(Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 91 Formula One wins on Sunday with an Eifel Grand Prix victory that catapulted the Mercedes driver closer to a seventh world championship.
While the Briton triumphed at the Nuerburgring, the German circuit where Ferrari great Schumacher won five times, team mate Valtteri Bottas suffered a huge hit to his title hopes with a first retirement of the season.
Hamilton, celebrating his seventh win of the season, is now 69 points clear of the Finn — equal to nearly three race wins — with six rounds remaining.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second, and took a bonus point by seizing fastest lap from Hamilton right at the end, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo third for Renault in his first podium since 2018 when he was at Red Bull.
That was also Renault’s first as a constructor since their return in 2016.
Schumacher’s son Mick, the Formula Two leader who could be racing against Hamilton next season, presented the Briton with one of his father’s red helmets from his second stint in F1 with Mercedes.
“Congratulations and this is on behalf of all of us. A great achievement, really,” said Mick, whose father suffered serious head injuries in a 2013 skiing accident and has not been seen in public since.
“Thank you so much, it’s such an honour,” said Hamilton before stepping up onto the podium at the circuit closest to Schumacher’s boyhood home in Kerpen. “I don’t even know what to say.
“When you grow up watching someone you generally idolise them, you know, really just in terms of the quality of the driver they are but what they are able to continuously do, year on year and race on race and week on week,” added the Briton.
“Seeing his dominance for so long, I don’t think anyone and especially me didn’t imagine I’d be anywhere near Michael in terms of records. So it’s an incredible honour and it’s going to take some time to get used to it.”
Hamilton said he only realised the significance of what he had done when he came into the pitlane after taking the chequered flag.
Bottas had started on pole, with Hamilton second on the grid and raising concern about his steering wheel, and came out ahead through the opening corners after a wheel-to-wheel battle with his team mate.
The Finn opened the door, however, on lap 13 when he ran wide at turn one and damaged his tyres with Hamilton close behind and going ahead at turn two.
Bottas then reported a loss of power during a virtual safety car period five laps later and was retired by the team in the pits.
“Unlucky. What can I say,” the Finn told Sky Sports television.
The safety car was deployed late in the race when McLaren’s Lando Norris pulled off with a smoking engine and both Hamilton and Verstappen were persistent in complaining over the radio about the slow pace and their tyres going cold.
Hamilton managed the restart smoothly and from then on it was just a question of managing the final laps to the historic finale.
Mexican Sergio Perez was fourth for Racing Point with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz fifth and Pierre Gasly sixth for AlphaTauri.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished seventh and Nico Hulkenberg went from last on the grid to eighth as a stand-in at Racing Point for unwell Canadian Lance Stroll.
Romain Grosjean scored his first points of the season with ninth for Haas and Italian Antonio Giovinazzi was 10th for Alfa Romeo.
His team mate Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion making a record 323rd Formula One start, was 12th.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Gareth Jones and Christian Radnedge)