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Ronnie O’Sullivan Names His Seven Modern Sporting GOATs Above Lewis Hamilton

Ronnie O’Sullivan Names His Seven Modern Sporting GOATs Above Lewis Hamilton

“It’s a bit like driving around smoking a cigar with one finger on the wheel”

Alex Reid

Alex Reid

Snooker great Ronnie O'Sullivan has questioned Lewis Hamilton's place in the list of sporting greats, as he says Formula 1 is not a level playing field.

Hamilton won his seventh F1 drivers' championship this month, equalling Michael Schumacher's all-time record. But O'Sullivan suggested that, because Hamilton drives for Mercedes and has the best car on the grid, it's comparable to him "playing with bigger pockets than my opponents."

O'Sullivan did, however, share the 'magnificent seven' names who do make his list of modern sporting greats.

"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 teammate [Valtteri] Bottas - who seems to be comfortable and happy playing second fiddle," explained the 44-year-old at the Northern Ireland Open.

"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.

"Snooker is like that, too... 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."

O'Sullivan's list of three tennis legends, Messi and Ronaldo, plus golfing icon Woods and darting GOAT Taylor is a strong rundown of modern, male, sporting greats. He also did give British ace Hamilton credit for his record-equalling triumph.

"It is fantastic for Lewis to win seven world titles," he added. "But if your car is going around quicker you can afford to make a few mistakes and still get away with it.

"It's a bit like driving around smoking a cigar with one finger on the wheel!"

Many non-F1 fans will see logic in O'Sullivan's argument. However Formula 1 is a team sport - one that tests the combination of human and machine, not just the best driver.

So naturally the richest teams have an advantage and obtain elite drivers, just as the biggest football clubs sign the best players. Judging Hamilton for winning his world titles with McLaren and Mercedes is equivalent to criticising Ronaldo because his Champions League titles came with Manchester United and Real Madrid - also teams who boast an advantage over the rest.

But, as in any team sport, the cream usually rises to the top - and Hamilton has actually overcome more obstacles than most to obtain his spot with one of the elite constructors.

Many budding F1 drivers come from extremely wealthy backgrounds or have connections in the sport, while Hamilton grew up on a council estate in Stevenage. The very fact that he was able to rise to the top in a sport where - unlike football or snooker - coming from a rich background is a massive advantage, is proof of what a sensational driver he is.

O'Sullivan too is a contender for greatest ever in his sport. The maverick cue genius has won more of snooker's Triple Crown events than any other player and sits one world championship behind Stephen Hendry on the all-time list.

So both Hamilton and O'Sullivan are clearly peerlessly skilled in their field. Only one way to settle this, boys: a cheeky 19-frame snooker match, then 62 laps of Silverstone in the same car, followed by handshakes all round.

All imagery: PA Images

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Topics: Formula One, Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1, Ronnie O'Sullivan, snooker