Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton is poised to match the total number of race wins by his childhood idol Ayrton Senna, and says notching a 41st victory in Singapore this weekend would be an emotional moment.
Hamilton has a big lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the standings after winning the past two races and took this grand prix last year, so he will be hard to beat at the Marina Bay street circuit.
It would be fitting if he equalled Senna’s record in precisely the same number of races the Brazilian drove – 161.
“I always wanted to emulate Ayrton Senna and I am very close to the races he did, just one race away, and one from the races he won,” Hamilton said on Thursday. “I would imagine if I was to achieve the same amount at some stage, even this weekend, it would be very emotional.”
It would also equal rival Sebastian Vettel’s number of wins and put him equal third on the all-time list. Michael Schumacher holds the record with 91, with Alain Prost second on 51.
Hamilton had made it his career goal to equal Senna’s three world championships, and only a late-season collapse will prevent him doing so this year. However, he had not kept track of how close he was to the Brazilian’s tally of race wins. Senna’s career was cut short by his fatal accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
“After the last race, I was only notified how many races I had done, and to see that almost correlate with the career that Ayrton did, I couldn’t believe it,” he explained. “Now I am set on that goal, and very close. It may or may not happen this weekend. I still have a serious challenge ahead of me, but it feels great to be up there.”
The Briton’s major threats this weekend come from Rosberg and Ferrari’s Vettel, whose grand prix wins in Malaysia and Hungary this year were the only interruptions to Mercedes’ dominance.
There will be a new face in the racing line-up this weekend, with American driver Alexander Rossi to make his debut with the Manor team. Rossi, who has previously driven in practice sessions for Manor and the former Caterham team, will replace Roberto Merhi for five of the remaining seven races this season.