Gerhard Berger, the former Formula One driver and a teammate of the late Ayrton Senna, believes Lewis Hamilton is the only driver he has seen who matches the great Brazilian.
Berger, who is the chairman of the German touring car championship DTM, also insisted motor racing now has an obligation to address the climate-change emergency as he announced its new racing-series concept designed to further non-combustion engine technology.
The Austrian drove alongside Senna at McLaren between 1990 and 1992. After Hamilton won his sixth drivers’ title last Sunday Berger afforded him perhaps the ultimate accolade.
He said: “I have been asked a lot about young drivers coming up, ‘Do you see Senna in them’, and I always say: ‘No, Senna was different, he wasn’t comparable.’ But now Lewis reminds me very much of Ayrton in how he performs every time. Under difficult circumstances, on street circuits, quick circuits, in rain and dry, in reading the race, in being fit, in the politics. Lewis is, like Ayrton, complete.”
Berger also complimented Hamilton on bringing F1 to a wider audience. “He has a very special personality,” he added. “Nobody could beat Ayrton’s charm but Lewis, the way he promotes the sport around the world, especially in America and to new audiences, is outstanding too. For me Lewis is the man.”
He said: “I have been convinced for several years, but especially recently, that we cannot close our eyes to putting input into improving the environment. In the racing industry it is our obligation to think about it. The result has to be to develop new technologies but also make them interesting to fans. It’s not working if you don’t give the pleasure to the fans, so we have to cover this side and improving the environment.”
The proposal is aimed at presenting high-speed, wheel-to-wheel racing by allowing manufacturers to run road-based sports cars but powered by either electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. The intent is to produce vehicles capable of up to 1,000bhp and speeds of up to 200mph. In comparison the current Formula E car produces 385bhp. Using competing types of technology Berger believes will advance both quicker and help in proving which is worthy of greatest development in future.
The series would also use new technology in other areas, employing robots to replace wheels and batteries of fuel cells during pit stops.
“We are all aware of the necessity to improve the environment, so we must follow the strongest ideas of where performance could come in the future,” said Berger. “We see electric and we see hydrogen, but nobody knows the best solution. Motorsport can split it up into a way of competition. But one where fans can still see a sportsman capable of driving a machine on the absolute limit better than anyone else.”