Lewis Hamilton has been crowned the most victorious driver in Formula One history following his crushing 92nd career win in Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
A fortnight after he drew level with Michael Schumacher in Germany, Hamilton now stands alone in the record books after taking the chequered flag at Portimao 25.5 seconds clear of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton is poised to become the sport’s most successful driver of all time as early as next month, with a seventh world championship certain to follow this season.
The Englishman’s victory here moved him 77 points clear of Bottas with just 130 points to play for. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished third ahead of the Ferrari driver of Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton said afterwards: “It is going to take some time to fully sink in. I cannot find the words at the moment.
“My dad is here, which is amazing, and my step-mum Linda too and my dog Roscoe so it is a blessed day.
“I could have only ever dreamed of being where I am today. didn’t have a magic ball when I came to Mercedes but here I am and as a team we are trying to make the most of it.”
The Briton added: “I had cramp in my right calf so I was lifting down the straight because it felt like it was about to pull but I had to get through it.”
Hamilton was an 11-year-old boy dominating Britain’s karting scene the last time a Formula One grand prix was staged in Portugal in 1996. Little did Hamilton know then, that 24 years later he would break F1’s all-time win record – a tally many thought would never be bettered following Schumacher’s 91st win at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix.
For the opening six laps, Hamilton’s quest for history appeared in grave danger following a bizarre start to the 12th of 17 rounds under overcast and blustery Algarve skies.
After taking pole on Saturday, Hamilton retained the lead on the downhill gallop to the opening bend, but halfway round the first lap he had fallen to third, passed by Bottas and then McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who started seventh.
A smattering of rain drops and cooler conditions meant Hamilton was off the mark in getting his medium-compound rubber up to speed, and team-mate Bottas, on the same rubber was also struggling.
🏁 END OF RACE (LAP 66/66) 🏁
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 25, 2020
Indeed, by the end of a frantic first lap – which also saw Verstappen collide with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez at the fourth corner – Sainz, starting on the speedier soft tyres, had taken the lead.
The briefest of showers soon abated and normal order started to resume, with Bottas retaking the lead on lap six and Hamilton moving past Sainz to take second on the ensuing lap.
At that stage, Bottas appeared in control, but it was not long before Hamilton’s brilliance came to the fore. On laps 17, 18 and 19, Hamilton set a hat-trick of fastest laps and Bottas’s two-second lead had evaporated. Then, on the run down to Turn 1 on lap 20, Hamilton cruised round the outside of Bottas to lead the grand prix.
Over the course of nine spellbinding laps, Hamilton opened up a seven-second lead over the Finn and with that, any chance Bottas had of stopping Hamilton from rewriting F1’s record books was over.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) October 25, 2020
The Mercedes machine is in a class of one this year and with Hamilton at the wheel, he has no competition. The Englishman pulled in for his solitary change of tyres with 26 laps remaining before lapping the entire field up to Leclerc in fourth. It was a devastating display and one befitting of this great British talent.
Despite his accident with Verstappen on the first lap, Perez turned in a wonderful recovery drive. He finished seventh. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took fifth ahead of early leader Sainz.
Lance Stroll, who missed the last race with an illness which was later diagnosed as coronavirus, endured a miserable afternoon.
First, he was penalised five seconds for crashing into Lando Norris at the first corner – relegating the young Briton way down the order – before he was handed an additional five-second penalty for exceeding track limits. His Racing Point team later retired him from the race.