‘There’d only be a few thousandths between them’

Former Mercedes vice-president Norbert Haug thinks there’d be nothing to choose between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at their peaks.

With Hamilton joining Schumacher on 91 wins at the Eifel Grand Prix and all but set to match the German haul of seven World Championships, the debate over which, if either, is the best Formula driver of all time has grown and grown.

Haug, who was vice-president of Mercedes’s motorsport branch until 2012, has now weighed in, refusing to pick a side by stating that there’d be little to choose either way.

“If they had both raced each other in their prime, there would probably only have been a few thousandths of a second between them,” he told Motorsport.com.

“Both drivers also have the utmost respect for each other, which is nice to see. I have never heard one of them speak a bad word about the other.”

Schumacher was renowned for his work-rate and dedication, fundamentally changing the sport in terms of fitness levels and regimes.

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Hamilton does not have the same reputation, with the Brit enjoying an often glamorous lifestyle outside of F1. Some criticise him for this, but Haug thinks that he’s every bit as hard-working.

“All kinds of pictures on Instagram really do not deliver fast lap times,” he added.

“All extremely good drivers are willing to make those extra meters [in terms of training work]. They are both perfectionists, always ask questions and even after a one-two punch they want a very long debrief.

“That’s why they can get on people’s nerves.”

Like Haug, Schumacher too left Mercedes in 2012, with Lewis Hamilton replacing him. There has been talk that the team forced the former out to ensure the latter would join, but that apparently isn’t true.

“But I know only a few rumours from the F1 world that actually turn out to be correct. That also applies in this case,” Haug said.

“No one retired him early. In reality, it was a very clear and structured process, with Michael always in charge.

“He laid the foundation for Lewis’s records in a way.”

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Berger: Hamilton’s achievement ‘actually unbelievable’

Ex-F1 driver Gerhard Berger says it’s “actually unbelievable” that Lewis Hamilton has matched Michael Schumacher’s race win record after such a short time.

Few thought that Schumacher’s 91 victories in Formula 1 would be equalled, but Hamilton did exactly that by taking victory at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

But Schumacher’s final win came as recently as the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix, so for Berger it’s unbelievable that such a record has been matched only 14 years later.

“It’s actually unbelievable,” Berger is quoted by Motorsport-Total.com.

Lewis Hamilton is a very special racing driver. He has simply proven countless times that he deserves these World Championships. I think this is a battle between two giants that we will all discuss on the same level for many years to come.”

For Berger though the matching of Schumacher’s record perhaps came too soon “simply because of his fate, which is so dramatic that tears almost come to you every time you think about it or talk about it.”

Sadly the seven-time World Champion wasn’t there to see Hamilton match his race wins record and little is known about Schumacher’s condition since he suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident back in 2013.

“I think these are two such giants that you just have to accept that they are the people in our sport who have shaped the sport the most,” Berger added.
Eifel Grand Prix conclusions

Despite Schumacher and Hamilton now being tied on 91 race wins each, Berger has another driver in mind when thinking of the single greatest individual to grace Formula 1 with their presence.

That individual being Ayrton Senna.

Berger believes that had it not been for Senna’s fatal crash at Imola in 1994, then the three-time World Champion would have gone on to reach similar heights to Schumacher and Hamilton.

“Ayrton died early, but until then still had all the records in hand,” Berger explained.

“I just think that Ayrton would have become World Champion very often in the years that followed. Then the count would have looked different again.

“I’ve seen them all very closely. For me, Ayrton was still the best racing driver I’ve seen.”

Hamilton now has the chance to set his own record for race wins as he heads to Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

He is also well on course to equal Schumacher’s record of seven World Championships this season.

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‘No reason Hamilton cannot win 10 titles’

Never mind Michael Schumacher’s seven, or even holding the record himself with eight, Bernie Ecclestone reckons Lewis Hamilton could finish up with 10 World titles.

This season, when it finally begins in July, Hamilton will be chasing a fourth successive Drivers’ Championship which would be his seventh overall.

Should he achieve the feat, the Mercedes driver will equal Schumacher’s record while next season he could try to beat it.

Given that next season’s cars will be this year’s machines with just a few developments, whoever wins this year’s title will be the firm favourite for 2021.

Ecclestone told the Standard: “If things stay as they are, there’s no reason for Lewis not to win another 10 championships.”

As for where he will be racing in his final season in Formula 1, the former F1 supremo sees no reason why Hamilton would swap Mercedes for any other team.

The Brit has yet to commit his future to Mercedes with his current deal up at the end of this year.

With Ferrari signing Carlos Sainz for the next two seasons as Charles Leclerc’s team-mate, the Ferrari door is closed to the 35-year-old until 2023.

Ecclestone doesn’t believe he will jump at it.

“There’s just no sense for Lewis to go anywhere else,” he said.

“When he leaves Mercedes, he’ll stop. I don’t think he’ll look anywhere else.

“Why move to Ferrari? He’s with Mercedes and he knows how well it’s run better than most.”

The 89-year-old also weighed in on Sebastian Vettel’s future with German unemployed as of the end of this year.

Ecclestone says a year’s sabbitical could be on the cards for the four-time World Champion – unless of course Mercedes offer him a deal.

“I’ve been talking to him quite a bit and maybe he should take a year off,” said Ecclestone.

“So, come back in 2022 with the rule changes.

“It gives him a chance to wait and see how F1 is going to change.

“But I think what he’d like to do is drive for Mercedes against Lewis.”

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Horner excited to see how Hamilton handles ‘young wave’

Red Bull principal Christian Horner looks forward to seeing Lewis Hamilton go head-to-head with the “young wave” of F1 talent in the coming years.

The Mercedes man stormed his way to a sixth World Championship in 2019, putting him just one shy of Michael Schumacher’s record seven.

But in 2019 we also saw the emergence of Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, while for the first time Red Bull’s Max Verstappen showed the kind of mentality required for him to become a World Champion one day.

And Horner is really looking forward to the battle to come between these two generations.

“Every now and again, you get a wave coming along and I think we’ve got that at the moment,” he is quoted by Motorsport.com.

“So I think especially exciting is the Max/Leclerc dynamic, how that’s going to play out over future years, how Lewis can still go toe to toe with those guys.

“Because there’s life in him yet as well and I think he’s keen to gauge himself against the young wave that’s coming through.

“I think for Formula 1 it’s fantastic to have the dynamics of the young guys, the challengers, coming through and some of the older guys that are the old dogs that know all the tricks.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes deal is up after 2020, but he is expected to sign fresh terms after Leclerc and Verstappen both extended their deals with Ferrari and Red Bull respectively.

And while Hamilton admits that his ventures outside of F1, such as his fashion brand, are a way of giving himself something to fall back on once he retires from F1, that doesn’t mean he is walking away any time soon.

“The core of what I do is that I love racing, I love the challenge,” he explained.

“I love arriving knowing I have got these incredibly talented youngsters who are trying to beat me and outperform me, outsmart me, and I love that battle that I get into that every single year.

“And I am working with these guys who are so much smarter than me and they make me feel smarter, [and] when I am challenging them and proving them wrong so many times, it is unreal!

“I don’t fear [the day I retire]. It is going to be a sad day, to hang up and stop doing something you’ve loved your whole life and as long as you can remember. But that is why I have all these other things in place that I can fall back on.

“The fashion side, for example, I’ve found another business that I can do for a long time if successful. Currently that is going really, really well but I don’t know how long it will go. But at least I have another interest.

“But there are a lot of different things I can be interested in. I know my life is not going to be over when I retire. And that gives me a lot of comfort but right now I feel physically good enough to continue so I’m going to try to eke that out as long as I can.”

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Hamilton 'the machine' fires warning shot to rivals

Lewis Hamilton is buffing up his mind and body for 2020, the six-time world champion warning his rivals to expect to be battling “a machine” this year.

After completing his most successful campaign to date in 2019, with 11 wins a record 413 points, Hamilton will head off into the 2020 season determined to equal the seven-title tally of F1 legend Michael Schumacher.

The Mercedes driver and 84-time Grand Prix winner fired a warning shot to his rivals on Instagram with a message that reflects his steely and single-minded determination.

“I am at peace when I’m here, can focus and build my mind and body so that I can come back year on year,” wrote Hamilton, who turned 35 last week.

“I’m going to be a machine this year, on another level than ever before! Spread love and positivity everywhere we go”.

As driven as he intends to be to capture his seventh crown, Hamilton will have a few worthy rivals to contend with starting, with Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas who is set on giving the Briton a run for his money all season long.

But further up the pitlane, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen are equally determined to challenge the Briton with all the bravery of their youth and talent, while a resolute Sebastian Vettel will also buckle down to try and defeat his arch rival in what could be the German’s swansong season in the sport.

However, “the machine” is ready. Bring it on!

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Hamilton to sign two-year Mercedes extension – report

Lewis Hamilton is reportedly in the ‘advanced stages’ of signing a two-year contract extension with Mercedes, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Hamilton, who is currently out of contract at the end of the 2020 season, had been strongly linked with a move to Ferrari after the Italian newspaper also first broke the news that the two parties had engaged in talks during the 2019 season.

However, with Charles Leclerc committing his long-term future to Ferrari and Max Verstappen doing likewise at Red Bull, Hamilton looks set to follow suit by extending his stay with the Silver Arrows.

In Friday’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport, journalist Luigi Perna concluded an article on Hamilton, which opened with the six-time World Champion’s vow to become “a machine” this year, with the following lines:

“In the meantime, Lewis Hamilton is in discussion with Mercedes over the renewal of his contract,” wrote Perna.

“The negotiation, which will see Hamilton extend his stay until the end of 2022, is at an advanced stage and is worth in the region of 45m Euros a year with bonuses.”

With Leclerc and Verstappen technically off the market for Mercedes, it left them with one main priority to tie Hamilton down as he goes in search of a seventh World Championship title.

Hamilton had spoken about the dilemma he was facing as he weighed up his loyalty to Mercedes with the temptation of a new challenge with Ferrari.

“I know I look good in red,” Hamilton told Channel 4 last October.

“But it’s a very, very difficult scenario.

“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13. Change is always cool but loyalty is everything, that is why I have this tattoo [on his left arm].

“I’m not going to be racing forever… what am I going to do in the future?

“Do I want to remain part of Mercedes doing something quite epic beyond racing?

“If I was, for example, going to shift [teams] then I don’t know what that is going to look like.”

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Alonso: Hamilton lifestyle not possible in normal car

Fernando Alonso believes the strength of the Mercedes car allows Lewis Hamilton to have the lifestyle he has outside Formula 1.

Hamilton, looking to become a seven-time World Champion in 2020, is very much in the public spotlight away from the sport, but Alonso thinks his former team-mate would not have that luxury if he did not have a car capable of winning World Championships.

Alonso’s opinion came when asked to compare Hamilton to Michael Schumacher as the Silver Arrows driver tries to match the same number of titles as the German.

“Each have their own character,” Alonso told La Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview taking place in between stages of  his first attempt at the Dakar Rally.

“Both of them dominated because of their cars, which allowed them to do what they wanted outside of Formula 1.

“Michael had more discipline and preparation. He was more into the team dynamics.

“Lewis has a different character and lifestyle that would not be right if he had a normal car. His bosses would not be happy.”

Alonso also revealed that he had offers to return to the Formula 1 grid in 2020, but turned them down as the timing was not right for him.

“There were two or three situations with a few talks involving certain teams,” Alonso added.

“We had contacts, but it was not the right time.”

It does appear, though, that Alonso is pining for a Formula 1 return in 2021 and does miss some elements of the sport.

“What I miss about Formula 1 is the precision work with the engineers and the optimisation around the races,” he said.

“But not the travelling, the consecutive races and only one team dominating.”

Alonso will give serious thought to a potential Formula 1 return after his third attempt at clinching the Triple Crown by winning the Indianapolis 500.

He added: “This year I do not want to schedule anything after Indianapolis, but to think properly for 2021.

“I’m not too old to return but I want to reflect on whether I want to return to Formula 1 for some more years.”

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Hamilton: ‘I’m going to be a machine this year’

Lewis Hamilton has vowed to “be a machine” in 2020 as he attempts to win a record-equalling seventh World Championship title.

Hamilton has the opportunity to match Michael Schumacher’s incredible, and so far untouched, record of seven drivers’ titles after clinching a sixth piece of silverware in commanding style in 2019.

The British driver has always spoken about his wish to fight more contenders for the Formula 1 crown and the likes of Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel will all have renewed hope of doing so this upcoming season.

But Hamilton has fired a warning to them all by saying he wants to turn himself into “a machine”, as part of an Instagram post showing how grateful he is for his home retreat during the winter break.

“I never could have even dreamed to own a home like the one I do now,” Hamilton said.

“I thank God everyday for giving me a family that worked so hard to give me the chance to make something of myself.

“And to own a home that I love so much, get to create so many wonderful memories brings me more happiness than I ever thought I could deserve.

“I am at peace when I’m here, can focus and build my mind and body so that I can come back year on year.

“I’m going to be a machine this year, on another level than ever before!

“Spread love and positivity everywhere we go.”

Hamilton is into the final year of his Mercedes contract, but the expectation is he, along with Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, will extend their stay with the team.

Ferrari and Red Bull have both made early moves in the driver market by tying down Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen respectively to new long-term deals, possibly restricting Hamilton’s own options for the future.

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‘Ferrari won’t sign a top driver like Lewis Hamilton’

Former Ferrari team principal, Stefano Domenicali, is the latest to cast doubt over Lewis Hamilton joining the Scuderia from Mercedes in 2021.

The rumours linking the six-time World Champion to Ferrari reached fever pitch toward the end of the 2019 season when it was revealed that the two parties had held talks over the course of last year.

However, over the festive period, Charles Leclerc signed a new, very long-term deal with Ferrari that will expire at the end of the 2024 season.

Domenicali is in agreement with other pundits, such as Karun Chandhok, that this is the strongest indication yet that Ferrari has selected their star man for the future and there is not any room to fit in another big name such as Hamilton.

“I think it’s normal to talk about this [potential Hamilton to Ferrari move],” Domenicali told Sky Sports in Italy.

“But my impression is that Ferrari is focusing everything on Charles Leclerc, so I don’t think they are going to sign a top driver like Lewis.

“The team is giving a clear direction focusing on a young talented driver.”

As for his expectations of Ferrari ahead of the new 2020 season, he is hopeful that the team will have everything in place to at least fight for the titles until the very end of the campaign.

“I think it will be a very interesting season,” he added.

“I believe it will be different from last year and will be decided at the last race. Obviously I hope that Ferrari fans will be able to celebrate a success.”

Domenicali concluded by ruling out returning to the Ferrari fold.

“Ah no, there are a lot of friends at Maranello and it’s always nice to come and say hello,” Domenicali said.

“But I am not coming back to Ferrari.”

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Hamilton and Mercedes nominated for Laureus Awards

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes and MotoGP’s reigning champion Marc Marquez are all among the nominees at this years’ Laureus Awards.

Hamilton and Marquez will go head-to-head in the World Sportsman of the Year category.

Marquez secured his sixth MotoGP World Championship in 2019, winning an incredible 12 of the 19 rounds to take the title by 151 points over Andrea Dovizioso.

Back in the world of Formula 1 Hamilton also secured his sixth Drivers’ Championship with a dominating season, winning 11 races as he wrapped the title up with two races to spare.

Hamilton is now second on the all-time winners list in F1 with 84 career victories, just seven behind Michael Schumacher. He will look to challenge both of those records in 2020.

Neither Hamilton or Marquez have won the award before and they will face stiff competition this year from long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge, footballer Lionel Messi, tennis player Rafael Nadal, and golfer Tiger Woods.

Mercedes meanwhile are nominated in the Team of the Year category.

The Silver Arrows collected the award back in 2018 for their title-double in 2017 – they were also victorious in 2010 for the same achievement under their former identity as Brawn in 2009.

After securing the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships for the sixth season in a row Mercedes could easily scoop the award again, but Liverpool Football Club, South Africa’s rugby team, Spain’s men’s basketball team, basketball’s Toronto Raptors and the United States Women’s Football Team are all out to stop them.

Speaking to Sky Sports, two-time Formula One World Champion and Laureus Academy Member Mika Hakkinen said: “Lewis continues to dominate Formula One with the excellent Mercedes car he is driving. They both deserve their nominations. Whatever changes the sport makes, Lewis and Mercedes always seem to adapt.

“Congratulations to both of them. The big question everyone wants to know now is whether Lewis can pull level with Michael Schumacher on seven world titles next year. At the moment you would have to say it seems likely. It will make it an interesting year.”

This year’s ceremony will take place on February 17 in Berlin.

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