Hosting the Eifel GP after a seven-years hiatus, the Nurburgring circuit was destined to be the stage for the writing of a new page in the history book of the sport. The german venue had seen the spectacular accident that changed the fate of the late legend Niki Lauda in 1976, and the 89th victory of Michael Scumacher in 2006. On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton had a second chance to equal the number of 91 wins in career of the “Red Baron”, on the latter’s home soil. A symbolic baton transmission.
After having had a difficult weekend at Sochi, Hamilton seemed not to have the odds in favor, as his teammate secured a commanding pole position, 0.256 seconds ahead of him. Entering Sunday, the Briton was encountering issues with his steering wheel, and his chances to equal the record looked less and less certain. Despite a better getaway at the start, Valtteri Bottas managed to keep his lead, and pulled away, leaving Hamilton out of his DRS range. Ultimately, a mistake from the Finn on a damp track gave the opportunity to Hamilton to take the lead of the race. He never looked back till he crossed the flag, scoring that very coveted 91th win.
When exiting his car, the Briton reflected on his feeling regarding the reach of that impressive milestone:
“It’s going to take some time to get used to it. Honestly, as I came into the pitlane, that’s only when I realised that I had equalled it.
“I hadn’t even computed it once I had crossed the line so I couldn’t have done it without the team, everyone continuing to push behind me and giving it their everything so a big, big thank you and huge, huge respect to Michael.”
“I did of course dream of one day being here but it’s beyond my wildest dreams reaching Michael’s wins and so it’s very, very hard to describe how I feel right now.”
“I’m tired from the race, my mind is blown. So I’ve got a bit of a headache right now!”
Hamilton did not miss the chance to acknowledge once again, the greatness of the German champion, saying:
“Naturally everyone knows that he is an icon and a legend of the sport. What he achieved in so many areas, pushing the limit in terms of the physicality side, he really was a pioneer in being the fittest driver at the time.”
“What he did for both the teams that he was at, particularly at Ferrari, was just remarkable.”
In addition, Hamilton reconciled the difficulty in achieving those numbers for Schumacher and for him as well:
“That number is so big and when it’s so far away it’s hard for people to perhaps fully understand how hard it was for him to have got those 91 wins. To deliver, weekend in, weekend out, year on year and stay so in shape and so precise. I understand that now more than ever.”
“I can only tell you that it doesn’t get easier. From your first win to the 91st I’m telling you it’s been a long, hard run.”
Mick Schumacher, the current F2 championship leader and son of Micheal, gave to Hamilton in the parc ferme, one of his father's helmet, in honour to Hamilton’s most recent success. The Briton reacted, saying:
“I actually already have one of Michael’s helmets. One of the really, really special moments for me was in Abu Dhabi 2012 I went over to the Mercedes hospitality and met with Michael. We exchanged helmets and that was, for me, a moment that I’ll never forget.”
“To stand with someone that I grew up watching on TV and having the honour of exchanging jerseys or helmets it’s what us sportsmen do and it’s the highest sign of respect that you can really, I think, show. So to have the legend of the sport do that with me was really special.”
“To have his family honour me today, I’m just incredibly humbled. His son is such a great, bright talent, a really genuine human being. Michael obviously raised a great man in him and I look forward to seeing how his career will look moving forward. But now I’m going to have two special helmets from Michael in my small living room.”
Considering how special that 91st win is to him, the Briton reckoned:
“It’s definitely not just another win,” added Hamilton. “Over this past hour or so, I’ve really tried to contemplate and realise what it is that we’ve done, and what I’ve been able to achieve.
“I would say for the next couple of days, that’s where my mind is going to be at. It’s hard to find the right words and to be able to compute exactly.
“It definitely is a special one. I called my dad and [step-mum] Linda, and spoke to them. Definitely a lot of emotions today.”
To accompany Hamilton on the podium, Mercedes sent the race team’s coordinator Stephen Lord, who has worked with the six-times world champion since the pair were at McLaren.
“Steve had been with me every single race in Formula 1” said Hamilton.
“He moved with me from McLaren to Mercedes and he’s been with me through every single one of those 91 wins."
“The journey that you go on with so many people is what really matters and what really counts. And of course, the number is great."
“But I think what we collectively have done, I’m just unbelievably grateful to Mercedes for giving a young black boy a chance when I was 13 years old and supported me all the way.”
Ultimately, Hamilton reflected once more on his social media platforms about his feelings, being now on par with the most successful driver in F1 history, in terms of number of wins.
“I am feeling really honoured to be mentioned in the same likeness as a driver like Michael. What happened today is beyond my wildest dreams. I can’t express how grateful I am to all the fans, and to my amazing team for being with me on this journey. This is for us #91.”