Lewis Hamilton believes Michael Schumacher’s phenomenal win record could be in reach as he admits to setting new targets in the wake of his historic fourth world championship.
Hamilton has added a fourth star to his crash helmet for this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix in a nod to his latest title triumph, which saw him surpass Sir Jackie Stewart as the most decorated British driver, and one which also moved him ahead of his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna.
The 32-year-old Englishman arrived in Senna’s homeland for the penultimate round of his championship-winning campaign mired in controversy following claims that he had avoided a £3.3million VAT charge on his private jet.
A spokesman for the 32-year-old Mercedes driver said on Monday that the deal was “above board” and that |the matter is now in the hands of his lawyers”.
But Hamilton has attempted to put his off-track troubles to one side, and, despite nursing a cold on Friday, set the pace in opening practice at Interlagos as he bids to end the season on a high.
Hamilton has enjoyed a remarkable winning streak in recent years. Since he joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013 he has added 41 victories and three championships.
Seven-time champion Schumacher won 64 grands prix in his first 11 seasons in the sport. Hamilton’s tally stands at 62. Schumacher sealed his fourth title, aged 32. Hamilton meanwhile, turns 33 in January.
“I always wanted to do something similar to Ayrton so the dream is expanding into an area that I wasn’t planning on,” Hamilton said.
“I can continue winning for a long, long time, and I guess it ultimately depends if the fight remains within me. It is still there now.
“There is no desire to chase down Michael, but I am a lot closer than I ever was. Before it felt so distant to get to 91 wins, and while it still feels a long way off, it is not impossible to think I could potentially get somewhere near.”
Hamilton has been ambivalent over his future this year, toing and froing between threats to walk away from the sport or signing two further contracts at Mercedes which would take him on to his mid-to-late 30s.
Indeed it is widely anticipated that Hamilton will extend his contract at Mercedes, one which expires at the end of next season, to at least 2020. It is a deal which could see him become the highest-paid Formula One driver ever.
“I believe I can win more championships,” Hamilton added. “I have got at least one more year in me, maybe more, and I have every plan to win more grands prix.
“I have no idea what the future holds, but I definitely do know that I will apply myself as I have done this year and raise the game even more for next year.
“I am grateful to be up there and among the real, real greats of the sport – not only among them but standing up there with them with four championships – and that is something I am very proud of.”