Former Grand Prix driver Mark Webber says that Lewis Hamilton is the best qualifier Formula 1 has seen since Ayrton Senna. Hamilton currently holds the record for the most poles ever secured in F1's history, with 83.
Last season in Italy, the Briton became the most successful qualifier of all time, surpassing Michael Schumacher's record. Hamilton clinched 11 pole positions in 2018, one shy of his record of 12 in one year, which he picked up in 2016.
Earlier this year, Hamilton signed a contract extension with Mercedes, which ties him to the team until the end of 2020. Going by his qualifying record in recent years, that makes it entirely possible that he could become the first F1 driver to clinch 100 poles.
And Webber heaped his praise on the five-time world champion, saying that he is absolutely better than Schumacher on a Saturday: “In qualifying, I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, he’s the best since Senna. I mean he is better than Michael over one lap,” Webber told Speedcafe.com.
“Arguably he is definitely the best in the last, getting on for 40 years. He’s up there with Ayrton on one lap. Lewis doesn’t go off the road much on Saturdays but he’s had this devastating turn of speed when he needs to turn it on,” Webber added.
Webber, who shared the track with Hamilton from 2007 to 2013, says that he doesn't quite know what the 33-year-old's weaknesses are, which is what makes him such a mighty force to his competitors.
“I don’t know what his real weaknesses are, that is why he is so dangerous,” he said. “He has definitely had the measure of Sebastian (Vettel) of late. We know he is as strong as Fernando, so he’s been hard work for all of us over the years and that’s why he’s got the track record that he has.”
And Webber believes that Hamilton could topple Schumacher's record of seven world titles going forward: "He is one of the greats (and) he’s not finished yet, so he can be at the top of a lot of the statistics, which is incredibly, incredibly impressive feat,” the Australian commented.
“He could go all the way, especially if he gets (his sixth world championship) next year. I think that’s going to be a big indication of whether he’s got the motivation to try and get past Michael, which obviously will be eight.
“Have the next three years on the bounce, a lot of people probably would have switched off by then. To watch the record happen would be incredible but there is a lot, a lot of racing to be done.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing