Moss sure that Hamilton is on to another winner

Former English Formula One driver Stirling Moss waves to spectators as he sits in his 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza during the Ennstal Classic rally near the Austrian village of Groebming July 20, 2013. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

LONDON (Reuters) - Stirling Moss is a great admirer of Lewis Hamilton but he has distinct views about how a winner should behave on the Formula One podium.

It is not that he disapproves of the champagne spraying that landed the Mercedes driver in trouble in China this month, with the Briton aiming a stream of bubbly at a hostess, but his was a very different era.

"Champagne spraying didn’t really exist in my day, it was brought in mostly by (American) Dan Gurney. I think he was the first person who did it," Moss told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

"With good looking girls, I think it would be rather nice to give them an embrace rather than cover them in champagne, frankly."

Moss, now 85 and generally recognised as the greatest driver never to win a Formula One title, can otherwise see something of himself in Hamilton -- even if the 30-year-old has already won two championships.

The pair are both two times winners of the British Grand Prix, with Moss the first Briton to triumph on home soil in an epic 1955 race and Hamilton the most recent last year, and both with Mercedes.

The two men recently got together at the venerable Monza circuit near Milan to lap the ancient banking in the 1955 Mercedes that Moss used to win that year's Mille Miglia (thousand miles) road race from Brescia to Rome and back.

"He really was quite excited to drive the car," said the winner of 16 grands prix and four times F1 championship runner-up, at a book launch ("Stirling Moss: My Racing Life") to coincide with the 60th anniversary of his celebrated victory.

"The banking is terribly rough now but...he really enjoyed driving the thing. Whether he'd enjoy it if he had to race it I don't know."

Moss suspected that the answer would be yes, however: "I think frankly Lewis would be one of the guys who would love to have raced back in the days, because he definitely is a very fast driver," he decided.

"He and (Sebastian) Vettel and (Fernando) Alonso, you are talking about guys who are really that good that I’m sure they would have been at the top whatever year."

Hamilton is currently leading the championship from Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg by a hefty 27 points after winning three of the first four races and starting all of them from pole position.

The Briton is also in the middle of negotiating a new contract with Mercedes that could be worth some $40 million (£26 million) a year for a driver who was last week listed as the richest active sportsman in Britain.

For Moss, who can lay claim to being the first truly professional racing driver of the post-war era, such untold wealth belongs to another world.

"I won the German Grand Prix in 1961 and that was worth 1,000 pounds," he said. "By today's standards, that would be 10 or 12,000 pounds. The most I ever won in a year was about 34,000 pounds.

"But the time when I was racing was certainly the most fun."

Moss, still an avid follower of Formula One even if his preferred mode of transport these days is a Renault Twizy electric car, expected Hamilton to have his third championship all but wrapped up by the time he returned to Monza.

"I think he probably will. He’s got the right engine. You’ve got to have a Mercedes to win. He’s got that, he’s got the skill. He has a lot of experience. He’s been around quite a while now," he said.

"I don’t think Nico will ever beat him, actually."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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