Lewis Hamilton has admitted it is “going to be difficult to let it go” when he does ultimately retire from F1 but says “I’m not done yet” and is determined to achieve even more success.
In a year in which he is set to become the most successful driver of all time, Hamilton joined Michael Schumacher as the driver with the highest number of wins in the sport’s history with a victory in Sunday’s Eifel GP which moved him ever-closer to also matching the German great’s record haul of seven world titles this season.
Hamilton is in his 14th season of F1 and, at 35, is the second-oldest driver on the current grid.
But as he reflected on an achievement that he admitted was “definitely not just another win” after the race, he explained why he continues to relish the challenge of competing in the sport.
“I think for me, like everyone here, I love doing what I do. I love the challenge,” he said after winning for the 91st time in F1.
1:10 A special montage looking at how Michael Schumacher and now Lewis Hamilton each passed some of F1’s other legendary names to move the top of the all-time winners table
“It is so hard and I think I would be willing to say there’s potentially not enough respect that is probably given to all these drivers who dedicate their lives in terms of preparation, the amount of work that goes on in the background to be able to do what all of us do in this sport, past and present, is really remarkable and I love being a part of that.
“I love that challenge, I love the challenge that Max [Verstappen] gave me today. I love seeing him behind me, seeing the challenge that Daniel (Ricciardo) gave Max also, the sport, the smell of it, the whole aura and atmosphere it creates is going to be difficult to let it go.
“But I do feel, whilst I’m older than these guys, I feel as young as them, at least, in spirit. I’m still very much a kid when I’m off the camera.
Hamilton, who turned 36 in January, quipped: “That will probably change when I start seeing grey hairs and stuff but I’m good for now.”
4:21 Lewis Hamilton has been on a 30-year journey to motorsport success, his father Anthony told Sky Sports News
The Mercedes driver has still yet to renew his contract with the team for next season but all indications remain that, when discussions with team boss Toto Wolff do eventually begin in earnest, that will be a formality.
“What I can say is I’m not done yet,” said Hamilton in a later press conference.
“I still feel that I’m able to improve and I still feel I’m driving on a really good level.”
Hamilton reflects on road to the records
The six-time champion spoke at length on Sunday evening about what he felt were the most significant and meaningful aspects of his continued success.
“What I’m really proud of and I’m really happy with [was] when someone takes a chance on you – which is what Mercedes did when I was 13, and Ron (Dennis) did with Norbert (Haug) and Dieter (Zetsche) when they decided to put me in the [McLaren] car when I was 22 – working as hard as I could to make sure that they didn’t regret the decision,” recalled Hamilton.
“Then moving to this team, I don’t know how I knew it so well, but I knew it was the right thing for me. I didn’t know how long it was going to take us to win, but I loved the idea of working with the guys.
“I wish you guys could see the change s I did from the first day in the seat fitting and the things I get involved in in the background to change, which I’ve done every year in the team.
“Collaborating with a large group of people who are incredibly intelligent, way, way more intelligent than I, and create an understanding, collaborate and work towards a common goal. That’s for me the proudest thing that I feel that I experience through that time.”
Tributes to Lewis
The Schumacher family: “Big congrats, an impressive achievement of a great driver. We cannot deny we would have loved for Michael to hold those records, but as he always used to say: records are there to be broken.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull: “It’s an incredible achievement because I think, like Lewis already said, 91 wins, everyone thought that was almost impossible to reach, right? To be there now, himself, it’s incredible and very impressive.