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Formula 1

What Hamilton’s thinking on the brink of F1 history

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
7 min read

Lewis Hamilton is poised to secure his record-equalling seventh Formula 1 title in the Turkish Grand Prix but believes his achievements are about more than matching Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton has already eclipsed Schumacher’s F1 win record and will draw level with the Ferrari legend in the championship stakes unless Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas outscores him by eight points or more in Turkey this weekend.

“Watching the TV and watching Michael get seven, you’re like ‘wow! That’s seven!’. When you’re in it, it’s different” :: Lewis Hamilton

As a seventh title has drawn nearer, Hamilton has been quizzed at length about his records, his 2020 title, and his off-track pursuits including anti-racism movements and diversity initiatives.

Here is how Hamilton views the biggest topics as he stands on the brink of F1 history.


Lewis Hamilton Mick Schumacher Michael Schumacher helmet

Hamilton has always said that statistics mean more to other people than they do to him and maintains it is “really difficult to say” what joining Schumacher on seven titles will mean to him.

Matching his childhood hero Ayrton Senna with three world titles back in 2015 was a significant milestone for Hamilton, though.

And after this year’s Eifel GP, in which Hamilton equalled Schumacher’s record of 91 grand prix victories, Hamilton was visibly emotional when Schumacher’s son Mick presented him with one of Michael’s old Mercedes crash helmets to mark the occasion.

So while Hamilton is not one to talk up the significance of an achievement before it happens, the likelihood is his position will shift once it begins to sink in.

“The numbers and the figures and the titles and all that stuff, it perhaps appears to mean more from the outside,” he says.

“Watching the TV and watching Michael get seven, you’re like ‘wow! That’s seven!’. When you’re in it, it’s different.

“We’re going to continue to fight for more championships, we’re going to continue to try and improve and continue to race and do what we love doing.

“I think what’s important is the journey. This year has been combined with the fight for equality. And a real growing process this year of learning what’s happening around the world and being a little bit more aware of surroundings and starting to see progress with that.

“So, matching an icon like Michael, I’d be incredibly proud of that. But I think it’s more the message that it hopefully sends to people: that you have to dream bigger than you think you can dream and don’t let anyone tell you can’t go for that.”


Lewis Hamilton Breonna Taylor T-shirt

In addition to his commanding run to the 2020 world title, Hamilton has broadened his horizons this season with the launch of the Hamilton Commission, an initiative to understand the root causes of motorsport’s lack of diversity and make recommendations to change that.

He has been an enthusiastic supporter of anti-racism movements and continued to warn of the consequences of climate change and advocate sustainable lifestyle choices.

His human rights efforts have been the most prominent of Hamilton’s off-track endeavours because he has made a concerted effort to use his F1 platform to amplify his message as much as possible.

Asked to compare what he is trying to achieve off-track with the prospect of a record-equalling seventh title, Hamilton says “I don’t think you can compare them”.

“Winning a world championship’s very much a personal thing, in the sense that you’re fighting with a group of people for a championship but the drivers’ one is one individual,” he says.

“And that doesn’t necessarily impact people’s lives.

“I think doing the work outside is a much bigger issue and something I’m much prouder of, trying to improve conditions for people around the world.

“Everyone has the right to equality and quality education, human rights, equal human rights. So that’s the most important thing.”


Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Turkish GP practice

Hamilton’s coronation is a question of when, not if. He has an enormous lead over Bottas and soon it will be unassailable.

The expectation is he will win the title in Turkey but Hamilton says he has learned from experience not to get carried away. That is not to say Hamilton fears the championship will be stolen from him dramatically, in a 2007-style turnaround.

“I remember when I was fighting for the first world championship and the pressure that was there that was not needed” :: Lewis Hamilton

But he has learned to maintain a race-by-race approach in the knowledge that the championship will come when it comes, and building up the prospect of winning the title only adds unnecessary pressure.

To that end, he insists he has not thought about the title before this weekend.

“The goal is to win the race,” he says. “So, I keep that as the focus.

Lewis Hamilton 2007

“I remember when I was fighting for the first world championship and I remember the build up to those races towards the end and the pressure that was there that was not needed.

“If I knew then what I know now I would have easily won that championship.

“But hindsight is always a great thing.

“Over the years, I’ve learned not to add pressure that’s unnecessary. We still have four races. So I’ve got four races to try and battle for those points.

“I don’t put it all on one weekend, one day. So for me, this is another race. I need to approach exactly the same as I have in the past. Because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“Maybe then that’s why sometimes it’s a shock. All of a sudden it hits you because you really delayed it, you’ve just not thought about it so much.

Lewis Hamilton wins 2019 F1 title

“You don’t know what to say, you don’t know how to feel about it. Because you never truly know whether it’s really going to happen.

“The best thing to do is I’m not focused on the ‘what if?’, I’m focused on preparing myself the same as I’ve done before to try and deliver the way I have been doing all this season.”


Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Race Day Imola, Italy

A seventh title will only further criticism from some quarters that Hamilton is a beneficiary of dramatically inflated career statistics by virtue of being in the best team, and having the best car.

Now is not the time to explain the arguments that counter that simplistic, lazy accusation. However, it is a fitting moment to reflect on the massive career decision that made Hamilton’s date with destiny possible.

When he left McLaren to join Mercedes he was a one-time world champion who was, potentially, at risk of his prodigious potential being relatively unfulfilled.

Eight seasons, 72 wins and (almost) six titles later, Hamilton’s Mercedes move could not have worked out any better.

“It was far beyond my wildest dreams thinking that we’d get to seven,” he admits.

“I dreamt of trying to do something that Ayrton had done. And getting one world championship was great. And then it was very tough, obviously, to get the second.

Lewis Hamilton McLaren Nico Rosberg Mercedes Spanish Grand Prix 2012 Barcelona

“I spent years trying to help the [McLaren] team win another world championship, then I had to make a big decision on whether I stay put and keep chugging along, or go and do something more adventurous.

“Obviously I took that leap of faith. And then we’ve got one after the other here. And I really just, after each one, try and count my blessings, because you have to be grateful for what you have, not what you might have.

“I knew I made a really good decision. I knew it’s the right thing for me. But did I know that we would win six world titles? No.

“I think what it says is that in life, we’ve got to make sure we take that leap of faith.

“Do what you think is right for you, and not what people tell you to do. And do the homework.

“So you have the pros and cons, and then go with it – all in, whether it’s good or bad.”

Some may not understand the extent to which Hamilton going “all in” has made his Mercedes success possible, given the often-underestimated role he has played in the team’s sustained dominance.

But nobody can dispute how good a judgment that leap of faith turned out to be.

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