Ex-Formula 1 driver Scott Speed has hailed Lewis Hamilton as “extraordinary” for still being able to match the younger generation of drivers in Formula 1.
Despite delivering five consecutive Constructors’ titles for Mercedes and forming the most successful driver pairing in the sport’s history alongside Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas was replaced at Mercedes by young star George Russell for 2022.
Although Hamilton was beaten on points and in the qualifying head-to-head by his vastly younger team-mate last year, he upheld a slight advantage over Russell in race trim.
That has carried over into this season, with the senior Brit 4-1 down in qualifying over the first five weekends but up in the races and ahead in the standings, having also been responsible for Mercedes’ sole trip to the podium rostrum in 2023.
Therefore, Scott believes it is remarkable that Hamilton, who also fought reigning champion Max Verstappen down to the final lap for the title the last time he had a car capable of competing for a title, continues to stack up well against the emerging crop of drivers at 38 years of age.
“Lewis is still a special pilot, Speed said on the F1 Beyond the Grid podcast. “He is able to compete face to face with the pilots of the next generation, which seems extraordinary to me, as well as crazy.
“To get far in Formula 1, you depend a lot on the era and the time you arrive, there are many incredibly talented drivers who have never been world champions.”
Prior to Logan Sargeant’s arrival this year, Speed had been the last full-time American participant in the sport, making his final start in F1 for Red Bull’s sister team, then Toro Rosso, at the 2007 European Grand Prix.
Looking back on his F1 career, which span 28 grands prix, Speed regrets his arrogant approach, conceding that he didn’t possess the talent to match that of Hamilton and future 2016 title winner Nico Rosberg.
“I remember how young and uneducated I was when I got to Formula 1. I had a lot of ego and if I look back I’m a little embarrassed.
“He was very skilled with the cars of those years, but he was not at the level of the Rosbergs or Lewis. They were the two most special drivers of my generation,” he added.
Former F1 race winner Juan Pablo Montoya has recently also heralded another of the veterans of the sport: Fernando Alonso.
The Colombian claims the current Aston Martin man is driving at the same level he always has done but only now does he have the car to reflect his consistently top level.
“Fernando is funny, everyone talks about it these days, but I think he’s still driving exactly the same as in previous years,” he said in an interview with Motorsport Netherlands.
“Now, of course, he just has a much better car, that’s all the difference. What he does really good is knowing how to get the whole team to support him, even now at Aston Martin.”