One by one, Lewis Hamilton has passed the great drivers of Formula One.
And now Hamilton is quickly approaching the legacy of the great Michael Schumacher. His chances of catching him, once thought to be impossible, now look very, very good.
Hamilton won his sixth career F1 championship Sunday with a second-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix, leaving him one shy of the seven won by Schumacher in the German’s run of dominance between 1994 and 2004.
Hamilton’s sixth title — his fifth since 2014 — moved the British driver past Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio, the “Godfather” of Formula One, who won five titles in the 1950s. Hamilton now stands alone behind Schumacher.
“It’s an honor to be up here with these greats,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton may be in a hurry to catch him.
Although Hamilton has said he’ll most likely stay with Mercedes after his current contract expires in 2020, he’s 34 years old and one of the oldest drivers on the grid. Formula One will usher in some rules changes in 2021 that it hopes will bring big racing changes with technical tweaks to cars and a budget cap to constrain big teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
And while Mercedes has won six consecutive constructor’s championships behind Hamilton, Ferrari and Red Bull have made enough strides that many see a wide open championship on the table next year.
Many thought the same for 2019 until Hamilton and Mercedes lapped the field again. Hamilton has 10 wins this season, a figure that put him so far ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas he only needed to finish eighth or better in Texas to secure the title.
Hamilton has arguably made easy work of the F1 grid the last three years. In 2017 and 2018 he clinched titles in Mexico City in races he didn’t even finish on the podium.