Ronnie O’Sullivan has doubted the achievements of fellow Sports Personality of the Year contender Lewis Hamilton, saying “it doesn’t mean as much” when sport is not on a level playing field.
Hamilton claimed an historic seventh world title last week to match Michael Schumacher’s total and further embellish his reputation as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time.
But O’Sullivan, who claimed his sixth snooker world title earlier this year, believes the advantage of driving the best car on the grid lessens Hamilton’s feat when compared to stars of other sports.
“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).
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“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.”
Hamilton is the current favourite to win the BBC’s Sports Personality award, which will be handed out on 13 December, ahead of footballer Marcus Rashford and heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, with O’Sullivan fourth in the running according to the bookies.
“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, Nadal, Djokovic, Phil Taylor in darts, Tiger Woods, Messi, Ronaldo… it’s there to see.”
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