Lewis Hamilton goes into this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix aiming to continue his record-breaking romp this year and make a successful start on final talks to stay with Mercedes in 2021 and beyond.
The newly-crowned seven-time champion will be bidding to claim a fourth career victory at the Sakhir Circuit, where he won last year, and seal his own future with the champion team.
Despite clinching his record-equalling seventh drivers’ title in Turkey two weeks ago, the 35-year-old Briton and his Mercedes team have no intention of easing off in the final triple-header of three floodlit Middle Eastern races of this Covid-19 affected season.
“It’s a bit more chilled now, but I still have three races ahead of me that I really want to win,” said Hamilton, following his momentous victory at Istanbul, his 10th this season.
“It’s important for us all to keep working and to maintain our momentum. There is no thought of us slowing down.”
Hamilton, now established as the most successful driver in Formula One history, has never won more than 11 races in a season, but has a chance to do that this weekend.
He can go on to reach a total of 13 wins if he triumphs in the following Sakhir Grand Prix, at the same track, and the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on the two following weekends.
If he does that, he will be only the third driver to claim 13 victories in a season, following fellow-seven-time champion Michael Schumacher and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton has already overtaken Schumacher’s record of 91 wins and is now on 94. He also holds the records for most poles, with 97, and most podium finishes, with 163 – feats that he is likely to surpass next year if, as expected, he stays with Mercedes.
The champions have already clinched their record seventh consecutive title triumph, but they have not yet agreed a new contract with Hamilton beyond this year. Talks are expected to take place during the next three weeks.
Hamilton and his ‘black arrows’ team-mate Valtteri Bottas will be the favourites, but much interest will be focused on the battle for positions behind them in the constructors’ championship.
Red Bull appear set to finish second, but behind them Renault, McLaren, Racing Point and a revived Ferrari look set to scrap for the next four places. The difference between finishing third and sixth is reported to be worth around 90 million euros ($107 million) in prize money.
Ferrari were very strong in Bahrain last year when Charles Leclerc claimed pole and only missed out on victory due to engine problems.
It could also be a busy weekend for teams making driver announcements with Red Bull, Alpha Tauri and Haas all yet to confirm their plans.
Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael, could win the Formula Two title on Saturday.