BERLIN – Lewis Hamilton is very close to another milestone in his glittering career as victory on Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix would see him equal Michael Schumacher’s record 91 race wins.
It’s a special moment for the driver as he recently has been closing the gap to Schumacher. And 95 pole positions, 158 podiums, 24.710 kilometres in the lead – not even the German idol has achieved more in the 70-year history of Formula One.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who has been on the grid for almost all of Hamilton’s 90 wins, respects what his fellow world champion has achieve, but also have some mixed feelings.
“On one side, it’s sad to see the Michael record getting beaten as obviously he has been a huge part of Formula 1, especially for Ferrari, but on the other hand it’s only deserved for Lewis and I’m happy for him too if he manages to do that,” the German said.
Hamilton has tender memories of Schumacher, from who he took over at Mercedes in 2013. The fondest one is of a meeting in Abu Dhabi when they exchanged helmets. “That was really big for me.”
“For him to take a moment out of his day to exchange helmets with me, that’s the most valuable helmet that I have. Otherwise, we never really had any deep conversations or anything like that. It was just pure admiration,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday.
Emotions like that, however, should not be expected this weekend – even if he does match another Schumacher’s record.
“Of course it’s an honour, but it doesn’t really mean much. There are more important things in the world,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton’s work goes far beyond the racing tracks. Before the coronavirus crisis, he experimented having his own clothing line and also attempt a career as musician.
But he also dedicates a lot of time for serious issues such as the fight against racism and police violence or speaking up for climate protection.
The Briton played a key role ensuring drivers have the space and time to speak up about politics before races this season. He wants to fight for more equal opportunities and diversity in motor sport.
After his latest him in Mugello he wore a black shirt that said: “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor,” a reference to the 26-year-old black woman who was shot and killed by police in her apartment on March 13 in the US.
In support of his commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement, Mercedes painted the cars black this year.
The ruling body FIA wanted to start an investigation against Hamilton because of his action, but the process was quickly stopped, as FIA probably want to clarify their own rules.
“I won’t let anyone hold me,” Hamilton guaranteed. For him, it’s not about politics, which some believe shouldn’t have a place in sport. “It’s about human rights,” he said.
As once Schumacher was, Hamilton is now the face and the voice of Formula One, the superstar of his generation. No wonder Times Magazine recently named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.