Why There Is No True “Greatest of All Time”


Courtesy of lewishamilton.com

Lewis Hamilton has been recently been labeled as the “GOAT” of F1.

Every generation tends to have one athlete that they look up to and call the greatest of all time. This also tends to happen within each sport. Unfortunately, it is simply not that simple.

The label of “GOAT” in sport is one that often changes hands from player to player. One specific example of a sport in which this occurs is Formula 1, an intercontinental car racing series that pulls drivers from around the globe to compete at the highest level of their sport. In looking back on this past 2020 season, which just came to an end in Abu Dhabi, the topic of the “Greatest Driver of All Time” seemed to have popped up quite a bit. Yet, this was not the first time this title was being handed out to a driver. Back when Formula 1 was a new concept, Juan Manuel Fangio was a name often tossed around, claiming 5 championships in his run from 1950-58. Fast forward a few years and Michael Schumacher was the one known as the greatest, claiming 7 championships in his 1991-2006 run, including a 5 in a row championship win streak from 2000-2004. Yet, especially after this past season, a British driver named Sir Lewis Hamilton has now been called the greatest driver, tying Schumacher’s 7 championship titles as well as beating many other titles previously held by Schumacher, such as the number of race wins. Sir Hamilton was knighted by the queen this year and will have the pit straight on the British F1 track, Silverstone, named after him, all of which ties back to his receiving of the “Greatest of All Time” title by many fans and past F1 greats.

The reality is, though, that none of these men can truly be classified as “the greatest of all time”, as driver each was from a different era. Every new era has different available data, technology, and style of car, which can further a driver into being able to beat or tie records and become successful. These differences are why basic statistics cannot determine the “greatest”. Statistically, Sir Lewis Hamilton should be known as the “GOAT” in Formula 1 racing, as he holds the most records. However, he has the most dominant car in the field, one that no other current team in the sport can be reasonably compared with. He also is the most modern driver in the short list of names included in this piece and therefore has the most available technology on himself and his rivals that can be used to further himself in the standings. Sir Hamilton can very well be considered the greatest of this era of F1 racing, but due to the differences between eras, the title greatest of all time is essentially a nonstarter.

The real question is – why even feel like we need to designate someone as the greatest of all time? As Max Verstappen, current Red Bull Racing Driver and Chief Hydration Officer, said “You shouldn’t want to compare great driver in Formula 1, just appreciate them”, and when further probed, “What’s the point, man, just appreciate the talent, and the good drivers that have been in Formula 1, and are in Formula 1.”