Hamilton steers clear of great debate after record success

By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton is sure to be the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time, but the battle over who is the greatest will continue.
But the Mercedes driver, who achieved the record of Ferrari star Michael Schumacher with 91 victories at the Grand Prix of Eifel on Sunday and is heading for the seventh title, said he didn't care.
"In all sports there is a lot of talk about the greatest past and present and I think it's almost impossible to compare," said the Briton.
"There is all the talk of who is and who is not and it doesn't matter to me. What matters is the journey ... it's what we did along the way, the obstacles you face . And everyone has a different journey. "
Three-time world champion Jackie Stewart, previously Britain's most successful driver, said last week Hamilton would not be in the top three because there are so many more races now and the Mercedes is so superior.
The sport's only black driver to break down barriers and speak out on a range of topics, from racial injustice to the environment, said he was beaten by many people, especially older drivers.
"Maybe one day they will get over it," said Hamilton.
"I have so much respect for past legends, including those who keep talking negatively about me. I still value them very much because I know it was a different time in history. It was incredibly difficult for them .
"In 20 years, when I look back ... I will not talk a young driver out who can get through and succeed, because as an older driver it is the responsibility to make the lights as bright as possible and to encourage them.
"There will be someone else, Max (Verstappen) or whoever, who is going to hold the record that I eventually set. It is the wrong approach to hope it doesn't break it."
"You should encourage them to reach their full potential and if that means they can hit that record, that's amazing."
After the victory at the Nürburgring, Hamilton was presented with one of Schumacher's helmets by the German son Mick, with the boy congratulating the family.
Even with his rivals, the sense of achievement was not lost.
As the Australian Daniel Ricciardo noted, no one would have looked in Formula 1 for the past four and a half seasons if Hamilton had clinched his 91 victories in a row.
"It's unbelievable and very impressive. And I'm pretty sure that there will be more victories and probably championships too," said Red Bulls Verstappen, second on Sunday.
Hamilton is now 69 points clear and closest rival, Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, realized it would be a miracle to keep him from taking the title.
Many more wins are sure to follow for a man who has averaged 10 per season since 2014. He is at seven for 2020 and has six races to go.
The number could be well over 100 before Hamilton dons his helmet and the rules and cars essentially stay the same for the next year.
Mercedes has won both titles in the past six years and is expected to reach those seven. Hamilton will likely be around for some time to come, even if he hasn't signed a new contract yet.
"Hopefully we have more records to break and make," he said on Sunday.
"I'm not done yet. I still feel able to improve. I still feel at a really good level."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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