Former Red Bull young gun Scott Speed has praised seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for his ability to remain competitive against F1’s younger generation of talented drivers.
At 38, Hamilton remains as driven and motivated as ever to win in F1. The Briton is in the process of negotiating a new contract with Mercedes and all signs point to him remaining on the grid for at least two more years.
While Hamilton is currently weighed down by the underperformance of his Mercedes team, his enthusiasm for the sport and his ability to remain competitive against the sport’s current crop of outstanding talent – which includes his teammate George Russell – are intact.
Speed, who competed in Formula 1 with Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007, believes its “crazy” that Hamilton is still able to match the level of performance of the sport’s most brilliant young drivers.
But then again, the American driver witnessed firsthand back in 2007 the “special” skills of the likes of the Briton and his future nemesis, Nico Rosberg.
“Those guys were special,” Speed told F1’s Tom Clarkson on the latter’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“Obviously, Lewis still is because he’s still competing with this next generation of drivers, which is remarkable and truly insane.
“Achievement in Formula 1 is so difficult because there’s so many guys that are in Formula 1 that don’t have a Formula 1 World Championship, but they’re amazing.
“So depending on your era and your timing of when you’re in there or when you’re not, it’s incredibly important.”
After a formative year at Toro Rosso in 2006, which was also the Italian outfit’s first season under its new Red Bull colors, Speed was retained for 2007 but didn’t survive the summer.
The American was replaced from the Hungarian Grand Prix by Sebastian Vettel.
In hindsight, Speed candidly admits that he didn’t have the right mindset and drive to keep pushing himself to get better. Consequently, he fell to the side and off the grid.
“Oh gosh, how young and uneducated I was,” he recalled. “Massive ego. I just look back at a silly kid. It’s kind of embarrassing, honestly.
“I obviously had a lot of ability. I was very good at driving that type of vehicle, although I don’t think I was at the level of Rosbergs or your Lewis’s from my generation.
“My reason for competing was that I wanted to see how good I was. I certainly didn’t have a good mindset.
“I was put into some incredibly great environments by Red Bull to help me succeed and help me develop, because when I left America and went over there, I didn’t have the ability to do it, but they did a great job of placing me with good teams up the ladder where I could learn, even though I didn’t realize I was learning.
“I just thought that, if I was fast, it was because the car was good and if we were slow, then the car was crap. I had no responsibility for any of that.
“I honestly just thought that as a racing driver you were either fast or you were slow, which is pretty silly. But at the time that was my perspective.
“So for me it was more like ‘Well, how far can I go on motor racing?’ Once I saw where that was, I realised, ‘I’m a pretty decent F1 driver. I can compete with these guys.’
“And in my mind I was like ‘yeah, if I change teams, I could run over here and I could run in this position.’ I’d mapped it all out.
“When I realised that I was checked out, I didn’t have the drive to keep getting better. I didn’t have the drive to keep pushing myself.
“Without that proper motivation, it ended the way it did. I wasn’t the guy that was going to take a team and make everything better.”
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