British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record of podium finishes on Sunday when he cruised to a dominant Spanish GP victory.
Lewis Hamilton admitted to feeling ‘humbled and honoured’ after becoming Formula 1’s all-time record holder for podium finishes by surpassing Michael Schumacher at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
Hamilton took a dominant victory for Mercedes at the Circuit de Barcelona to extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 37 points.
The result marked the 88th win of his F1 career, leaving him just three victories shy of Schumacher’s record tally of 91 victories.
But after matching Schumacher’s long-standing record of 155 podium finishes at Silverstone one week earlier, the result in Spain saw Hamilton move clear onto 156 podiums.
Schumacher had been F1’s podium record-holder since the 2002 British Grand Prix, when he surpassed Alain Prost’s previous benchmark of 106 rostrums.
Asked about beating Schumacher’s podium record after his victory in Spain, Hamilton said he found it ‘very strange’ to be beating the tally set by a driver he looked up to when starting out in racing.
“All of us drivers here grew up watching Michael and dreamed of one day being here,” Hamilton said.
“What is happening right now is far beyond what I dreamed as a kid. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I’m given every day.
“I think Michael was obviously an incredible athlete and driver.
“So I just always feel really humbled and honoured to be mentioned in the same light as a driver like him, and Ayrton [Senna] and [Juan Manuel] Fangio.
“It’s pretty cool. And I hope the Hamilton family are proud also.”
Hamilton has stood on the podium at more than 60 per cent of the races he has entered since making his debut in 2007.
Of drivers who made more than one grand prix start, Hamilton only trails Luigi Fagioli and Fangio for podium conversion rates.
Fagioli scored six podiums in seven F1 starts through 1950 and 1951, equating to a hit rate of over 85 per cent, while Fangio made the top three in 35 of his 52 race starts (67.31 per cent).
The next record of Schumacher’s in sight for Hamilton is his tally of 91 race wins, which he could break at the Russian Grand Prix in September should he win each of the next four races.
Hamilton is also targeting Schumacher’s tally of seven F1 world titles this year, having claimed his sixth drivers’ crown last season.
Hamilton also hailed the Spanish GP as one of his ‘best’ races having led every lap from pole position and lapped everyone bar Max Verstappen and teammate Valtteri Bottas on the way to a 24-second victory.
“We all try for perfection and it’s not always easy to deliver like that but today, for me in the car, I was ecstatic when I came across the line,” he said after the race.
“For me… in terms of how I drove, really delivering, I think today is right up there with some of the best that I’ve personally felt I’ve done.”
It was his fourth victory in six races so far this year.
Bottas took third, failing to catch Verstappen despite Mercedes’ efforts on strategy.
In temperatures of 30C, the race was gruelling physically for all the drivers, but there was no sign of the expected challenge to Hamilton from Verstappen.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff had said on the eve of the race that Verstappen was favourite because he had shown stronger pace when the teams were doing their race preparation in practice.
But once converting his pole position into a lead at the first corner, Hamilton was always in command.
He took it easy in the opening laps, to ensure he could make his required pit-stop schedule but after ten laps started to increase the pace and Verstappen could not keep up.
“I was just in a daze out there,” Hamilton said. “It felt really good. It was a surprise because we had this problem with the tyres [at the last race] and the work we did was what meant we could do this.”
With Hamilton in control, Red Bull’s focus now became ensuring Verstappen held on to second place from Bottas, who made a poor start and dropped to fourth on the first lap, behind Verstappen and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
Bottas was past Stroll within five laps but Verstappen was able to hold the Finn just out of range through the first pit stops.
Mercedes decided to run Bottas longer than Verstappen in the second stint, in an attempt to give him a tyre off-set in the final stint.
But although stopping seven laps later than Verstappen and switching on to the soft tyre compared to the Red Bull’s mediums, Bottas was unable to gain any ground.
Bottas’ consolation was the point for fastest lap, but with a 43-point deficit to Hamilton – a gap edging close to two clear wins – the Finn’s title hopes are already effectively almost over.
Another bad day for Ferrari saw Charles Leclerc’s race ended due to engine problems
The Racing Points of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll crossed the line fourth and fifth, but the Mexican was handed a five-second penalty for ignoring blue flags when Hamilton was lapping him and dropped behind the Canadian in the results.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz drove a strong race on his home track to take sixth, ahead of the impressive Sebastian Vettel, who made a one-stop strategy work to move up from 12th on the grid to finish seventh.
Vettel’s teammate Leclerc was running ahead of him and was also aiming for a one-stop but spun when an electrical fault cut his engine on lap 36.
He managed to get the car going again at the second attempt, and did a lap without his seat belts secured to get back to the pits, where he had to retire.
Later Verstappen said: “It was good to split the two Mercedes. I didn’t have the pace like Lewis but I’m happy with second. The start was crucial to get ahead of Valtteri, then I was just trying to go at my own pace.”
Bottas said ‘the start was the key point’.
“I lost a position and then had to push hard to make ground and suffered the tyre condition. In stint two I was behind Max and everyone knows how hard that it. Off the start, Lewis got away and I did not have a tow like those behind,” he added.
Race results: [top ten]: 1 Lewis Hamilton (1hr:31m:45.279s), 2 Max Verstappen (+24.177s), 3 Valtteri Bottas (+44.752s), 4 Lance Stroll (+1 lap), 5 Sergio Perez (+1 lap), 6 Carlos Sainz (+1 lap), 7 Sebastian Vettel (+1 lap), 8 Alexander Albon (+1 lap) 9 Pierre Gasly (+1 lap), 10 Lando Norris (+1 lap).
Drivers’ standings after six races: [top ten]: 1 Hamilton (132 points), 2 Verstappen (95), 3 Bottas (89), 4 Leclerc (45), 5 Stroll (40), 6 Albon (40), 7 Norris (39), 8 Perez (32), 9 Sainz (23), 10 Daniel Ricciardo (20).
(With inputs from agencies)