Lewis Hamilton says securing a record-equalling seventh world championship would go “beyond his wildest dreams”.
Hamilton, 35, will match Michael Schumacher’s all-time title haul if he wins Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul.
The British driver claimed his first championship with McLaren in 2008 before moving to Mercedes in 2013. His imminent title triumph this season will be his sixth in seven remarkable years with the sport’s all-conquering team.
“It was far beyond my wildest dreams to think I could get to seven championships,” said Hamilton, 85 points clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas with just 104 remaining.
“Getting one world title was great and it was very tough to get the second. I had to make a big decision whether I stayed put and kept travelling along or do something more adventurous.
“I took that leap of faith to join Mercedes and I have won one after the other. I am just trying to count my blessings, but jeez, did I know we would win six world titles? No.
“It says that in life you have to take that leap of faith and do what you think is right for you and not what people tell you to do.
“I remember watching Michael on TV and when he got to seven it was like wow. Matching an icon like him would make me incredibly proud but it is the message it sends to kids which is to dream bigger than you think you can dream.”
Hamilton’s £40million-a-year contract with Mercedes expires next month. After his victory in Imola earlier this month which put him within touching distance of his seventh title, he claimed there are no guarantees he will be in the sport next season.
But Mercedes are confident their star driver will stay and it seems inconceivable Hamilton would turn down the opportunity to compete for a record-breaking eighth title next year.
“Believe it or not, I don’t have all the answers as to what I want to do yet,” he added when pressed on his 2021 plans.
“In this step, it is easy to sign a new deal and not think about what happens afterwards.
“There is a lot to discuss, and a lot to go through. That is something we will do if not after the job is done, then at the end of the year, but nothing is set in stone.
“At the moment, I don’t feel like I am finished and there are always areas to improve. I love racing, I love the challenge and I don’t think that is going to change any time soon.”
There are growing calls for Hamilton to be recognised with a knighthood in the New Year Honours. Hamilton was awarded an MBE after winning his first title a dozen years ago.
“Only one person in the whole world has achieved what Lewis has done, and that’s Michael Schumacher, so he has led the way on and off the track and a lot of athletes who have done such things in other sports have got knighthoods so I see no reason why he shouldn’t,” said Hamilton’s compatriot Lando Norris, who is 21 on Friday.
“It is a good thing for kids who want to get into racing to be inspired by him and obviously try to achieve similar things to what he’s achieved.”