Berger puts Hamilton 'in the middle' of Senna and Prost

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 27.03.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah
© XPB 

Former Formula 1 driver Gerhard Berger says that Lewis Hamilton's approach to Grand Prix racing is a blend of the very different styles of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

Hamilton has long identified with the flamboyant, charismatic Senna who won three world championships in 1988, 1990, and 1991. He has promised to follow his idol and be a "more aggressive driver” this year, after losing last year's championship to Max Verstappen.

But Berger also sees something of Prost's cool, analytical mindset that yielded four titles for the Frenchman between 1985 and 1993, and hopes that the Briton doesn't end up moving too far away from this "serene" point of equilibrium.

“I don't know if he would be aggressive like Max was, if this would work in the right direction,” Berger told Autosport magazine last week.

“For me, it was so clever the way [Hamilton] sometimes gives way, not to crash, but get it back in another way," he continued. "I can just see with all the experience Lewis has, he is very serene. He used his chances the whole time."

Berger felt that Hamilton's driving "just was perfect" in 2021, with the one exception of Silverstone where he made contact with Verstappen and sent the Red Bull into the barrier, but still went on to win the race itself.

The 62-year-old Austrian said that in his view, Verstappen was closer to Senna's sense of raw emotion and aggression behind the wheel, while Hamilton's own approach was "somewhere in the middle" between that of Senna and Prost.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 with 1st place and new World Champion, Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

But Berger wondered whether that might change this year if it turned out that the Red Bull had the best car on the grid, ending years of domination for Mercedes.

“This year, if the [Red Bull] is the best car, maybe [Max] is going to adapt himself or he going to do it in a different way," he suggested. "Maybe he doesn't need to have this aggression.

"When you’re that aggressive and it doesn't work out, and you touch each other, or you go out of the race, it hurts," he explained, adding that when you knew you had the better car it was better to play the long game.

"To say, 'Okay for me is worse if I lose this race some points, because I’m going to get it back another way'," he said. "It's all about how good your package is."

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B battle for the lead at the start of the race. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

Berger was Senna's team mate for three seasons at McLaren, among a total of 210 race starts with teams including Arrows, Benetton and a long stint at Ferrari - although he didn't overlap with Prost's own tenure at Maranello.

"I still put Senna as number one, because the charm of Senna and the personality of Senna was another level," he said. "But on the sporting side, I think Lewis is as good as Senna was.

"At the end of the day, for me, after these 45 years I've been around here, Lewis and Senna are the two best I have seen."

Since retiring from competitive racing, Berger has gone on to became chairman of the promoter responsible for running the DTM Series, and attended this year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah.

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