History is calling, and any race now—as early as Sunday’s F1 Russian Grand Prix in Sochi—Lewis Hamilton will answer that call.
Hamilton is one win away from what was not that long ago thought to be one of sport’s unbreakable records. Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula 1 race wins is about to go down.
Hamilton is at 90 wins and counting.
Then again, even Babe Ruth’s home run record didn’t last forever.
“Numbers are not really necessarily something that I focus on,” Hamilton said on Thursday during press availability in Sochi, Russia, ahead of the F1 Russian Grand Priz weekend. “I come into this weekend, it’s no different to any other weekend to me. I want to beat everyone else out there, and I know how hard that is.”
But it’s not any other weekend for the sport.
Schumacher won his last Formula 1 race in his 246th start. That race was on Oct. 1, 2006 in Shanghai, China. Hamilton will be making his 260th career start when he takes to the starting grid on Sunday in Russia.
At the time Schumacher reached No. 91, second place on the Formula 1 wins list was Alain Prost with just 51 wins. Hamilton’s first race in F1 was in 2007, and his first win came on June 10 of that year in Montreal.
“I want to beat everyone else out there, and I know how hard that is.”
The wins record is not the only Schumacher mark in Hamilton’s sights. Hamilton, with six titles and a huge lead in the current standings, is well on his way to matching Schumacher’s record of seven championships. Schumacher won his seventh title at the age of 35. Hamilton is 35.
“I think championship numbers perhaps are a little bit different,” Hamilton said. “When you win a championship, it’s something that’s so far in the distance and almost impossible, out of reach.
“You try to get there, but you’re never really sure whether you’re going to get there. And when you do get there, you’re already then focused on what’s next. Perhaps it’s not until long after for me that I’ll realize (all the accomplishments).”
One driver who isn’t getting caught up in all the hoopla is Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“I don’t really think about that,” Verstappen said. “I just look at myself and I try to win races and I try to win championships. I’m not really too bothered about who is driving and the amount of race wins they have or championships. That’s nothing I can control. The only thing I can control is myself and try to work with the team to be more competitive so they stop winning.”
Esteban Ocon comes from the other side. He realizes that his witnessing history, first-hand. Ocon spent 2019 as a development driver for Mercedes, and he got to know Hamilton a little better than maybe some of his other rivals.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Ocon said. “Michael is my idol, is the one I always look to. And he was obviously dominating when I was in my karting days, very young. After his domination, obviously, we thought it was going be quite some time before someone can do that again.
“And it didn’t take so much time. Obviously Lewis came, and he’s probably going to get that done. It’s very impressive. I had the chance to work closely with Lewis last year and to watch it from the inside. He’s on top of his game and definitely all of this is deserved.”
Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo says that it doesn’t hurt that Hamilton has been with the dominate team at Mercedes for 69 of his 90 victories to date.
“It’s very likely that he’s going to get it done,” Ricciardo said. “I’m sure it’s going to be sooner rather than later. He’s been in a Mercedes and they’ve dominated, so surely it’s a bit easier for him, but it’s easy to day that. Yes, it’s more likely that he’s going to be on the podium than a lot of the others of us, but to have that expectation year in and year out and to keep delivering, that’s something in itself, let along breaking all these records.
“Hats off to Lewis. We’ll see if that gets done this weekend.”
Hamilton says that kind of talk about the Mercedes advantage comes with the territory.
“I always speak about me just being one of the links in a very, very big chain.” he said. “There’s a huge group of people who work so hard week in and week out who I’m so grateful to. That’s the best part of this job really, apart from driving this rocket around the track. It’s seeing these amazing minds come together and create things throughout the year as innovation is at its highest.
“Valtteri (teammate Bottas) and I kind of get to play the rudder role, help steer that powerful group of innovators in the direction which help us do what we do best.”
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