Lewis Hamilton secured a record-setting seventh Formula One world title on Sunday after winning the Turkish Grand Prix and then warned contenders for his crown: “I’m just getting started!”
After a momentous advance from sixth on the grid in wet and dangerous conditions, the Briton equaled Michael Schumacher’s number of driver crowns with three races remaining of the season.
The 35-year-old sealed his last title 12 years after his first with a typically measured masterclass, handling the slippery starting conditions to claim his 94th career victory.
It was widely declared as one of his best triumphs and totally appropriate the day he was ranked alongside the German in the record books.
“That’s for all the kids who believe in the impossible,” said an excited Hamilton on team Mercedes radio. “You can do it.”
He later claimed that he was still hungry for more titles and paid tribute to his team and fans after a season in which he led his sport by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I feel like I’m just getting started. Physically I am in very good shape. And mentally this year has been really difficult for millions of people and it is no different for us athletes, ”he said.
“This has been a challenge that I didn’t know how to overcome, but with the help of the LH Team I managed it.”
Hamilton, who sealed his first title in 2008, was added to his list of unprecedented records: more victories with 94, more pole position (97), more podiums (163) and more consecutive points (47).
He added: “We dreamed of this when I was young.
“I remember watching Michael win those world championships. Getting one or two or even three is very difficult.
“Seven is unimaginable. There is no end to what we can do together, this team and I.
– Impressed rivals –
He edged out his teammate and only remaining title rival, Valtteri Bottas, who finished 14th after a disjointed start, to claim his 10th win in 14 races of a season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hamilton came home more than half a minute ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. Both opted to make just one pit stop and spent most of the race on just one set of intermediate tires as their rivals pitted multiple times to cope with the slippery conditions.
Hamilton’s longtime rival, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, finished third ahead of Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and, after a wild and impulsive afternoon, Max Verstappen in the leading Red Bull.
Alex Albon came home seventh in the second Red Bull ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren, Lance Stroll, who had started from his first pole position for Racing Point, and Daniel Ricciardo of Renault.
This latest win gave Hamilton an unassailable lead over Bottas, 31, with two races in Bahrain and the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to come.
Vettel, who took a podium on the last lap, was the first man to congratulate Hamilton in the pits, leaning on the Englishman’s cockpit to tell him that he had made history.
Bottas said: “He fully deserves it, he’s the best of all of us this year and he really deserves it, so it’s great for him.
“So I will have to try to beat him next year.”
Tributes flooded from his fellow drivers and from motorsport president Jean Todt, and from beyond the F1 family.
“The game recognizes the game. From the entire Barça family, congratulations @LewisHamilton on your 7th @ F1 World Championship! ”Tweeted the giants of La Liga Barcelona.
Kenyan marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge added his congratulations, telling Hamilton: “Longevity equals experience, this is what inspires the world!”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the team’s success had been even more significant at a time of a global coronavirus health emergency.
“This year has been very, very special, in difficult circumstances for everyone around the world.
“I hope we were entertained and that is why reaching the top after such a year in such a tough race is exceptional.”