Among the records six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton can hope to break this upcoming season is Michael Schumacher’s all-time racing win stat. While Hamilton goes into the 2020 campaign on an admirable 84 total wins (and the highest win percentage of any driver with over 30 victories in their career), the German has long sat pretty at the top of the tree with 91 wins across his 20-year career which ended with seven F1 league titles.
Hamilton hasn’t got this far by being satisfied with second however, and overtaking Schumacher for pre-eminence will no doubt be at the forefront of his mind, despite his unrivalled success over the past decade. Hamilton this week shared the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award with Lionel Messi, joining circuit rival Sebastian Vettel and Schumacher as F1 winners of the accolade, on the back of winning his sixth F1 Drivers Championship in 2019.
Last season he claimed 11 wins with Mercedes, equalling his record for a season since he burst onto the scene in 2007. The opportunity to best that in a potential 22-race calendar will be tantalising. Now 35 years old, Hamilton has won five of the past six World Drivers’ Championships with the manufacturer, with only former teammate Nico Rosberg breaking his monopoly in 2016.
Whether this dominance by Hamilton will continue however, looks set to be under threat from two 22-year olds, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, and Max Verstappen of Red Bull. It is their eagerness to challenge and the hint of their ability in the past several seasons - not to mention a splattering of podium places - which gives former F1 driver David Coulthard cause for concern for his compatriot.
“I don't see it,” Coulthard responded when asked by Sportsmail whether Hamilton would be ‘dominating in years to come’.
“He got run close on occasions by [teammate] Valtteri Bottas last year, but he had a very strong foundation and he is an exceptional driver so he delivered more often than not.
“I don't think it was as dominant a year as maybe the points played out but he is the [Ayrton] Senna, Schumacher of this generation.”
Now a pundit, commentator, and still-recognisable figure around the circuit, Coulthard spoke to Sportsmail at the unveiling of Scuderia AlphaTauri's new car ahead of the 2020 season.
Coulthard sits just one place behind Hamilton as the British driver with the most consecutive race entries (set between 1995 and 2008 and placing him fourth on the all-time list) and finished his best season in 2001 as the F1 World Drivers’ Championship runner-up driving for McLaren, behind Michael Schumacher. And it is Schumacher who he has, of course, compared his fellow Brit to, as well as Ayrton Senna, a man who Hamilton has constantly cited as an influential figure on his career.
Hamilton himself once told interviewer Trevor Noah, “I remember from the first day that I got to drive a Formula One car in 2006, and when I entered Formula One [at 22] my goal was always to emulate this older, legendary driver who was a Brazilian who died in the sport. He was a three-time world champion.” He also revelled in the opportunity to jump into the cockpit of Senna’s MP4/4 F1 Car during an appearance on Top Gear.
Coulthard is also not the first person to make the comparison between the Brit and the Brazilian, with Gerhard Berger, who raced with and alongside Senna at McLaren between 1990 and 1992, among those to make a similar claim.
Berger stated on the back of Hamilton’s sixth title in 2019, “I have been asked a lot about young drivers coming up, ‘Do you see Senna in them’, and I always say: ‘No, Senna was different, he wasn’t comparable.’
“But now Lewis reminds me very much of Ayrton in how he performs every time. Under difficult circumstances, on street circuits, quick circuits, in rain and dry, in reading the race, in being fit, in the politics. Lewis is, like Ayrton, complete.”
Berger also complimented Hamilton on bringing F1 to a wider audience. “He has a very special personality,” he added. “Nobody could beat Ayrton’s charm but Lewis, the way he promotes the sport around the world, especially in America and to new audiences, is outstanding too. For me, Lewis is the man.”
Hamilton equalled the late Senna’s tally of championship titles way back in 2016, and there is a high likelihood of him surpassing Schumacher for race wins, as well as matching him for titles in 2020. Hamilton ultimately goes into the new season as the favourite, and he will break Schumacher’s stranglehold in the series standings if he manages to perform even to the level of his worst seasons since he stepped up a gear (to excuse the pun) in 2014.
'I would like him to break the record though,” Coulthard added. “Records are there to be broken.
“However, it doesn't change anything in the history books if Hamilton does. We would certainly keep referring to Michael.”