Lewis Hamilton will become the first 100-million-dollar man in motorsports history, according to former triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart. And that will just be for starters. Today, Sir Jackie will be watching from the stands in Shanghai as the British driver attempts to seal his first Formula One world championship, and take a huge step towards unbelievable fame and fortune. What makes it all the more remarkable is that this is still his rookie year. 'The sky is the limit for Lewis Hamilton. He will become the first Formula One driver to earn US$100 million in a year. He can do exactly what Tiger Woods has done. He will be bigger than Tiger,' predicted Stewart as he watched the rain hit the window of his Hong Kong hotel. The squally showers and blustery winds - 'this is a good day in Scotland' - will not prevent Stewart from keeping a date for a round of golf at Fanling. Life's pleasures must be savoured for the Scotsman, who is kept busy during the Formula One season by his sponsors, the Royal Bank of Scotland, which brought him to Hong Kong to speak at a mid-week charity dinner. And he had plenty to talk about, for this has been a spectacular season, one of the best, in the opinion of 'The Flying Scot', who was world champion in 1969, 1971 and 1973. Just when he thought he seen it all, Stewart has been left gushing at the exhilaration of the 2007 season. 'This has been one of the most exciting seasons Formula One has seen in decades. And all this is because of Lewis Hamilton. His arrival has brought excitement and thrills. He has added another dimension to the sport,' says the 68-year-old. What about the spy scandal that has rocked F1 this season? Will that take away the gloss from Hamilton's glory? Stewart is dismissive of the controversy, especially the decision by the FIA, the world governing body, to slap a US$100 million fine on McLaren. 'There won't be an asterisk against Hamilton's name in the future. His success has not been due to any technology transfer. He is a genuine world champion, that is, of course, if he does win the world championship. There are still two races to go and in this sport, you can never take anything for granted,' he says. He pointed to Hamilton's nerveless display at a rain-drenched Fuji circuit last weekend where he won the Japanese Grand Prix as a sign of the 22-year-old's greatness. 'That was an extraordinary performance from someone so young and relatively inexperienced. Hamilton showed the world he has loads of talent. He drove with such control in such poor conditions. On days like that, it is more about the driver than the car,' he said. But it has been the car, and the McLaren team, that have stolen the limelight in the past few months. The spy scandal where McLaren was fined a record US$100 million for possessing Ferrari technical data had led to calls from some quarters for the team's drivers - Hamilton and Fernando Alonso - to be thrown out of the championship. The team were stripped of all their constructors' points, but they escaped punishment. 'There doesn't seem to be sufficient proof for the scale of the sentence which was handed out. The sentence did not suit the crime. It was completely out of proportion,' says Stewart. 'While I don't endorse any sort of cheating, this case was about two men, two engineers, one from Ferrari and one from McLaren, who probably wanted to start their own business taking the information. I have no doubt that espionage was involved in this aspect, but this technology was never transferred to McLaren. 'They said the drivers had the technical information. But they did not have stuff that would have changed the car. What they had was paddock chatter like what strategy they are using, how much fuel they got in the car, what the tyre pressure was ... there was no earth-shattering information. 'If I walked down the pit lane, I could have found it out myself. This is not the same as 780 pages of documentation,' he explained. It was his view that the FIA was pursuing a witch-hunt against McLaren and their boss Ron Dennis that got Stewart into hot water with Max Mosley, the head of FIA, who last month apparently labelled the Scot a 'half-wit'. Stewart's minders warned before the interview not to bring up this topic. 'All this controversy was not good for the sport,' said Stewart, who has devoted a lifetime to motorsports and who famous race commentator Murray Walker once described as 'the greatest motor-racing personality of all time'. When Stewart first raced, he used a pseudonym A.N.Other to escape his mother Jeannie's attention. Only when his wedding was announced in the local press did his mum read of an 'up-and-coming racing driver'. She never forgave him and never acknowledged his success. His mum can be forgiven for taking such a hard-line view - racing in the 1960s was not a sport for the faint-hearted. 'It was a high-risk business. When I raced, the chances of getting killed in a crash were two out of three. Loss of life was horrendous. I carried my own doctor with me wherever I raced. He was experienced in seven areas, but the most important was that he was an anaesthetist so that he could keep me alive until help arrived.' Once in 1966, during a race at Spa-Francorchamps, Stewart ran off the track while driving at 270km/h and crashed into a telephone pole. His steering column pinned his legs while ruptured fuel tanks emptied their contents into the cockpit. There were no safety crews to help him or any medical assistance trackside. Stewart was put in the back of a pick-up truck until an ambulance arrived. He was taken to the track's first aid centre and waited on a stretcher while another ambulance came to pick him up. But the driver got lost driving to hospital. 'I realised then that safety precautions were diabolical in grand prix racing and I was determined to see that it would change,' says Stewart, who became an outspoken advocate of racing safety. Thanks to his efforts, F1 today is a much safer sport. In a belated recognition of this, and his deeds on the track, he was awarded a knighthood in 2001. 'Racetracks are much safer these days as they all have big run-off areas. The cars which are made of carbon composite are stronger too and the driver's cockpit is a cocoon of safety. But life can still be taken. It is still motor racing.' One thing that has changed in the decades between Stewart and Hamilton is the money and the exposure on television. 'I was the first racing millionaire and that came right at the end of my career in 1973. Compared to what the guys make today, what I got was small change. But I have no complaints,' says Stewart. Former world champion Michael Schumacher was reported to have earned US$80 million in 2004, his heyday. Once again small change when you think of Hamilton's earning potential, which Stewart predicts can easily top US$100 million a year soon. Sports Illustrated, in its list of top sporting money-earners for 2007, once again puts Tiger Woods at the top with earnings of US$120 million. Even this will pale into insignificance next to what is in store for Hamilton, says Stewart. 'The motor industry is bigger than the golf industry. You are talking about an enormously powerful segment which, behind construction and food and beverages, is the third-largest industry in the world. In golf, equipment sales volume is small compared with F1,' he says. 'Today everyone drives a motor vehicle, everyone can associate with motorsports. The world's six leading makers of cars use Formula One to drive their brand image. All the major multinationals in the world are involved in F1 in one way or another. 'Formula One is the largest television sport. The Olympics and the football World Cup may be bigger, but these are only once every four years. You get an F1 race every two weeks. I arrived at the dawn of the commercial age in motor racing. But it is so different today.'