Lewis Hamilton may be the greatest Formula One driver of all time but ‘negativity and envy’ are denying him the recognition he deserves, according to his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Comparing the five-time world champion to retired Ferrari great Michael Schumacher, Wolff suggested people might not appreciate the 33-year-old Briton’s achievements until he too had left the scene.
“Not everybody recognises a great career, a great sportsman or greatness overall while it’s happening. There is a lot of negativity and envy whilst it happens,” Wolff told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“It’s only being recognised once a career has ended as having been really great and I don’t know why that is. We are extremely privileged in following a career of maybe the greatest racing driver of all time.
“Obviously Michael has set the records and was unbelievable but Lewis is on a similar trajectory,” he added. “Also with Michael, it was only recognised after he retired and even more when tragedy struck. And I think it’s a pity.”
Schumacher, who turns 50 in January, has not been seen in public since the German suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident five years ago.
Hamilton has set a string of records on his way to his fifth title this season, and could go on to match Schumacher’s seven championships and 91 wins.
The Briton, now on 73 victories, has won 51 of the 100 grands prix in the V6 turbo era that started in 2014 and four of the last five championships.
Hamilton also has a record 83 pole positions and is only the third driver ever to win five titles or more.
Last Sunday, he was runner-up in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year awards — a public vote — to Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.
He was condemned on social media for ‘slum’ comments about his boyhood town Stevenage, words he later clarified, and has been criticised for moving to the tax haven of Monaco where many other Formula One drivers reside.
“We are live spectators, live witnesses of a great racing driver at the peak of his abilities,” said Wolff. “In the U.S. you are very much inspired by success. In Europe it triggers much more envy and negativity.