Where does Formula One legend Lewis Hamilton rank among sport’s all-time greats?
This is the question many people have been asking this week after the 35-year-old won a seventh world title last Sunday, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record in the process.
There have even been calls for the Mercedes driver to be knighted following his incredible achievement.
However, snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan has suggested that Hamilton can’t be one of sport’s greats because his car gives him an unfair advantage.
O’Sullivan says he wouldn’t feel as good about his own illustrious career if he had a similar advantage in snooker.
“It is fantastic for Lewis to win seven world titles, but if your car is going around quicker you can afford to make a few mistakes and still get away with it,” the 44-year-old was quoted saying by The Sun.
“It’s a bit like driving around smoking a cigar with one finger on the wheel!
“I think it’s difficult to say where he is (among the greats).
“A lot of the sports I watch – the people that have done it, you have to look whether it’s a level playing field.
“If you have a car that is going a second a lap quicker than the other cars, in theory all he has to beat is his team-mate [Valtteri] Bottas – who seems to be comfortable and happy playing second fiddle.
“I wouldn’t have felt as good about my career in snooker if I had been playing on a table where the pockets I was using were bigger than my opponent’s.”
O’Sullivan then went on to name seven stars who he believes *can* be described as genuine sporting greats because, unlike Hamilton, they have dominated on a level playing field.
“It doesn’t mean as much as say a sport like tennis with [Roger] Federer playing everyone on a level playing field, or [Eliud] Kipchoge running against everyone on a level playing field,” he added.
“Snooker is like that, too, with a level playing field. In boxing certain boxers avoid certain fighters so that makes it hard for them to have credibility unless they fought the best.
“That’s why you have to give credit to people like Tyson Fury because you know they won’t duck anyone and will fight anyone anywhere at any time.
“I just think sport is where there is no advantage.
“You don’t get to choose your opponent or have better equipment. So for me, Federer, [Rafael] Nadal, [Novak] Djokovic, Phil Taylor in darts, Tiger Woods, [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo… it’s there to see.”
Nobody could argue that those seven O’Sullivan mentions aren’t true sporting greats.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have all enjoyed extraordinary success in tennis over the past couple of decades, while Taylor and Woods are also legends of their sports.
And then there’s Messi and Ronaldo, arguably the two greatest footballers of all time.
Nevertheless, O’Sullivan’s eyebrow-raising comments about Hamilton are bound to spark a huge amount of debate among sports fans.