighter. He'll go a long way' - Motor Racing - Sport - The Independent

Moss: 'Hamilton is an impressive young man – a fighter. He'll go a long way'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

With Lewis Hamilton on the brink of ruling the world, British greats Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill tell David Tremayne how he would wear the crown

Sir Stirling Moss does not agree with the increasing tendency in some quarters to describe Lewis Hamilton as arrogant. Much of that appears to have come from his fellow drivers, whose general envy of his increasingly dominant position and self-confidence manifested itself clearly after the Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps where few sympathised when the FIA stewards deprived him of his victory for cutting a chicane.

As Hamilton stands on the cusp of the world championship in Brazil this weekend, one of the most respected drivers of all time has no doubt that he has what it takes to get the job done. The man best known for never winning the championship yet arguably the best all-rounder ever, has long recognised traces of himself in Hamilton. "He is a very impressive young man, the most impressive young driver I've seen in a long while," Moss says. "He has the car control and he has the calmness when he is driving, but he is also a fighter and has a great manner about him. He'll go a long way."

The paradox of the criticism and Hamilton's likely success begs a key question. What sort of world champion would he make?

When Sir Jackie Stewart was narrowly beaten to the title in 1968 by Graham Hill, he admitted: "On a personal level, I don't believe I was ready to be world champion then. Winning the title is about far more than standing on a podium and waving at the crowd, and, with hindsight, I don't think I was equipped to cope with the pressures and the demands not just of the racing but also of having to fulfil my associations with Ford, Elf and Dunlop."

When Stewart did win the crown in 1969, the first of his three, he described his life thereafter as a rocket ship that created many challenges, not the least the endless round of appearance for sponsors keen to cash in on their joint success, promotional events, lunches, dinners, photographic sessions, interviews, speeches that had to be made.

"My schedule became a frantic blur, with scarcely a spare hour, let alone a spare day or weekend, in my diary."

Back then, the promotional side of the sport was still developing. Today, it is an intrinsic part of what a driver faces every weekend and Hamilton has shown himself to be as adept at mastering that as he is on the track, barring the odd moment of impetuosity. When the title slipped from his grasp and into rival Kimi Raikkonen's at the 11th hour in Brazil last year, he handled a brutally disappointing moment with a maturity that suggested that, unlike Stewart all those years earlier, he would have been ready to win in his rookie season.

"We have just had one of the most fantastic Formula One seasons ever," he said, "and a year ago if you had said that I would be in contention for the title all the way through to the final race, I would have said you were dreaming.

"In the end, we lost by a point, but we'll be back. If we don't win it next year, then we will win it the year after that."

Earlier this year McLaren released a piece of promotional film that gave a telling insight into the real Lewis Hamilton as he attended a special event at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London which caters for sick children and their families, on behalf of sponsor Vodafone.

Former champion Alain Prost once said of Formula One that it was important to keep it in its proper perspective because it doesn't cure cancer. GOSH seeks to do just that, and to hold out hope to those whose lives do not revolve around understeer, tyre temperature, and lap times, but instead embrace issues of life and death of those who are the most precious.

The film is moving and it is inspirational to watch the expressions on the faces of young people into whose troubled lives some dramatic glamour and excitement has been introduced. Hamilton handled it brilliantly, and it was more than evident in his interaction with patients that he was genuinely involved with what he was doing. That, his maturity and his on-track performance confirm that he is now ready to follow in the wheeltracks of British greats such as Jim Clark, Stewart and John Surtees.

Britain's last world champion Damon Hill, who won the title with Williams in 1996, has no doubts what kind of champion Hamilton would make.

"Exceptional," he says immediately. "But I'm not sure there is an ambassadorial role to it all. The feeling is that it's just great to have won, to go to bed and to say 'I got the job done, it's in the bag.' You can't rewind and erase that. It's there forever.

"The risk will be if too much expectation is heaped upon him, in the form of some role that he does not necessarily need. People want heroes to be perfect and to live up to their own wishes. That can be a constraint. If you are not careful you won't see what he is really like and that would not be good for the sport.

"Sport is about revealing people as they really are under stress and in difficult situations. We admire those who do well, but you can go too far expecting them to be leaders in other fields, or supermen. My concern is that overall image becomes so valuable that it is over-protected to the point where it is everything.

"Lewis doesn't need anyone shaping opinion about him. The trap to avoid is trying to be all things to all men. He wants to maximise his opportunity and success and that is entirely legitimate, but image can be moulded too perfectly and that can create problems. Staying in touch with reality is the key point to what he should be doing as champion. He is where he is because he is exceptionally gifted at what he does.

"He is very talented and is a charming guy. He is respectful of those around him and he wants to be popular, but he shouldn't try to please everyone. A champion should only fulfil so much of anyone's expectations. I sense he wants to race and to win and that will give him an extended career.

"I think he will win this world championship, and some more. Maybe he will even challenge Michael Schumacher's tally, though I think circumstances today are different so that may be more difficult. But that will be the unfolding story with Lewis, won't it?"

Articulate, good looking – and quick – Lewis Hamilton looks and acts the part already, and is the kind of athlete whose stardom will enable him to cross social barriers. Those who have spent a lot of time observing him closely, in the paddock and in action on the race track, in television interviews, or launching the Motor Sport Association's Go Motorsport and associated Let's Go Karting campaigns to attract more people into the sport, have been nothing but impressed.

And they have little doubt that he will make a fine champion who will not only care about his sport but will, in time, like Stewart and Hill, put back as much as he takes out.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week