PARIS: When Michael Schumacher retired from Formula One eight years ago, little did he know that he was opening the door for Lewis Hamilton to make history.
The British driver did just that on Sunday (Monday in Manila), winning the Portuguese Grand Prix for a record-setting 92nd victory of his outstanding career to overtake Schumacher’s 91 wins. Runaway leader Hamilton is also set to equal Schumacher’s record seven championships this season.
Hamilton replaced Schumacher at Mercedes in 2013 with only one F1 title to his name and 70 wins behind the German great’s mark which was considered in F1 circles as way out of reach.
But with another contract looming at Mercedes, the 35-year-old Hamilton could get well beyond 100 wins.
“I still feel physically strong but you still wonder when is it going to tip over and [you] lose performance,” Hamilton said after his victory in Portugal. “But showing by today it’s not yet.”
His 71 wins with Mercedes have come from just 173 races, a stunning win ratio of 41 percent, while his 92 wins from 262 starts (about 35 percent) edges him ahead of Schumacher’s 91 in 306 (30 percent).
Hamilton also has the most pole positions (97 to Schumacher’s 68) and podium finishes (161-155).
But direct comparisons between the two are difficult since they raced in different eras, save for an overlapping period of three seasons when Schumacher was driving an uncompetitive Mercedes.
Hamilton’s best season ratio of 11 wins from 19 races falls below Schumacher’s masterful 13 from 18 — a staggering 72 percent win ratio — during his last title with Ferrari in 2004.
Schumacher’s 10 fastest laps in 2004 beats Hamilton’s eight in 2015, as does his overall total of 77-52.