Lewis Hamilton tipped to match Schumacher records
Ross Brawn, who was team boss to both Hamilton and Schumacher, reckons F1's latest four-time champion can challenge the sport's biggest records
Ross Brawn believes Lewis Hamilton can challenge Michael Schumacher's all-time records of wins and world titles before retiring from F1.
Hamilton's fourth championship, and third in the last four seasons, has brought Schumacher's all-time mark of seven drivers' titles into focus, while Hamilton's nine race wins so far this season have brought him within 30 of Schumacher's record 91.
Brawn, now F1's managing director for sporting matters, has a unique perspective on the growing debate given he is the man who brought Hamilton to Mercedes in 2013 and also famously worked with Schumacher for all seven of the German's world titles and all-but three of his 91 wins.
And asked if Schumacher's records were now in sight for Hamilton, Brawn told Sky Sports News: "I think they are.
"When that happened I couldn't imagine it being beaten, but looking at the way that Lewis is performing [they could be]."
Hamilton has joined Schumacher in an exclusive club of drivers who have won four or more Drivers' Championships.
Schumacher leads the table on seven, with 1950s great Juan-Manuel Fangio on five, and Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel and now Hamilton on four.
The Mercedes driver became F1's most successful qualifier earlier this year and is also in the top-four positions in all of the sport's other most significant statistical tables.
"He's one of the greats. He was pretty good before," said Brawn, who was team principal when Hamilton joined Mercedes nearly five years ago.
"You've got to say he's one of the greats comparable with any of the iconic characters in Formula 1. He made hard work of it [in Mexico], but apart from that he's been exemplary all year."
Are Schumi's records really under threat?
Schumacher's marks of seven titles (set in 2004) and 91 wins (2006) have already stood for more than a decade and have since been considered the two records that will last longest - and perhaps, even forever.
But Hamilton's stellar and sustained success at Mercedes, and the fact he appears poised to extend his Brackley and F1 stays beyond the end of his current contract in 2018, has prompted some to start reconsidering what is possible.
Not that Hamilton himself is thinking that far ahead yet.
"We all know how exceptional Michael was and his records have lasted for so long," said Hamilton after winning his latest title in Mexico. "There's one particular record which is going to be very hard for anyone to catch."
He is likely to be referring to the former Ferrari driver's seven drivers' titles, with Hamilton still three adrift after 11 seasons.
The 32-year-old would have to race until at least 2020 to match that record and continue into the early years of the next decade to have a chance of gaining a record-setting eighth. And that's assuming that Mercedes' era of title dominance will continue unchecked.
"There are some great drivers coming through," noted Brawn, who described 20-year-old Max Verstappen's dominant victory in Mexico as "very Schumacher-like."
But even if Hamilton does not continue racing into his late 30s, 91 race wins could still be achievable.
Hamilton is on 62 victories, 29 behind Schumacher.
The Englishman's strike rate across his 206-race career is one win every 3.3 races (30%), which means he would need 96 races more to set a new record of 92 - another five seasons, by which time he would be 37 and potentially already retired.
But Hamilton's strike rate over the last four years is a far superior 1.9, meaning he would only require another 57 races to overhaul Schumacher - about two and a half seasons until mid-2019.
Either way, with his place among the sport's greatest-ever drivers now utterly assured thanks to a British-record fourth world title, any historical feats Hamilton achieves from 2018 onwards are only likely to increase in significance.