Lewis Hamilton is now statistically the most successful driver in Formula 1 history, having tied Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles at the Turkish Grand Prix. 

Hamilton’s 10th win from 14 races so far this season clinched a seventh world championship that added to his previous triumphs in 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. 

It was the 94th victory of Hamilton’s career, after he surpassed Schumacher’s previous record of 91 wins at the Portuguese Grand Prix, while the Briton already holds the benchmark for most pole positions, which he has stretched out to 97. 

Hamilton was overcome with emotion as the scale of his achievement dawned on him following his spectacular drive in treacherously wet conditions at a slippery Istanbul Park

"Woohoo!" Hamilton exclaimed over team radio as he fought back the tears when he crossed the line. "Thank you so much guys.

"That's for all the kids out there that dream the impossible. You can do it too, I believe in you guys.”

He added after the race: "This is way, way beyond our dreams. It felt so far-fetched.

"I remember watching Michael winning the championships, and just to get one, or two, or three - it's so hard to get. 

“Seven is just unimaginable but when you work with such a great group of people and you really trust each other, there is just no end to what you can do together.

"I feel like I'm only just getting started, it's really weird.”

Hamilton is now joint-level with Schumacher in terms of championships after moving two clear of the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio on the all-time leaderboard with his fourth consecutive title win. Only Schumacher has won more championships in successive years, claiming five in a row between 1999 and 2004. 

At 35 years old and in his 14th season of competing in F1, Hamilton is at the same stage of his career as Schumacher was when he became a seven-time world champion in 2004.

Schumacher raced on for five further seasons with Ferrari and then Mercedes without adding to his title tally before he retired for a second time at the end of 2012, paving the way for Hamilton to replace him at the German manufacturer. 

Hamilton has been pivotal to Mercedes continuing its clean sweep of championships since the V6 hybrid era began in 2014, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said his star driver had “cemented his position among the all-time best sportsmen in the world” after wrapping up his seventh crown. 

In addition to holding the record for most wins and poles in F1, Hamilton also has more podiums and more points than any other driver. 

Hamilton is also the only driver in F1 history to have won a race in every season he has contested, boasting a 36% victory radio which equates to winning more than one in every three grands prix he has participated in. Of the drivers who have taken part in at least 50 races, only Fangio has a better win rate than Hamilton. 

Schumacher and Hamilton aside, the only other drivers to have more than a single title in the last two decades are Fernando Alonso (two) and Sebastian Vettel (four), the latter of which holds the third-highest amount of wins with 53. 

Vettel, who recorded his first podium finish in over a year at the venue he made his F1 testing debut at in 2006, was the first driver to congratulate Hamilton on his historic achievement in parc ferme before he paid a glowing tribute to his former title rival in the post-race press conference. 

“I think he is the greatest of our era for sure,” Vettel replied when asked if he believes that Hamilton is now the greatest F1 driver of all time. 

"I think it's always difficult to compare… How can you possibly compare Fangio, Stirling Moss to our generation? You can't. Maybe we would be useless because we would all be s****** ourselves in those cars. 

“Maybe they would be useless in our cars because they're way too fast. Who knows? But it doesn't matter, I think every era has its driver or its drivers and Lewis is certainly the greatest of our era.

"To me, certainly emotionally, Michael will always be the most… the greatest driver but there's no doubt that Lewis is the greatest in terms of what he has achieved. 

“He's equalled the championships, he's won more races, he has a lot more pole positions so I think he's done everything you can ask for. I think today is the best proof.”

One of the biggest criticisms of Hamilton’s success is that he has always had the best car, particularly since joining the all-conquering Mercedes which capitalised on a major engine regulation change for 2014. 

Hamilton’s latest championship triumph was the sixth title he has won since the V6 hybrid turbo era began seven years ago. During that time, Hamilton has won a remarkable 72 of the 135 grands prix that have taken place, though Mercedes did face a big challenge from Ferrari in 2017 and 2018 when the Scuderia arguably had the faster car for much of the campaign.

2020 has been outstandingly dominant for Hamilton, who has won eight times more than teammate Valtteri Bottas to pull 110 points clear in the drivers’ standings with three races still to go. Hamilton’s points tally alone (307) would be enough to keep Mercedes ahead of Red Bull (240) and at the top of the tree in the constructors’ championship.

But on a rare occasion in wet conditions in Turkey, Mercedes did not have the best car as both drivers struggled to get sufficient temperature into their tyres as the team slumped to its worst qualifying result in seven years on Saturday, with Hamilton only sixth-fastest and Bottas ninth. 

At times during the Turkish Grand Prix, Hamilton’s Mercedes was over five seconds slower than the opposition, but a patient and calculated approach meant that Hamilton was unstoppable when his tyres had finally got up to temperature. 

A masterful drive on worn intermediate tyres kept Hamilton in contention, before he charged past Sergio Perez for the lead and pulled clear. Opting to overrule a late precautionary pitstop his Mercedes team wanted, Hamilton finished the race on tyres that were worn to slicks as he won by over half a minute. 

Hamilton’s sublime display was further put into perspective by the struggles of his teammate Bottas, who endured a disastrous race in which he had to outscore Hamilton by at least eight points to keep his fading championship hopes alive. Bottas spun six times in total and was lapped by Hamilton as he limped home to 14th.

Hamilton ultimately felt his performance provided an answer to his critics who claim his success is all about the superiority of his car, adding he wants more challenging races like the Turkish GP to demonstrate that is not the case. 

“I want more of these weekends,” he said. “More tricky conditions like this.

"Today I deserve my respect. My peers will know how hard a day like today is, will know it is not a car thing. I couldn't have done this without an amazing group of people behind me but there is another great driver alongside me who has the same car who didn't finish where I finished.

"Of course you have to have a good team and a great car. That will always be. There is no driver that’s ever really won the championship in the past without it. But what you do with it also counts and hopefully you can see that today.”

Just how long will his reign last? 

While the debate over who is F1’s GOAT is likely to rage on, another question that remains unanswered is just how long will Hamilton keep going in F1? 

Hamilton is yet to sign on for 2021 with his current Mercedes contract expiring at the end of the year, but he is widely expected to remain with the team despite causing a stir after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola when he said there were “no guarantees” he would be on the grid next season. 

On the face of it, there is little logic to suggest that Hamilton would call time on his career given that he looks well-placed to build on his record-equalling title and stands on the verge of eclipsing the benchmark he now shares with Schumacher. He is also just three poles and six wins away from reaching an unprecedented century. 

Those are all feats he could feasibly achieve during a planned 23-race 2021 world championship given that Mercedes is likely to retain its advantage with the teams carrying over their current cars into next season before new regulations come into force in 2022. 

Mercedes is relaxed about the situation and had been putting negotiations on hold until both word championships were secure, with Hamilton explaining he wanted to avoid the additional pressure of contract talks while he was focused on getting the job done on track. 

"It definitely is something we do need to get on to," said Hamilton, who laughed off the suggestion of him continuing to race into his forties. "It's been, like, I have a job to do, I have a contract in place, I don't feel like I should add pressure. It has to be organic and not something that's forced.

"I wanted to put it aside and wait until the job is done. Probably over these next weeks - we have these three weeks in the Middle East so it's a bit more chilled. But I still have three races ahead of me that I want to win. It's not done. But we will get it done, I'm sure.”

With a triple-header of events remaining in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi before the conclusion of the 2020 season, Wolff indicated that Mercedes may wait until the after final race of the campaign to sit down with Hamilton and strike a new deal. 

Wolff insisted that both Hamilton and Mercedes were still motivated to continue working together and make more history. 

"He loves racing, and the competition, as does the team and myself," Wolff added. "I think if we wouldn't have the competition against the stopwatch, life would not be as fun.

"So I see us going for more next year, maybe putting another great year on, and then we have this tremendous challenging regulation change for 2022. We'll go for a while."

And there is an additional drive in Hamilton, who described his seventh world title feat as “the pinnacle of my life so far”, as he pledged to race on in F1 and continue his fight for equality and sustainability. 

"There is a much bigger win we all need to work together towards," he explained. “That’s pushing for equality, so we can create a better future.

"We have had this awakening this year, and people are starting to be held accountable and holding themselves accountable and realising that is not a bad thing.

"It just means we have to work harder and not be so stubborn and open our minds up and educate ourselves a bit better so we can push for a more equal world.

"I am not going to stop fighting for that and then in my part time maybe I'll keep racing for a little while."

 

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