Lewis Hamilton admitted he was struggling to put into words what he was feeling after his victory in the Eifel Grand Prix on Sunday saw him draw level with the legendary Michael Schumacher as the most winningest driver in Formula 1 history.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver now has ninety-one wins to his name, the same number as Schumacher, while he is inching closer to another record the German driver holds, which is seven World Drivers’ Championship titles.
After the race, Mick Schumacher, the son of Michael, was there to give Hamilton one of his father’s helmets in recognition of the achievement.
“It’s tough to put what this means into words,” said Hamilton. “I remember watching Michael winning all those races when I was a kid and playing racing games with my brother and choosing to play as Michael.
“I dreamed of being there myself, but I don’t think anyone and especially me, imagined another driver getting anywhere near Michael’s records. It was beyond my wildest dreams to be equalling his number of race wins and it just shows that dreams can come true.
“It’s an incredible honour and something that will take some time to sink in. But I couldn’t have done it without this incredible team, everyone pushing so hard and giving it absolutely everything. A huge thank you to everyone back at the factories and also a huge respect for Michael, I feel really grateful today.”
Hamilton was made to work hard for the win, especially in the opening segment, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas defending robustly from the Briton into turns one and two on the opening lap. The Finn held the lead until he made a mistake to allow Hamilton through, and from there on in, it was a race the Briton was in full control of.
He was on course to take the bonus point for fastest lap as well, only for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen to steal that away from him on the final lap.
“In terms of the race itself, it was tough out there,” said Hamilton. “I had a really good start and Valtteri did an amazing job to defend into Turn 2, I wouldn’t expect it to be any other way.
“Then it was about trying to figure out how I could beat Valtteri, so I really had to look after the tyres and make sure I stuck with him. I saw he was struggling a bit and knew the opportunity would come, but then he had the lock-up.
“I managed to build a good gap after that, but then the Safety Car came out. Max was right behind me and I knew I had to have a strong restart to keep him behind. I managed to catch him out which is always nice and that gave me the jump I needed.
“But you can see the pace Red Bull had at the end, so we’ve got a serious fight on our hands.”
“It’s a frustrating way to finish a race” – Valtteri Bottas
After losing the lead to Hamilton, Bottas headed to the pit lane for fresh tyres, but his day was to go from bad to worse as he lost power from his Mercedes-Benz engine and was forced to retire from the race.
Mercedes attempted to find a fix for the issue, but it ultimately turned out to be terminal, and he now sits sixty-nine points behind his team-mate in the Drivers’ Championship with only six races of the season to go.
“It’s a frustrating way to finish a race, it was really good fun until I started to lose power during the Virtual Safety Car,” said Bottas. “The start and the battle with Lewis through the first couple of corners was nice, there was no way I was going to make it easy for him.
“Obviously, later on I had a lock-up into Turn 1 and lost the position, which meant I stopped early. The new tyres were starting to feel pretty good and I was hopeful I could have potentially undercut. Everything was still to play for.
“But then it was quite a big loss of power – something wrong with the Power Unit. We’ll have to investigate what that is, but it was really unlucky. I went around for a couple of laps to see if it recovered but there was nothing else we could do.”