Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Lewis Hamilton will soon hit winning trail: Stewart

Lewis Hamilton

Sir Jackie Stewart has backed Lewis Hamilton to start topping the podium but warns he is competing with “masterful” McLaren team-mate Jenson Button.

Hamilton, the 2008 Formula One champion, sits seventh in the drivers' championship six races into a season that consists of 19 Grand Prix.

The 25-year-old's best performance in his McLaren this season was second place in Shanghai last month.

But Stewart, speaking in promotion of his new Grand Prix album available from Genesis Publications, believes he will soon start making his presence felt.

“Lewis is still the most aggressive passer, though his car isn't as good as the RBR-Renault right now,” he said. “But we'll definitely see more of him as the season unfolds. The new points system means the drivers' race can change overnight. Lewis will win Grand Prix this year.”

While Stewart was delighted to see Button crowned champion last season, he is equally in admiration of how quickly he has settled alongside Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes.

“I'd rather Jenson had produced a better second half to the season last year,” he said. “Not many people have won six out of seven like Jenson did, but what's been most impressive to me is how well he's been driving this year.

“He went into the lion's den at McLaren and was able to get them to give him a car that he's capable of driving.

“Going into any new team isn't easy because Lewis is part of the furniture and is still delivering.

“Some of his recent drives have been masterful — smooth and with great behaviour.

“Some people have said his world championship wasn't the greatest because of the second half, but he's driven extremely well in the first half of this season.”

Australian Mark Webber is the surprise leader after winning in Spain and Monaco with Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel in second.

Stewart, the winner of three drivers' championships between 1965 and 1973, sees no reason why the 33-year-old cannot maintain his storming start to the season.

“Mark's driving better than he's ever done and while we know that Vettel will come back and beat Mark at some point, there's no reason he can't continue to be where he is now,” he said.

“Mark's always been written off but when he found the key to the door four Grand Prix victories ago, everything opened up for him.

“He now knows how to drive to win. It took him so long to win a race and now he's won four in less than a season.”

Stewart believes Formula One is currently experiencing a golden era in terms of competitiveness.

“The sport is better, stronger and bigger than it's ever been. It's more global and just as colourful and exciting,” he said. “This year is the best collection of top-line racing drivers since I was racing.

“When I was racing there were eight or nine possible winners. Since that time I don't remember a time when it's been so competitive.”

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