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Hamilton is 'in a daze' as he nears Schumacher's record

 

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Champagne champ: Race winner Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen

Champagne champ: Race winner Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen

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Champagne champ: Race winner Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton said he completed his crushing Spanish Grand Prix victory in an almost unconscious state yesterday.

The Mercedes driver finished a convincing 24 seconds clear of Max Verstappen and 44 seconds ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Barcelona's Circuit Catalunya, to edge ever closer to equalling Michael Schumacher's record seven world championships.

While Hamilton moved to within just three victories of Schumacher's overall win record - one he could now match at Ferrari's 1,000th Grand Prix in Tuscany on September 13 - he also toppled the German's all-time podium tally.

No driver in Formula One's 70-year history has stood on a grand prix rostrum more times than Hamilton's stunning 156 visits from 256 starts.

After recording what is regarded as his greatest pole lap around the streets of Monaco, Hamilton's hero Ayrton Senna famously said he "was no longer driving consciously."

The triple world champion, who lit up the Principality to finish 1.427 seconds clear of rival Alain Prost in identical McLaren machinery, continued: "I was in a different dimension. It frightened me because I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding."

Hamilton will have been just three when Senna delivered that particular moment of F1 antiquity. Fast-forward 32 years, and it is now the boy from Stevenage who is rewriting the sport's history books.

Crossing the line to claim his fourth triumph from six outings this year, a satisfied Hamilton said over the radio: "I was just in a daze out there. I was in a different zone.

"There is an immense amount of pressure on all of us to perform, and the goal is always to chase to perfection and be in that zone.

"You can be close but not in your perfect rhythm, but for whatever reason, and I can't quite pinpoint why, it felt like I was in the most clear zone with a clarity.

"I don't know how you to get in that space but I felt fantastic in the car. I didn't make mistakes and I delivered lap upon lap - it is the zone that I dream of being in.

"I was ecstatic when I came across the line. I didn't realise it was still the last lap. I was still going like a horse with those blockers on.

"For me, it is right up there in terms of how I drove, how I really delivered and up there with some of the best performances that I feel I have done.

"I am definitely going to have a glass of wine tonight to celebrate."

Hamilton will head to the seventh round in Belgium later this month with a 37-point lead over Verstappen. Should he win there, and in Imola a week later, the Tuscany Grand Prix at Ferrari's home track in Mugello will provide him with the opportunity to equal Schumacher's 91 victories - the last of which he recorded at Monza in 2006.

"We all grew up watching Michael and dreaming of one day being here," added Hamilton.

"What is happening right now is far beyond what I dreamed of as a kid and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I am given every day.

"Michael was an incredible athlete and driver so I just feel humble and honoured to be mentioned in the same light as a driver like him, like Ayrton and like Juan Manuel Fangio, too. I hope the Hamilton family are also proud."

Verstappen's superb victory against the backdrop of tyre trouble for Mercedes at Silverstone last weekend provided some hope that Hamilton will not have it all his own way this year. But in the 30-degree heat, the champion led every lap after charging to the first corner to leave team-mate Bottas trailing.

Bottas fell two places to fourth after he was too timid on the brakes at the opening bend, allowing Verstappen to sail around the outside, and Lance Stroll to sneak through on his right.

Bottas would make it back past Stroll on lap five but he was unable to do anything about Verstappen.

Belfast Telegraph