Aspiring three-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton has received high praise from the only other British driver to have achieved the feat: Sir Jackie Stewart.

Speaking at last night’s GP@23 cocktail party at the Crown Entertainment Complex, Stewart – the world champion of 1969, 1971 and 1973 – was of the firm belief that Hamilton, the defending title-winner, would equal and surpass his own achievements.

“Absolutely,” he replied, when RF1 asked how he would feel potentially having to share the honour of being a three-time British Formula 1 World Champion.

“Lewis will surpass my three titles, but it’s taken more than forty years for this to be a prospect. I had the highest number of victories [27 in total] for fourteen years before Alain Prost beat me. It’s a natural and eventual thing to happen, and I don’t mind it at all.

“That’s the competitive world we live in. Alain was a great World Champion, and Lewis is a great World Champion too, and if you win enough races, then you tend to win World Championships.”

The 75-year-old also praised the performance of local crowd favourite Daniel Ricciardo ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Ricciardo finished a sensational second on home soil in his first outing for Red Bull Racing – only to be subsequently disqualified – before going on to claim three race wins in a year dominated by the works Mercedes team. The Perth-born driver was the only non-Mercedes runner to visit the top step of the podium in 2014, and Stewart was confident he would do so again this year.

“Daniel delivered magnificently in his first big year in Formula 1,” Stewart added. “There he was, getting up and winning three times.

“He’s been a great ambassador to your country. More than anything else, he brings fresh air to the sport; he smiles and laughs. There is no false pretense, there’s a real personality in there, and I think he’s been very good for Formula 1 and great for Australia.

“If I had one criticism, it’s that he’s too tall of course!” Stewart quipped. “He should be a man of average height like myself!

“He’ll have to depend on Red Bull Racing and Renault coming back and delivering in 2015. Adrian Newey and the rest of the team are very talented people, so I fully expect that they will be competitive.

“I don’t know whether that will be the case in the first race of the season, but you never know. Season-openers can sometimes be a bit of a lottery for all concerned – remember that Mark Webber finished fifth on debut here in 2002 in a Minardi, so anything can happen!”

Images via George Hitchens / © RF1

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.