SEBASTIAN VETTEL has backed Michael Schumacher in Formula One's debate over the greatest driver of all-time.

With Lewis Hamilton going level with the German legend, 51, and his record 91 race wins, the sport has been keen to discuss exactly who is better.

For Vettel, Ferrari hero Schumacher ranks higher thanks to his 'natural' talent.

He told reporters: "I think he was better than anybody else I've ever seen so far. I think he had a natural talent that is very difficult to explain.

"I think if you saw him go karting, obviously I didn't see him at a young age but I did at an older age, and I was happy to join him in the Race of Champions a couple of times.

"So you see a little bit more of the skills and the car control. And both the karting experience and the Race of Champions experience, I think he had a natural ability that, as I said, I haven't seen with anyone else so far.

"On top of that, he had an incredible work ethic, but I think it's the combination of the two that for me stands out. I haven't seen a match yet."

Schumacher won seven world titles in a fantastic career split between Benetton and Ferrari, with a stint at Mercedes before Hamilton's arrival.

Indeed, it was the six-time champion Brit who ended Vettel's supremacy in F1.

Four consecutive world titles in a row put the German on course to match his compatriot, before the Mercs dominated the Hybrid V6 era that began in 2014.

Michael will always be my hero. And I think he had something about him that I haven't seen in another driver so far.

Vettel noted: "I think I can't respect [Hamilton's] efforts enough.

"It's been the number in my head that I thought would never be beaten or equalled. I think we can be quite certain he will exceed this number.

"Nevertheless, I have to say that Michael will always be my hero. And I think Michael had something about him that I haven't seen in another driver so far."

Growing up in Germany and beginning his racing career at the height of Schumacher's fame, 33-year-old Vettel admits he will always make the argument for his childhood idol.

And he believes youngsters of today are likely to be visceral supporters of Hamilton, even if a handful of F1 veterans are not.

He continued: "I looked up to Michael when I was a child and Lewis, I didn't look up to him when I was a child because I was racing him.

"So it's a different situation going in. But probably in another 10, 15 or 20 years' time, there will be more admiration for that.

"Obviously, when you're still active, you're looking at yourself and not so much others. But as I said you cannot cherish him enough for what he has achieved."

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