Michael Schumacher has reflected that Lewis Hamilton possesses the potential to go on and overtake his tally of seven world championship crowns in Formula 1 and become the most successful driver in the sport's history – even though the McLaren-Mercedes star has yet to even claim his first.
Regardless of where Ferrari rival Felipe Massa finishes, Hamilton needs to take the chequered flag in just fifth place or better to clinch the 2008 laurels in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos this weekend – a circuit at which Schumacher four times triumphed and on six further occasions stood up on the podium.
The legendary German won a staggering 91 races over the course of his tremendously successful – if highly controversial – career in the top flight from 1991 to 2006, but he concedes that his records are merely a target, and as such 'there to be beaten'.
“I would say, absolutely, yes,” the 39-year-old replied when asked on BBC
programme Inside Sport
whether he believed Hamilton could ultimately claim more titles than he did. “Nobody thought, even me, that I could beat [Juan-Manuel] Fangio – then I did. Records are there to be beaten.
“It might be someone of the current or of the future that could or will do it, but I've got no problem about it. I'm quite relaxed that one day it will happen – whether it's Lewis, whether it's Massa, or whoever.”
Whilst making a point of professing his admiration for Massa – his team-mate at Ferrari in his final season in 2006, and a driver to whom he is now something of a mentor at the Scuderia
– Schumacher admitted that he could not fail to have been impressed by Hamilton's scintillating performances that have taken the sport by storm since the 23-year-old made his F1 debut in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne only 19 months ago.
“When you think about what he has done in such a short time, just arriving and competing last year with [Fernando] Alonso and being very often quicker, that talks for itself,” the man from Kerpen underlined.
“Is he the best? Is he not the best? Is he better than Felipe Massa or not? You look at the circumstances; it is not always very straightforward or clear to understand from the outside.”