Lewis Hamilton looks sure to become the most successful Formula One driver of all time but argument about the greatest will rumble on.
But the Mercedes driver, who equalled Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 91 wins in Sunday’s Eifel Grand Prix at Nürburgring and is heading for a seventh title, said that did not matter to him.
“There’s a lot of talk in all sports about greatest, past and present, and I think it’s almost impossible to compare,” said the Briton.
“There’s all this talk of who is and who is not and it’s not important to me. What’s important is the journey…it’s what we’ve done along the way, the obstacles you’ve faced. And everyone’s got a different journey.”
Triple world champion Jackie Stewart, previously Britain’s most successful driver, said last week Hamilton would not be in his top three because there were so many more races now and the Mercedes was so superior.
The sport’s only Black driver, who has broken down barriers and spoken out on a range of subjects from racial injustice to the environment, said he got knocked by many people and especially older drivers.
“Maybe one day they’ll get over it,” Hamilton said.
“I have so much respect for the past legends, even those that do continue to talk negatively about me all the time. I still hold them in high regard because I know it was a different time in history. It was incredibly tough for them.
“In 20 years’ time when I’m looking back…I will not be talking down any young driver that’s coming through and succeeding, because a responsibility as an older driver is to shine the light as bright as possible and encourage those.
“There’s going to be someone else, whether it’s Max (Verstappen) or whoever, chasing the record that I eventually set. It’s the wrong approach to be hoping he doesn’t break it.”
“You should be encouraging them to live to their full potential and if that means them getting to that record, that’s amazing.”
Hamilton was presented with one of Schumacher’s helmets by the German’s son Mick after the victory at the Nuerburgring, with the youngster offering the family’s congratulations.
The sense of achievement was not lost on his rivals, either.
As Australian Daniel Ricciardo observed, if Hamilton had taken his 91 wins consecutively then nobody else in Formula One would have had a look in for the past four and a half seasons.
“It’s incredible and very impressive. And I’m pretty sure there will be some more victories coming his way, and probably also championships,” said Red Bull’s Verstappen, runner-up on Sunday.
Hamilton is now 69 points clear at the top and closest rival, Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, recognised it would take a miracle to stop him taking the title.
Many more wins will surely follow for a man who has averaged 10 a season since 2014. He is on seven for 2020 with six races remaining.
The tally could be well past 100 before Hamilton hangs up his helmet, with rules and cars staying substantially the same next year.
Mercedes have won both titles for the last six years and are set to make that seven, with Hamilton likely to be around for some time to come even if he has yet to sign a new contract.
“Hopefully, we have got more records to break and to make,” he said on Sunday.
“I am not done yet. I still feel I am able to improve. I still feel I am driving at a really good level.”
Hamilton goes beyond his wildest dreams with 91st F1 win
Lewis Hamilton said equalling Michael Schumacher’s Formula One win record with a 91st victory on Sunday was beyond his wildest dreams.
The Briton, heading for a seventh title and set to become the sport’s most successful driver of all time after his Eifel Grand Prix victory at the Nuerburgring, said his achievement would take time to sink in.
Schumacher’s records once seemed sure to stand for the ages, with some doubting they would ever be beaten, but only a brave punter would bet against Mercedes driver Hamilton reaching 100 wins and more.
“I don’t know how it is for other drivers when they have these wins but it takes some time for you to analyse it and for it to sink in, to realise what it actually means,” said the 35-year-old.
“Like all of us, I grew up watching Michael win all of those grands prix and I couldn’t have fathomed equalling him.
“I think getting to Formula One was the first step of the dream and obviously emulating (Brazilian triple champion) Ayrton (Senna). But Michael was just so far ahead.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams to think that I’m here today having equalled him and I just feel really humbled by the moment and the opportunity I was given when I was 13 by Mercedes.”
The win was not the only milestone Hamilton reached on Sunday, with the Briton also stretching his records for successive points finishes (44) and most podiums (160).
Hamilton said winning did not get easier, even if luck was on his side on Sunday with team mate and closest rival Valtteri Bottas retiring due to a power unit problem, and it had not been easy for Schumacher either.
“What he did at both the teams he was at, particularly Ferrari, was just remarkable,” Hamilton said of the Ferrari great, who retired in 2012 after a final stint with Mercedes.
“It’s hard for people to perhaps fully understand how hard it was for him to have got those 91 wins, to deliver weekend in weekend out, year on year, and stay so physically in shape and so precise. I understand that now more than ever.
“I can only tell you that it doesn’t get easier. From your first win to your 91st I’m telling you it’s been a long hard run.”
Hamilton matches Schumacher’s record with 91st win
Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 91 Formula One wins on Sunday with an Eifel Grand Prix victory that catapulted the Mercedes driver closer to a seventh world championship.
While the Briton triumphed at the Nuerburgring, the German circuit where Ferrari great Schumacher won five times, team mate Valtteri Bottas suffered a huge hit to his title hopes with a first retirement of the season.
Hamilton, celebrating his seventh win of the season, is now 69 points clear of the Finn — equal to nearly three race wins — with six rounds remaining.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second, and took a bonus point by seizing fastest lap from Hamilton right at the end, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo third for Renault in his first podium since 2018 when he was at Red Bull.
That was also Renault’s first as a constructor since their return in 2016.
Schumacher’s son Mick, the Formula Two leader who could be racing against Hamilton next season, presented the Briton with one of his father’s red helmets from his second stint in F1 with Mercedes.
“Congratulations and this is on behalf of all of us. A great achievement, really,” said Mick, whose father suffered serious head injuries in a 2013 skiing accident and has not been seen in public since.
“Thank you so much, it’s such an honour,” said Hamilton before stepping up onto the podium at the circuit closest to Schumacher’s boyhood home in Kerpen. “I don’t even know what to say.
“When you grow up watching someone you generally idolise them, you know, really just in terms of the quality of the driver they are but what they are able to continuously do, year on year and race on race and week on week,” added the Briton.
“Seeing his dominance for so long, I don’t think anyone and especially me didn’t imagine I’d be anywhere near Michael in terms of records. So it’s an incredible honour and it’s going to take some time to get used to it.”
Hamilton said he only realised the significance of what he had done when he came into the pitlane after taking the chequered flag.
Bottas had started on pole, with Hamilton second on the grid and raising concern about his steering wheel, and came out ahead through the opening corners after a wheel-to-wheel battle with his team mate.
The Finn opened the door, however, on lap 13 when he ran wide at turn one and damaged his tyres with Hamilton close behind and going ahead at turn two.
Bottas then reported a loss of power during a virtual safety car period five laps later and was retired by the team in the pits.
“Unlucky. What can I say,” the Finn told Sky Sports television.
The safety car was deployed late in the race when McLaren’s Lando Norris pulled off with a smoking engine and both Hamilton and Verstappen were persistent in complaining over the radio about the slow pace and their tyres going cold.
Hamilton managed the restart smoothly and from then on it was just a question of managing the final laps to the historic finale.
Mexican Sergio Perez was fourth for Racing Point with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz fifth and Pierre Gasly sixth for AlphaTauri.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished seventh and Nico Hulkenberg went from last on the grid to eighth as a stand-in at Racing Point for unwell Canadian Lance Stroll.
Romain Grosjean scored his first points of the season with ninth for Haas and Italian Antonio Giovinazzi was 10th for Alfa Romeo.
His team mate Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion making a record 323rd Formula One start, was 12th.
FORMULA 1 ARAMCO GROSSER PREIS DER EIFEL 2020
|1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||1:35:49.641||25|
|2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||+4.470s||19|
|3 Daniel RICCIARDO Renault||+14.613s||15|
|4 Sergio PEREZ Racing Point||+16.070s||12|
|5 Carlos SAINZ McLaren||+21.905s||10|