Portimão (dpa) – When Lewis Hamilton left the site of his historic triumph, he also thought of Michael Schumacher with emotion.
“I will forever feel the greatest admiration and respect, it is a real honor to be mentioned with you in one sentence,” said the 35-year-old Briton.
Hamilton has been the only Grand Prix winner scale since Sunday. He can already put the Schumacher brand of the seven world championships in the race after the next one in Turkey in three weeks. “Every race feels like the first,” Hamilton said in Portimão. His first was on March 18, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. The first victory followed on June 10 of the same year in Montréal, Canada, and the 92nd in the Grand Prix of Portugal 4856 days later.
The match bends. “Before the race, I said he had to reach 92,” said Sebastian Vettel, 53-time Grand Prix winner and third on the list of the best. No envy, no resentment, although he too could have been the one who could have set the highlights of his idol and friend Schumacher, who for a long time was considered unattainable.
But Vettel switched to Ferrari after the four world titles with Red Bull 2015. Vettel wanted the ultimate coronation in the red racing car – and he failed. Hamilton bet on the Silver Arrows after his first World Cup win in 2008 with McLaren – and knew. “Mister Perfect”, wrote the Swiss “Blick”. The British “Guardian” sees an “athlete at the peak of his strength”.
Many would argue that it was easy to achieve these successes with a car like this, Vettel said, referring to Hamilton and his undisputed superior Mercedes. Vettel also said that the performance was not appreciated enough.
Driver and car always form a symbiosis. Hamilton and Mercedes have driven this to perfection. “That’s almost a surreal number of wins,” said team principal Toto Wolff. The 48-year-old Viennese is the godfather of the incredibly successful series. Leaving Hamilton unfold alone, he accepted the initial whims, including the Brit’s dislike of simulator test drives.
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Wolff transformed the immigrant son into a thoroughly controversial sports superstar who wanted to be a pioneer, benchmark and role model far beyond the horse power circus. “I don’t know where I’m partying today as we currently live like hermits, but I’m flying home to see my wife and son,” Wolff said after his pilot’s record run. “I’m sure we’ll have a drink during dinner.”
Next weekend, the champagne for the possible seventh title of Mercedes design engineer can be frozen in series. Emotions are inevitable: the race takes place in Imola, on the track where Ayrton Senna died in a terrible accident during a deep black weekend in May 1994 for Formula 1. Hamilton knows that, they all know that.
Hamilton, who won eight of the previous 12 races in the improvised Corona emergency season and also wanted the dog Roscoe in Portugal in the winning photo with the team, will also start as a big favorite in Imola. He cannot yet clarify the driver’s title there, but can do so two weeks later in Istanbul. He is currently leading with 77 points ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, who happens to be number 77, and 94 points ahead of Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman’s hopes to steal the title of youngest Formula 1 world champion from Vettel have given way to disappointment at Hamilton’s ruthlessness. “92 wins and that’s not the end. He’s over 100. I have to drive until I’m about 40,” said the 23-year-old Red Bull.
At the Formula 1 premiere in Portimão, Hamilton also left open how long he would like to stay in the top class of motorsport. He still hasn’t signed a new contract. He wants to be there again next year, that’s his plan. It is no more accurate.
By 2021, he should be in the three-digit range: he already has 97 posts, plus 92 wins. Title number seven is just a matter of time. “I don’t believe the saying, the sky is the limit,” said Hamilton. In Formula 1 terms, he is the limit.