Carlos Sainz Jr believes very few of the current Formula 1 drivers would be able to beat Lewis Hamilton as his Mercedes team-mate but would win races with his car.
Hamilton wrapped up his seventh world title after one of his most dominant campaigns in his career, capped by a brilliant comeback win in the Turkish Grand Prix, to mark his 10th victory in 14 races so far in 2020.
Six of Hamilton’s seven titles have come in the V6 hybrid era, in which his Mercedes team has been the dominant force. That reignited the debate on the role both car and driver play in Hamilton’s record-breaking success.
Paddy Lowe, who was Hamilton’s technical director at McLaren and Mercedes, told Autosport earlier this month that Hamilton’s success is predominantly “down to his driving”, praising the Briton’s consistency and endurance across his career.
Sainz asserted that “90% [of the grid] would not beat Hamilton at Mercedes”, but that any driver on the current grid would be able to win with the Mercedes W11 if Hamilton was removed from the equation.
“As team-mates, with that car, very few people would be able to beat Hamilton during a 20-race season,” the McLaren driver said in Turkey. “But if you remove Hamilton from the grid, any of the current F1 drivers would win with the Mercedes.
“That describes a lot what happens with current F1, but also that Hamilton, even if he has the best car, is one of the best or the best for a long time.”
According to Sainz, Hamilton’s ability to perform when it matters is one of the attributes that sets him apart.
“I look closely at how Hamilton performs under pressure,” Sainz explained.
“How in Q3 he always manages to do all the sectors well and take pole, even if it is by a small margin against Bottas.
“In Austria in the rain he took a second and a half from his team-mate, he has things that you don’t see everyone do.”
Sainz, who will move from McLaren to Ferrari next year, added that he would need to be Hamilton’s team-mate in order to truly understand what sets the 35-year-old apart from the rest of the F1 grid.
“Without driving the same car, it is impossible for a driver to know how good another [driver] really is,” he added.
“Hamilton seems to me to be one of the best drivers in history, and I know that without having been his team-mate.
“I am very curious to know what it [would have been] like to have [Ayrton] Senna as a team-mate, or [Michael] Schumacher, to learn from them, to know what they do to be so good.”
Autosport has produced a standalone special magazine to celebrate our 70th birthday. All current print subscribers will receive a copy for free. To order your copy of the 196-page Autosport 70th Anniversary issue, please go to: autosport.com/autosport70th