Ronnie O'Sullivan got Lewis Hamilton judgement wrong as F1 rival Sebastian Vettel proves

November 20, 2020
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Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled no punches in his assessment of Lewis Hamilton‘s achievements following the Brit’s seventh Formula One drivers’ championship last Sunday. The Rocket says what he thinks and the snooker legend was no different this week when quizzed about where his compatriot ranks among the country’s sporting greats. 

“I wouldn’t have felt as good about my career in snooker if I had been playing on a table where the pockets I was using were bigger than my opponent’s,” he said. “At least in snooker everyone has the same equipment and it is totally a level playing field. I don’t choose my opponents or the table.

“It is fantastic for Lewis to win seven world titles, but if your car is going around quicker you can afford to make a few mistakes and still get away with it. It’s a bit like driving around smoking a cigar with one finger on the wheel!”

O’Sullivan instead named Eliud Kipchoge, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Phil Taylor, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo as the eight athletes he ranks highest across all of the sports, insisting it is “there to see” for the octuple’s successes across long-distance running, tennis, darts, golf and football respectively.

It is a long-standing criticism of Hamilton’s achievements that his ever-growing number of championship successes are down almost solely to the masterful machinery of the Mercedes team. It is not a wholly fair one.

It is certainly true that the Silver Arrows, as proven by their seven straight constructors’ title, are the dominant and most talented team in the paddock, both in the factory and out on the track. 

There is no mistaking that during his time with the Brackley-based outfit, Hamilton has often had the best car on track. But not always.

DON’T MISS: Lewis Hamilton wins seventh world title with Turkish Grand Prix win

Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix was the perfect evidence that even when Hamilton’s car is the best across a season, things aren’t always as straightforward as getting in the car, driving round for sub-two hours and then lifting up the winner’s trophy at the end of the afternoon.

Mercedes were well off the pace in qualifying. Five seconds off pole-sitter Lance Stroll, to be exact, with Hamilton starting Sunday’s race in sixth and Valtteri Bottas down in ninth.

Bottas’ struggles on the Sunday helped show that Hamilton is a man truly at the peak of his craft. The Finn suffered multiple spins and finished 14th, insisting “I wish it was less!” when told there were four laps left to go on the team radio in Istanbul.

By contrast, Hamilton never once looked troubled despite the conditions and steered his car to first with a 30-second advantage after only pitting once. It was the kind of drive that perhaps no other driver on the grid would have managed, even Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel. Masterful is the best word to describe it.

“If you have a car that is going a second a lap quicker than the other cars, in theory all he has to beat is his team-mate [Valtteri] Bottas – who seems to be comfortable and happy playing second fiddle,” was O’Sullivan’s verdict on Hamilton’s team-mate Bottas.

But that does not reflect Bottas’ talents or ambitions, and ignores that if it weren’t for Hamilton being across from him in the Mercedes garage, the 31-year-old would likely be a world champion himself.

It’s just that he’s up against a supernatural force in Hamilton, whose race in Turkey would’ve been most of the grid’s best ever race. It was for him, his victory was one more in a catalogue of many, many superb drives.



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