Damon Hill has hailed Lewis Hamilton’s “supreme talent” and predicted that future drivers will be racing into their fifties to try and break the Briton’s record of Formula One Grand Prix wins.
Hamilton went past Michael Schumacher’s mark to move on to 92 wins with victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday.
“It’s amazing as for a long time we all thought Michael was unassailable,” Hill, the 1996 world champion, told BBC Breakfast.
“But he’s chipped away and it’s unbelievable. Just doing 92 Grand Prix is hard enough, let alone winning them.
“His talent is supreme. There’s not a single racing driver who has not looked enviously at Lewis Hamilton’s abilities and thought ‘what must it be like to be that brilliant’?
“Max Verstappen who is still in his early 20s must breathe a deep sigh.
“He’s realising he might have to go on until he’s 40, because if Lewis does the records will be so far out of reach that everyone will be racing in their fifties to try and break it.”
Hamilton turns 36 in January, by which time he will almost certainly have equalled Schumacher’s record of seven world championship titles.
Victory at Portimao moved him 77 points clear in the standings with just 131 remaining.
“It’s like Alexander the Great, no worlds left to conquer,” said Hill.
“He’s got to tie up the title first and he looks on course for that, a couple more races and he should bag the title.
“After that it’s just carry on as long as you enjoy it.
“My dad (Graham Hill) stopped when he was 45 and people said ‘you’re going on too long’ .
“Eventually the sharpness does go and you want to go out when people still see how brilliant you are, not tugging around trying to recover lost glories.
“But I’m sure Lewis will know when that time is.”
Hamilton’s career has not been without controversy but Hill defended the Stevenage-born driver.
“Sometimes he’s said a few things which have come out wrong and people are maybe not sure where he’s coming from sometimes. But he’s honestly a nice guy,” Hill said.
“It’s difficult when you win all the time.
“People like entertainment and I think it’s very difficult to entertain people when you are out in front the whole time. But he’s entertained us as drivers.”
Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, called Hamilton’s 92-win record “exceptional” but hopes his fellow Briton faces greater competition in the years to come.
“Lewis has done a fantastic job and found himself in the best environment with Mercedes, they’ve won every year in the hybrid era,” Button told Sky Sports.
“I do hope he’s challenged a bit more in the future and I think he would want that as well. We know he’s a great talent but we all want to see him challenged a bit more and fighting for those wins a bit harder.
“Lewis will become a seven-time world champion this year, and probably an eight-time world champion next year, and then he might have a bit more competition – which will be great to see.
“I think he’s going to be around until the car’s not competitive, which could be another five years.”