Winner of six Grand Prix between 1977 and 1981, Jacques Laffite, 76, still follows the races attentively in front of his television: “Sometimes, I am a little bored because the races are a bit long and boring. (sic). Other times I’m worried because the circuits are dangerous. But fortunately there are drivers like Lewis to give us emotions… ”This Sunday, the former French driver greeted with great enthusiasm Hamilton’s 92nd victory in Portugal. The 35-year-old Englishman thus becomes the new record holder for Grand Prix success, just ahead of the German Michael Schumacher who has 91.
Lewis Hamilton set a new record for Grand Prix victories, overtaking Michael Schumacher. What does that inspire you?
JACQUES LAFFITE. It’s just amazing. Hats off to him! Of course, records are meant to be broken. But we thought that Michael’s (Schumacher) would remain inaccessible. What I remember is the consistency of Hamilton. He has won victories every year since his debut and has won on more different circuits (28 against 23 for Schumacher). This shows that he is complete, that he knows how to adapt to all situations. He still has many good years ahead of him so he will beat other records, that of world titles after having soon equaled that of Schumacher (7) this year. He will also reach at least 100 Grand Prix victories.
If you had to compare him to Schumacher, which of the two do you think is stronger?
It’s always difficult to compare the eras and the pilots. But if we refer to technological development, I think what Hamilton has achieved is stronger than Schumacher. The cars are better, the grid is much more homogeneous than in Schumacher’s time, there is more competition. Now it is fought with thousandths of a second, and it is more and more difficult to win a race. It gives Hamilton’s performance even more depth.
With this record, can he be considered the greatest driver in the history of Formula 1?
Prost, Senna, Schumacher, Hamilton, each will have marked his time at his level… They are all great champions who will go down in history. I love Hamilton, but for me maybe because I’m an elder now (laughs), the biggest will remain Fangio (Editor’s note: the Argentinian was 5 times world champion between 1951 and 1957). Modern Formula 1 is about huge teams around a driver. In Fangio’s time, cars were heavy, big, and difficult to drive. There were no seat belts, the circuits were very dangerous, the drivers really risked their lives in every race.
What do you like about Hamilton?
Beyond his qualities as a pilot, it is his personality. He is someone who is good for our sport. He makes Formula 1 shine around the world. He is relaxed, we see that he is having fun all the time, that he is happy to be there. But above all he is a great worker. To have such longevity at a high level like him, talent is not enough. Lewis is never satisfied, he always wants to go further. With Mercedes, they found each other well. It’s the perfect marriage and the perfect match.
He, like the people in his team, are guided by a quest for excellence. They speak the same language. Of course, Mercedes has a good engine, a successful factory and is very good in the wind tunnel. But with Lewis, who is very invested in his engineers, they are always looking to progress. That’s why they are at such a level. 71 victories with Mercedes, it’s huge and it’s not over …
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr