Lewis Hamilton’s lack of unsporting moments on the race track is “unprecedented” and sets him apart from other great Formula One champions of the past, according to Mercedes technical boss James Allison.
Hamilton is one championship away from matching Michael Schumacher’s record of seven, while he is also eight wins away from surpassing the German’s career tally of 91. Schumacher is statistically the greatest of all time, but his career was littered with several infamous moments — notably, he was disqualified from the 1997 championship after trying to drive title rival Jacques Villeneuve off the road at that year’s deciding race.
Hamilton’s boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, regarded by many to be the greatest driver of all time, drove Alain Prost off the track at the start of the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix to win that year’s title.
Allison, who has worked closely with Hamilton since moving to Mercedes in 2017, is impressed by Hamilton’s clean record over such a dominant spell of racing, which includes a three-peat of titles since Allison arrived with the team.
“I was brought up in a forces household — my father was in the RAF [Royal Air Force] — and I think that the armed services place integrity very high up on the totem pole of values,” Allison said in a recent interview on Mercedes’ YouTube channel. “I know I certainly got that from my family background.
“I’ve been lucky to work with people who have had the highest integrity. And I do think that is a characteristic that marks out Lewis.
“He’s one of the oldest drivers on the grid now. Still drives like one of the youngest. But in a career of multiple championships and countless wins, you’ll struggle to find a moment on the track where you see Lewis do something ugly.
“You’ll see him do many, many breathtaking things, you’ll see him do brave things. But you won’t see just crude, dodgem car, bumper car stuff, or any sort of artifice to the way he drives.
“I hope that he manages to keep this going for the remainder of his driving career because it’s an utterly unblemished record. And I think amongst multiple world champions, it is also unprecedented to have to have all that success without anything that has even this sort of hint of a shadow of a poor sportsmanship hanging over it.”
Allison also used the interview to shed some light on his state of mind in the period of time before he joined Mercedes. In March 2016, while still working for Ferrari, Allison’s wife, Rebecca, died suddenly of meningitis.
“I am still grieving today, four years on, but then I was crying in the car on my way into work and crying on the way home. I didn’t know what the right thing to do was, at the time most of me was just wanting to crawl into a hole and never come out again.
“But Toto [Wolff, Mercedes boss] gave me this opportunity, and I hoped that as time passed that I would start to feel like I would want to re-engage with the world, and by the time I was walking in the factory gates at Brackley I was feeling a little stronger and a little more useful.
“I was able to get a sense that despite the pain of losing Becca that there was still some use in me. As the weeks rolled by and turned into months and eventually years, that gamble that Toto took on me, I hope I have repaid by being useful.”
The F1 season has been indefinitely suspended by the coronavirus pandemic. The championship hopes to start with the Austrian Grand Prix on the weekend of July 3-5, although any race that takes place will do so without spectators.