David Coulthard is staggered “genius” Lewis Hamilton is not a national treasure as the Briton sets his sights on breaking more records.
The Mercedes star can surpass Michael Schumacher as F1’s most successful driver with his 92nd race victory in Portugal on Sunday afternoon.
Another chequered flag would also inch the 35-year-old closer to matching the German’s seven drivers’ championships.
And this season Hamilton has taken on another challenge by becoming a leading voice in the sport’s fight for equality.
But despite his remarkable triumphs, the six-time world champion continues to divide opinion among the British public.
And Coulthard has called on his countrymen to get behind Hamilton in the way they did his predecessors.
“He has to be considered a modern-day genius,” he said. “Lewis goes beyond the sport. Now we have a generation of people who have taken a stand on what is fair and right.
“Lewis has represented us in F1 as the only ever black driver in the sport.
“He has a unique position to help bring discussion and shed light on important things. I imagine not just sporting success but what he’ll continue to do will always make him a public name.
“There’s always people that seem to transcend and reflect a nation; Nigel Mansell appeared to have great public support, Michael Schumacher appeared to have great German support in a way that Sebastian Vettel never achieved and Nico Rosberg didn’t even get close.
“So why is that? Somehow people connect with some and relate to their journey – and not with others; but I have no idea why Hamilton doesn’t have everyone’s support.”
Despite his dominance on the track, Hamilton’s critics complain he has simply reaped the benefits of driving the best cars.
The Brit joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2012 and has won five of his six titles with the Northamptonshire outfit.
But Coulthard added: “I think it’s a combination of factors; one of the main factors is he’s one of the talents of his generation and another factor is he has one of the best cars of this era.
“But it’s no surprise that the best drivers usually end up with the best cars. The exceptional talents usually find themselves in the right package at some point in their career.
“It is remarkable, what Michael did just seemed so impossible at the time.”
Coulthard won 13 Grands Prix during a stellar 15-year career which included stints at Williams, McLaren and Red Bull.
The likeable Scot, now a pundit for Channel 4, enjoyed many squabbles with Schumacher and also competed against Hamilton in his latter days in the sport.
He added: “I have tremendous respect for Michael and his family. We obviously didn’t see eye to eye on the race track but he was an exceptional racing driver.
“What I would say is that he was a more controversial figure in the way Ayrton Senna was a controversial figure.
“Ayrton and Michael found themselves in situations with race stewards of the governing body and sometimes being penalised for things they did on the race track.
“Lewis is a very uncontroversial driver. He very rarely is in the thick of an incident pointing the finger at someone else.
“He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I think he races hard and fair. He’s a very instinctive racing driver.”
Full highlights of the Portuguese GP on Channel 4 on Sunday night at 6.30pm