By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton believes he can make Formula One history as the first driver to win a race after reaching the milestone of 300 grand prix starts.
The seven-times world champion, who has a record 103 wins to his credit, will become only the sixth driver to chalk up 300 starts when he lines up on the grid in France on Sunday.
Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen bowed out last year after a record 349 races, but was without a win since 2018, while it has been nearly a decade since still active Spaniard Fernando Alonso (344) last won.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello (323 races), his ex-Ferrari team mate and seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher (307) and Britain’s Jenson Button (306) retired long after their last triumphs.
Mercedes driver Hamilton paid no attention to such statistics.
“It doesn’t faze me because I’m working towards getting that win,” the 37-year-old Briton, who has won in every season he has entered but has now gone 12 races without a victory for the first time in F1, told reporters.
He made his debut at McLaren in 2007 with Alonso as team mate and the Spaniard, a double world champion now with Renault-owned Alpine, was sitting alongside on Thursday.
“He had the talent already in 2007 and he still has the talent now, with experience. He has been a tremendous driver, a legend of our sport,” said Alonso. “It has been always a pleasure to share all this time with him.
“Back then probably no-one thought someone would be able to win seven titles as Michael but, yeah. The journey has been amazing…and hopefully another win soon.”
Hamilton said his former team mate, now 40, had been probably his toughest opponent, even if comparisons were difficult and reflected different life stages.
“I remember the task of being alongside Fernando when I was 22, I was so young mentally…it’s a lot of pressure to go up against a great like him so I would say Fernando out of pure pace and ability,” he said.
“We had some good battles, I wish we could have more. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to race and we will have more in the future.”
Hamilton highlighted three races — his debut in Australia, the first win in Canada in 2007 and first home grand prix at Silverstone.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)