Sebastian Vettel admits he never thought anyone would ever match Michael Schumacher’s all-time win tally and yet Lewis Hamilton has done just that.
Hamilton secured his 91st grand prix win on Sunday, taking the chequered flag at the Eifel Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen.
His seventh race win of this season put him on a par with Schuamcher’s all-time record which Hamilton will be looking to break when Formula 1 races in Portimao in two weeks.
It also saw the Brit slide out to a 69-point advantage as he cruises towards another of Schumacher’s records, seven World titles.
“I can’t respect his efforts enough,” said Vettel. “I think it’s been a number in my head that I’d always thought would never be beaten, or equalled. I think we’re generally quite certain that he will exceed this number!
“Nevertheless, I have to say that Michael will always be my hero, and I think Michael had something about him that I haven’t seen in other drivers so far.
“It’s probably the fact that I looked up to him when I was a child, and Lewis I didn’t look up to when I was a child because I was racing him, so it’s a different situation going in.
“But probably in another 10, 15, 20 years’ time, there will be more admiration for that, but obviously when you’re still active, you’ve looking at yourself and not so much at others. But as I said, you can’t cherish him enough for what he has achieved.”
Verstappen, who joined Hamilton on the podium on Sunday, says he also thought Schumacher’s record would stand the test of time.
He does, however, wonder if anyone else will ever get close.
“It’s an incredible achievement,” said Verstappen. “91 wins, everyone thought that was almost impossible to reach, right?
“To be there now, himself, it’s incredible and very impressive. And I’m pretty sure there will be some more victories coming his way – and probably also championships.
“So, yep, just very impressive. And hard to beat.”
And while Daniel Ricciardo acknowledges that to achieve Hamilton’s success a driver has to have the package to succeed, he says the Brit deserves “big respect” for what he has achieved.
“Tip of the hat at the very least!” said Ricciardo. “With how much success Lewis has now had, obviously Michael as well… his career now has been well over a decade in the sport and to keep coming back and to show that level of consistency at the front, that’s also not easy. I think us up here I think we understand that.
“You can have a package and a car to do it, but it’s doing it every weekend when the lights go out. It’s easier said than done. Certainly big respect. I think also the gift that he received, one of Michael’s helmets, that’s one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever seen in the sport, so it’s really nice to see that today.”