Lewis Hamilton controlled his emotions as he equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 F1 wins with a measured triumph and thoughtful homage at the Eifel Grand Prix.
After completing his seventh win of the season, Hamilton was surprised to be greeted by Mick Schumacher, the son of the German seven-time world champion. Mick presented a red helmet from his father’s career collection to Hamilton.
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“Congratulations on a great achievement,” said Mick, a rising star who is leading the F2 series.
Clearly moved, Hamilton struggled for words.
“Thank you so much,” he said. “It’s such an honour. I don’t know what to say. When you grow up watching someone and idolising them …
“Seeing his dominance for so long, I don’t think I imagined I would be near him in terms of records so it’s an incredible honour.
“As I came in the pit lane, that was only when I realised I had equalled the record.
“I hadn’t computed it when I crossed the line — and I couldn’t have done this without this incredible team pushing behind me. So, a big thank you — and huge respect to Michael.”
Speaking to Sky Sports, Hamilton continued: “I just remember sitting on the couch with my brother and my dad watching the Grands Prix every Sunday and watching Michael storm ahead.
“We used to watch the start of the race, and probably the first half of the race and then, at the end, me and brother would go and race a racing game upstairs and I would be Michael.
“That was when I was 13, 14 and it’s just crazy to think that today … I did of course dream of one day being here, but it was beyond my wildest dreams to be reaching Michael’s wins.
“It’s very hard to describe how I feel right now.”
Taking to social media later on, Hamilton continued his tribute to the racing legend.
“I remember watching Michael as a kid, winning all those races and I was just dreaming of being there myself,” he wrote. “It shows dreams really can come true.
“A big, big thank you to @SchumacherMick, this was truly a surreal moment. One that I’ll remember forever.”
F1 journalist James Allen praised the thoughtfulness of the Schumacher family, writing: “This was a classy gesture by the Schumacher family. I was hoping they would do something like this — as the Senna family did when @LewisHamilton matched Ayrton’s pole record. The history of our sport is so important.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he still believes that Schumacher is “above all” but described Hamilton’s achievements as “surreal”.
“It is unbelievable that Lewis has reached those 91 wins,” said Wolff. “Lewis is still on his journey, but maybe there is somebody now in nursery or school that will some day go for the Lewis record as well — and that is how it should be.”
HAMILTON EXTENDS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD
Taking full advantage of Mercedes teammate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas’ early retirement with engine problems, Hamilton drove a well-judged race to claim his landmark victory.
On a circuit where Schumacher won five times, Hamilton came home 4.5 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to take his second Nurburgring victory, the other for McLaren in 2011. Daniel Ricciardo was third for Renault.
“I just tried to follow Lewis, but the Mercedes was just a little too fast for us,” said Verstappen. “But I did manage to grab fastest lap for the extra point.”
Bottas’ bad luck almost certainly ended his own title bid as Hamilton moved 69 points clear in the drivers’ championship. But the Brit was quick to warn of Red Bull’s threat.
“Red Bull have a great car and Max is so impressive,” he said. “It’s going to be close to the end of the season and into the next one. The closest racing between us is coming over the next 12 months.”
Assessing his record-equalling achievement, Hamilton added: “Ninety-one wins! Phew, it never gets any easier. It’s almost like it’s getting harder than it was for my first win in Montreal.
“It’s more demanding physically, in a different way and mentally demanding too, in a different way. This has been just as hard, if not harder, than my first Grand Prix win.”
Ricciardo’s podium success won him a bet with Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul who must now get a tattoo prescribed by the Australian.
“Yes, that’s going to happen,” Ricciardo laughed. “It will probably be something to do with me, but with a German flavour as this is the place where we did it.”
It was Ricciardo’s first podium finish since the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix and Renault’s first since the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez finished fourth for Racing Point ahead of Carlos Sainz of McLaren, Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and “super-sub” Nico Hulkenberg of Racing Point.
For Hulkenberg, it was a remarkable result coming only 24 hours after he had jumped into the cockpit of Lance Stroll’s car after a late call while he was in a cafe in Cologne.
Romain Grosjean, with an injured finger, was ninth for Haas ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo.
Hamilton’s success was also Mercedes’ first win at the Nurburgring since Juan-Manuel Fangio triumphed at the daunting 22.85km Nordschleife circuit in 1954.