Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has broken Michael Schumacher’s all-time Formula One win record after dominating the Portuguese Grand Prix.
His victory in Portimao was the 92nd of his career, moving past the German’s previous record of 91.
Having started on pole, Hamilton squandered his lead on the opening lap but after reclaiming it on the 20th lap, he held off all competitors to further extend his lead at the top of the driver’s championship.
The British driver finished comfortably clear of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in second, while Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished in third.
“I could never have dreamed of being where I am today,” Hamilton told Sky Sports afterwards. “I didn’t have a magic ball when I chose to come to this team and partner with great people, but here I am and what I can tell you is I’m trying to make the most of it every single day.
“It’s going to take some time to sink in. I was still pushing flat out coming across the line, I’m still very much in race mode mentally. I can’t find the right words at the moment.”
Leading after a bumpy start
Having leveled Schumacher’s record of 91 career F1 wins two weeks ago with an emphatic victory in the Eifel Grand Prix, history was in Hamilton’s headlights as the 2020 season traveled to Portugal.
And the weekend couldn’t have started any better for Hamilton. He secured his 97th career pole with Bottas finishing just 0.101 seconds behind — the ninth time in 2020 that it was an all-Mercedes front row.
But the concoction of circulating rain, low temperatures and a new track made for an unpredictable opening lap.
As rain began to fall, some cars struggled for grip in the wet conditions, meaning they veered off line. It culminated in Verstappen clipping the rear of Sergio Perez’s car to spin the Mexican.
Hamilton, usually so dominant from the start, was even unable to hold onto his first position with Bottas passing him early on. He dropped down to third position after Carlos Sainz went ahead.
However, after his tires had warmed up and the weather had eased somewhat, Hamilton kicked it up a gear. He shortly overtook Sainz to reclaim second place and in the 20th lap, regained first position.
And from there it was clean sailing for the 35-year-old. He led for the remaining 46 laps and finished over 35 seconds ahead of Bottas.
“The opening lap was pretty good, some cars behind with the soft tyre had the upper-hand but I was really pleased I could get the lead but after that, I just had no pace today,” Bottas said after the race. I don’t understand why.
“I tried to defend but Lewis was close but there was nothing really to do. Like I said, I don’t know why I was off the pace today. I was pushing hard. I should’ve gone faster.
A long road
From his first F1 Grand Prix victory at the Canada Grand Prix 13 years ago to his 92nd today, it has been a long road for Hamilton.
That victory in 2007 came during his first season in the sport with McLaren, the team with which he won his first world title.
Having moved to Mercedes in 2013, Hamilton has had nothing but success.
He’s won five more world championships — finishing fourth and second in the others — and looks set to win his seventh after extending his lead at the top of this year’s driver’s championship to 77 points.
“It’s his absolute passion, energy, everything that he puts into the sport. The talent, ability, he just stands out,” Toto Wolff, Mercedes team principal, said.
Winning his seventh world title will match another record set by Schumacher — he has won the most driver’s championships with seven — and would further strengthen the argument that he is the greatest ever after beating the record Schumacher set in 2006 of 91 career wins.
But his record-breaking victory in Portugal wasn’t without its complications, after Hamilton raced the final few laps suffering from cramps.
“It’s an incredibly physical sport. I had cramp in my right calf. Lifting my foot down the straight was pretty painful, I could feel it pull, but I had to get through it. It is what it is.”
The 2020 F1 season continues at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, Italy next weekend.