Formula One is mourning the loss of motor racing great Sir Stirling Moss, who has died at the age of 90.

His wife Lady Moss told the PA news agency he died peacefully at his London home in the early hours of Sunday morning following a long illness.

“It was one lap too many,” she said. “He just closed his eyes.”

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who built a close friendship with Moss, said on Instagram Moss would always be “in our memories and will always be such a huge part of British Motorsports Heritage.”

Three-time world champion Jackie Stewart, who collected Moss’ autograph as a youngster and went on to become Godfather to his son Elliot, told BBC Five Live Moss “walked like a racing driver should walk, he talked like a racing driver, he looked like a racing driver and he set a standard that I think has been unmatched since he retired”.

And another former world champion, Damon Hill, said Moss “epitomised” what it was to be a racing driver to a generation.

“The guy cocked a snook at danger and took on an incredibly difficult challenge and prevailed,” he said. “He was a winner.”

Though Moss famously never won the Formula One title, he was regarded as one of the greatest ever drivers as he survived and thrived in the sport’s most dangerous era.

Enzo Ferrari once called Moss the greatest driver in the world while five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio – who beat Moss to the title three times between 1955 and 1957 – called Moss the best of his era.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014

Moss finished runner-up in the championship standings four times and finished third on three occasions in a career during which he won 16 Grands Prix.

In an age when racing drivers competed in several different disciplines alongside Formula One, Moss won a total of 212 of the 529 races he entered in his career, competing in some 84 different makes of car.

Born in London in 1929, Moss was the son of amateur racing driver Alfred and his wife Aileen.

He began his career in 1948 behind the wheel of his father’s car. In the early years of his Formula One career, he often struggled due to his machinery, preferring to drive British cars rather than their often superior foreign rivals.

But his breakthrough came in a Mercedes as he took his first Formula One win in 1955 at the British Grand Prix at Aintree, becoming the first British winner of the event.