‘Michael is still my hero’ – Vettel's mixed feelings on Hamilton closing in on Schumacher's record
Sebastian Vettel has admitted that it will be a bittersweet moment if Lewis Hamilton matches Michael Schumacher’s Grand Prix wins record this weekend.
Seven-time champion Schumacher ended his F1 career with 91 Grand Prix victories having taken five of his championships – and 72 wins – with Ferrari. If Hamilton wins the Russian Grand Prix this weekend, he will equal Schumacher’s tally – and could take the record outright at the following race at the Nurburgring.
“I think it’s always been a number that has appeared impossible to reach,” said Vettel ahead of the race at Sochi. "[But] seeing, last year, Lewis’s track record, he was getting closer and closer.”
Vettel grew up as a Schumacher fan, and reflected on watching his compatriot's first title win with Ferrari in 2000, 20 years on.
On the one hand, for sure, I will be sad, because Michael is still my hero...
“I wanted Michael to win, simple as that. I was just happy. I don’t know where I was, I guess at home; I was just happy to see him winning the championship. I was what, 13 years old? At that stage you don’t really think about what it means.”
As a result, Vettel says he expects to feel “mixed emotions” when Hamilton does break Schumacher’s record.
“On the one hand, for sure, I will be sad, because Michael is still my hero,” said Vettel, “on the other hand, I will be very happy for Lewis. I think he deserves all the success he has had in the last years and he is going to have in this year – I don’t know if he remains [in F1] but I guess so – and the next years.
“So yeah, a bit half-half. Mixed emotions, but yeah, that’s how I feel.”
Vettel – who is third in the all time list with 53 wins – was asked whether he ever thought he might be the driver to one day break Schumacher's record.
“For myself, I don’t know," he said. "Obviously, I’m far away now but as I said, it was always one of these numbers that seemed impossible up to the point that somebody gets there, gets close and breaks it.”
The German heads to Russia this weekend with just eight races remaining in his stint with Ferrari, before a move to Aston Martin in 2021.