Ex-F1 driver Jenson Button, who partnered Lewis Hamilton at McLaren for a number of seasons, has said he believes the seven-time World Champion is “probably” the fastest driver ever when it comes to raw qualifying pace.
Speaking to PlanetF1, Button said Hamilton is “definitely in the mix” for being the greatest F1 driver of all-time, but the 2009 World Champion stressed that it is very difficult to compare drivers, especially if they’re not from the same generation.
“He’s definitely in the mix [for best ever]. Formula 1 is a very unusual sport,” Jenson Button said of Lewis Hamilton.
“It is a team sport and that was proven when George Russell jumped in the Mercedes car.
“He is normally qualifying P15/P16 at Williams and then suddenly he is qualifying second to Valtteri Bottas and closer to what Lewis managed at the previous race when he was in the car.
“Then in the race, George gets past him and pulls away and was nine seconds ahead at one point. So it’s very difficult to judge the best driver because it is a full package thing.
“It’s car, it’s driver, it’s strategist, it’s making sure every mechanic is doing their job correctly, it’s pit stops, it’s a full team effort and that’s why I love Formula 1.
“But when you try and compare every driver and try and say is it more the car or driver, they are all pointless things because you can never answer that.
“But Lewis is definitely one of the best drivers that has ever driven in Formula 1,” Button added.
Continuing, he noted that great drivers sometimes have “really weird” seasons which can make it even more difficult to rank them.
“You can’t compare him to Fangio or Senna, you can compare him to who he is racing against but then again he is in different equipment.
“But you can put him up there with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. When you look at Seb he had a really weird year but he has to be one of the greats. He won four back-to-back titles.
“It’s tricky but Lewis is definitely up there and, in terms of outright pace, he is probably the quickest over one lap. But a grand prix isn’t just one lap and so you have to throw a lot of great drivers into the mix.
“Michael Schumacher for example for his dedication. His outright speed probably wasn’t on the same level as Lewis Hamilton but his dedication and how much time and effort he put in.
“Some of his moves were questionable on track but one of the things you can definitely say for Lewis and what I really like about him is he is very straightforward.”
“He’s a great racer, great to race wheel-to-wheel with and he will never do anything outside of the rules. He is a very clean driver.”