Lewis Hamilton: Formula 1 world champion, and Formula 1 “gamechanger”.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports F1, Hamilton has revealed his hopes for his legacy as the Englishman prepares to kick off his hunt for an unprecedented eighth world championship at this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain GP.
And Hamilton, who has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as F1’s powerful and leading voice for increasing diversity, wouldn’t just like to be remembered for his record-breaking exploits on the track.
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“Gamechanger”, Hamilton tells Sky F1’s Rachel Brookes when asked about how he hopes the history books remember him. “Or voice for equality. Something like that.”
The Hamilton Commission is ongoing. There is so much work happening in the background, to help tackle some serious issues that prevent young Black people getting through into STEM careers. Days like today excite, inspire and motivate me to keep pushing. pic.twitter.com/uSSC07kv37
Expanding on his off-track efforts in 2020, the seven-time champion adds: “I would argue that last year was the bravest [decision I’ve made in F1].”
The full interview with Hamilton, who also discusses his knighthood, his twin goals for 2021, F1’s anti-racism efforts so far and much more, will be aired during our Bahrain GP race day coverage on Sunday from 2.30pm, as a much-anticipated new campaign gets underway in the desert.
And there are plenty of talking points as Hamilton aims for an historic eighth crown.
Still motivated? Hamilton chasing the ‘ultimate dream’
Throughout recent seasons, two numbers have stuck out as targets for Hamilton. Ninety one, and seven.
But Hamilton has now overtaken Michael Schumacher’s win record – sitting pretty on 95 – and has equalled the legendary German’s title haul.
Statistically, that makes Hamilton the most successful driver in F1 history.
Naturally, it also leaves the question of what else there is to accomplish.
Hamilton, now 36, penning his first-ever short-term F1 contract – only extending for the 2021 season with Mercedes – could be taken as a sign that he is thinking of the end. As, most certainly, could his reasoning for that one-year deal.
“Firstly, I’m kind of in a fortunate position where I’ve achieved most of the stuff I wanted to achieve up until this point,” said Hamilton at Mercedes’ car launch.
Hamilton, however, will also be well aware that he can further bolster his legacy by becoming the first driver to ever reach eighth titles. And that would raise the bar to a daunting level.
“It’s the ultimate dream,” Hamilton admitted about his hunt for eight.
With his contract expiring again at the end of the year, there will no doubt be plenty of talk about Hamilton’s future throughout the year – although he has proved so often that he is undeterred by outside noise.
And Sky F1’s Nico Rosberg, Hamilton’s former team-mate and 2016 world champion insisted: “I don’t think it’s going to affect his performance this year.
“It’s not going to hurt his performance on the way to becoming the greatest of all time statistically, and beating Michael Schumacher for that eighth title. Lewis knows how to focus.”
Will F1 finally get its Hamilton vs Verstappen title battle?
There’s another unique challenge that could be coming Hamilton’s way in 2021: A title fight with the man most would tip as the heir to the Mercedes driver’s throne once he does call it a day.
Max Verstappen has, along with Hamilton, been F1’s star driver in recent years but despite admirable efforts, has so far been unable to launch a season-long battle for the championship due to Mercedes’ advantage over Red Bull.
But that could all change in 2021.
Verstappen, 23, built momentum towards the end of 2020 and now it seems Red Bull have designed their best car since their last title eight years ago, with the RB16B the pick of the bunch at a very impressive pre-season testing.
Added to the early Red Bull optimism is the fact Mercedes, who have embarked on a historic championship run since 2014, endured a surprisingly below-par start to 2021 in Bahrain.
Are Red Bull now title contenders? Mercedes certainly think so – while many have installed them as favourites for the season-opener at the same Sakhir circuit this weekend.
“Having seen them win the last race [in 2020], you can only assume they’re going to be right there, if not at the front, of the first race [of 2021],” said Hamilton.
“It’s going to be a great long battle with them through the year.”
Sebastian Vettel has been the only non-Mercedes driver to have truly challenged Hamilton for the title since 2014.
But Hamilton will know that if Verstappen does have the tools, he will be a very dangerous new rival.
Let battle commence.
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