Sky is the limit for Lewis Hamilton's record-breaking run

The weekend at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao was another display of what makes Hamilton the best of his generation and one of the greatest drivers of all time.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain jumps out of his car after his record-breaking win at the Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao.   -  AP

“I don’t believe in the saying, ‘The sky is the limit.’ It depends how much we want it, how much we want to continue to raise the bar, and going by our history together, the way we work, we don’t sit back on our results, we keep working, we keep elevating. Every race feels like the first one. I don’t know how this is possible after all these races, but it does.”

— Lewis Hamilton, after winning a record 92nd race in Formula One.

Lewis Hamilton’s dominant victory at the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix not only moved him one ahead of Michael Schumacher’s all-time mark, but also put the Brit closer to a record-equalling seventh world drivers’ title — the only record of significance that Hamilton is yet to take from the German.

WATCH | Lewis Hamilton's 92 race wins - in numbers

The weekend at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao was another display of what makes Hamilton the best of his generation and one of the greatest drivers of all time. With Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas coming out on top in all three practice sessions, it took a spark of genius from the world champion to put himself at the front of the starting grid. On his final qualifying run, Hamilton opted to do two fast laps in a row, as opposed to one, which is the norm. The strategy worked as the Briton took his 97th pole to start alongside Bottas.

Hamilton held on the lead at the start of the race — the first F1 race in Portugal since 1996 — but had fallen back to third halfway through the first lap as he struggled to get heat into his medium-compound tyres amid a smattering of rain. He was overtaken first by Bottas and then by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr, who started seventh and took the lead before the end of the lap.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr was ahead for a brief while in the early stages of the race, before he was overtaken by Valtteri Bottas.   -  Getty Images

 

The regular running order was soon restored as the rain disappeared. Bottas took the lead back from Sainz on lap six, and Hamilton was back up to second a lap later. Hamilton’s unmatched ability to pull out fast laps when he needs them was on display as he set about challenging his teammate. He set fastest laps on laps 17, 18 and 19 to trim Bottas’ lead to less than a second and then drove around the outside of the Finn at turn one to take the lead.

With that went Bottas’ chance to deny Hamilton another entry in the record books. The Briton took victory more than 25 seconds ahead of his team-mate, with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull crossing the finish line a further nine seconds back. Such was Hamilton’s pace at the front that he lapped every driver up to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in fourth place.

That Hamilton will be world champion again this year is a foregone conclusion. The question now is how far past Schumacher’s records will he go. On his part, the Brit believes there is room for improvement.

READ | What a time to be alive, says Hamilton after record 92nd win

“I don’t think I’m at my peak. I’m in a good area for sure, but I still want to continue to race. I don’t know how much longer that will be — this is a period of time when I’ve got to work out what the future holds,” Hamilton, 35, told Sky Sports. “All I can say is I plan to be here next year.”

Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff both have contracts that end this year, but both indicated separately after the race that they would like to continue their partnership, which has resulted in six straight drivers’ and constructors’ titles — Nico Rosberg’s 2016 title splitting Hamilton’s five with the team.

With a Mercedes car that is unmatched this year — and likely will be in 2021 as well — Hamilton has been unstoppable. He’s won eight of 12 races so far, and taken nine pole positions. With five more races left this season, the magic mark of 100 poles is within reach.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff (middle) applauds the performance. Hamilton and Wolff have contracts that end this year, but both indicated separately after the race that they would like to continue their partnership, which has resulted in six straight drivers’ and constructors’ titles.   -  Reuters

 

In getting this far, Hamilton has displayed a peerless level of consistency in F1. Since 2014, he has won at least nine races every season (including 10 in 2016 when Rosberg pipped him to the title, and 11 in 2014, ’18 and ’19), and he is the only driver to win a race in every year of F1 he has participated in — 14 seasons consecutively and counting.

Hamilton is on 256 points and leads teammate Bottas by 77, with a maximum of 130 available (25 points for a win plus one for fastest lap). And with the two Mercedes drivers leading the standings, the constructors’ race is all but over. The Brackley-based team is 209 points ahead of second-placed Red Bull, with a maximum of 220 available.

READ | Albon will see out the season at Red Bull, says Horner

The final five races of the 2020 season are just more opportunities for Hamilton and Mercedes to extend their record-breaking streak. The Brit has 71 wins with Mercedes — one short of the record for most victories with a single team held by Schumacher and Ferrari. For Mercedes, it will be a seventh consecutive constructors’ title, breaking its tie with Ferrari (six straight between 1999 and 2004).

Lewis Hamilton began rewriting the history books the moment he stepped into a Formula One car for the 2007 season. Only time will tell how far he will go before bringing his chapter to a close.