Lewis Hamilton has become accustomed to making history and, at a rain-soaked Turkish Grand Prix, the Englishman put his name in the record books once again as he equaled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles.
To win Formula One’s drivers’ championship at Istanbul Park, the Mercedes driver needed to finish ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas and did so with ease in often treacherous conditions, securing a fourth successive title by winning the race after starting sixth.
Last month Hamilton, 35, surpassed Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 Grand Prix wins to become the sport’s most successful racer and had long since broken the German’s career pole-positions record.
Should he remain in the sport, Hamilton will be widely expected to add to his tally of world titles. But, whatever he achieves in the years ahead, his place in F1’s pantheon is assured.
“For all the kids out there who dream the impossible, you can do it too – I believe in you guys,” said Hamilton on his radio after crossing the finishing line for his 94th Grand Prix win.
It was a brilliant drive from one of the all-time greats. After poor practice and qualifying sessions this weekend, question marks were raised as to whether Hamilton could win in Turkey. In wet conditions, it was Hamilton’s decisive call on tyres which ultimately proved pivotal, with the Mercedes driver taking control halfway through the race.
After victory was achieved, Hamilton embraced his team and, with tears in his eyes, told Sky Sports he was “lost for words.”
“I have to start with saying such a huge thank you to all the guys that are here, and all the guys that are back at the factory … I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t join this team and the journey we’ve been on has been monumental,” he said.
“I want to say a big thanks to team LH for sticking with me all these years, and to my family. We dreamed of this when I was young and this is way, way beyond our dreams.”
Hamilton, who has equaled a record many thought was untouchable when Schumacher won his seventh title in 2004, received congratulatory messages from his fellow drivers, sports stars from around the world and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Massively deserved,” tweeted former world champion Nico Rosberg, a former Mercedes teammate of Hamilton and one of the few drivers to finish ahead of Hamilton in the championship during the Briton’s 14-year career.
Former Manchester United and England footballer Rio Ferdinand tweeted that his compatriot was the “greatest sportsman this country has ever produced – no doubts.”
Johnson tweeted: “An impressive victory – well done @LewisHamilton! You have made us all so proud.”
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez finished over 31 seconds behind Hamilton in second, while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third. In finishing 14th, Bottas – the only man who could have denied Hamilton the title – was lapped by his teammate and finished with no points.
Driving in the same Mercedes machinery, Bottas’ performance illustrated just how superior a talent Hamilton is. No one has come close to challenging the world champion during this truncated season and he secured the title with three races still remaining, having won four races in a row and 10 of 14 races so far this year.
No driver has been as successful on the track as Hamilton, and no F1 world champion has used his stature like Hamilton, the sport’s first and only Black world champion in its 70-year history.
The 35-year-old has long been the face of his sport – his domination and heart-on-sleeve personality has made him arguably the most recognizable British sportsman on the planet – but, in 2020 especially, he became one of British sport’s leading voices supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and, consequently, his sport’s voice too.
Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, Hamilton said campaigning for equal rights had made him “much prouder” than the prospect of a seventh world title.
But as the checkered flag was waved, it became clear how much this title meant this once-in-a-generation talent.
“My whole life I probably have, secretly, dreamt as high as this but it felt so far fetched. Seven is just unimaginable,” Hamilton said on the podium.
“I feel like I’m only just getting started, it’s really weird. I feel physically in great shape and mentally, this year, has been the hardest probably for millions of people.
“I know things always look great from here on the big stage, (but) It’s no different for us athletes. This has been a challenge, I didn’t know how to get through. I managed to keep my head above water and stay focused … “