Sebastian Vettel says he will have mixed emotions when Lewis Hamilton secures his 91st win and equals Michael Schumacher’s record of career victories in Formula One.
Hamilton heads into this weekend on 90 wins and as the favourite to win Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom.
Schumacher has held the record for most career wins since the 2001 Hungarian Grand Prix when he equalled Alain Prost’s previous record of 51 victories. He went on to score another 40 wins by the end of the 2006 season – a record that Vettel, who made his F1 debut the following year after growing up as a Schumacher fan, thought would never be beaten.
“I think it’s always been a number that has appeared impossible to reach,” Vettel said ahead of this weekend’s race. “Now seeing the last years, and Lewis’ track record, he was getting closer and closer, and I think at this point it is a question of time when he reaches that.
“On the one hand, I will for sure be sad as Michael is still my hero but on the other hand I will be very happy for Lewis. I think he deserves all the success he has had in the last years and is going to have this year and — I don’t know if he is going to remain in F1 but I guess so — in the next years.
“So a bit half-half, with mixed emotions.”
Vettel has 53 career wins in F1, but for the first time since 2016 looks set to finish a season without a victory this year.
“For myself, I don’t know, I’m far away [from Schumacher’s record],” he added. “But as I said, it was always one of those numbers that seems impossible up to the point that somebody gets there, gets close and then breaks it.”
Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo, who secured all seven of his career victories while racing for Red Bull, is impressed by Hamilton’s ability to continue to dominate the sport and says it is not just about having the fastest car.
“Every year you get asked [about Lewis] because he has won nearly every world championship in the last few years, and you always get asked, ‘But he has been in a Mercedes and they have dominated, so surely it is a bit easier for him?’
“It’s easy to say that, and it is more likely that he will be on the podium this weekend than a lot of the others. But to have that expectation, that pressure, year in and year out and keep delivering that is something in itself, let alone breaking all these records.
“So hats off to Lewis, and will see if that gets done this weekend.”
Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas is best placed to prevent Hamilton matching Schumacher’s record this weekend and said he will do everything he can to delay the celebrations.
“Obviously I’ll try to make it not happen this weekend, I’m here to win,” he said. “But, anyway, it’s just a matter of time that Lewis will get that [record] and, probably, easier that he’ll take some time after that to realize what he has achieved.
“I’m sure that when he eventually decides to do something else, he will have time to look back and think that’s pretty cool. They are massive numbers and he should be proud of it.”