F1's next generation hail Hamilton influence

Austin (AFP) –


Lewis Hamilton's work ethic is under-appreciated by many and his role as an inspiration to others often over-looked, according to two young British rookies who have enjoyed impressive debut season in Formula One in 2019.

Asked what Lewis Hamilton had meant to them, Williams driver George Russell and McLaren's Lando Norris both expressed their admiration and respect for their fellow-Briton who on Sunday is expected to clinch his sixth world championship at the United States Grand Prix.

"He's a guy who I've always looked up to since I was young," said Norris, 19.

"A driver who I've loved to watch. I've been very excited to watch a lot of his races, since I started watching F1 when I was six or seven years old.

"I've been able to watch a lot of the races and it gives a bit of -- I wouldn't say belief or faith, but it gives a bit of confidence knowing that…. or hoping to go into the future and emulate him in a way."

Referring to Dutchman Max Verstappen, who has been embroiled in a spat with Hamilton in recent weeks, Norris added: "Like Max has said, the equipment's very different now to when he (Hamilton) started in F1, when he was with McLaren.

"So, some things aren't going to be exactly the same (for evaluation), but there are a lot of things that he's extremely good at -- and I would like to improve on and be as good as him on. So, yeah, he's a guy and a driver who's inspired me -- and who I've looked up to since I was very young."

Verstappen, who is due to start his 100th Grand Prix in Sunday's race, was less fulsome in any praise for Hamilton and avoided referring to his influence on him.

He said: "From my side, unfortunately, I haven't really had the time to compete with him that much. I mean, just a few races.

"Most of the time, we didn't have equal material, but he was always clearly the better of the two within the (Mercedes) team. And then, when you have the best car out there, of course, you can win the championship.

"But it's amazing, of course, to go for your sixth world championship."

Russell, who was a Mercedes' academy junior driver and part of their development programme, said: "He's definitely somebody who I've looked up to for a while -- since I've been wanting to become an F1 driver, but especially in the last couple of years.

"I've gained a huge amount of respect for him, seeing him within the team. I used to think he just relied on his natural talent to jump in the car and do the business, but he puts a huge amount of effort in and the attention to detail he goes into is massive.

"I did learn a lot from him in the years I spent with Mercedes, so yeah, I definitely respect and admire what he's achieved."

The tributes from the young drivers followed a warm tribute from four-time champion Sebastian Vettel after Hamilton won last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix from fourth on the grid.