Lewis Hamilton could help Mercedes match a 31-year-old Formula One record at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
But don’t think it’s high on his priority list this weekend, the British five-time champion said on Thursday.
Hamilton and fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas have combined to win all eight races this season. Dating back to last year, Mercedes’s winning streak consists of 10 races, leaving the team one short of the all-time mark set by McLaren more than three decades ago.
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won the first 11 races of 1988, the season that would see Senna winning his first of three Formula One titles.
For Hamilton, however, matching that milestone won’t be on his mind for Sunday’s race.
While he said he’s proud to help Mercedes set new benchmarks in the sport, the old McLaren record “is not anywhere near the top 50 of the list of priorities for me on the race weekend.”
Hamilton said that the heat wave in Central Europe is more of a concern, with temperatures around the high-altitude track expected to rise to 33 degrees.
“That’s going to be a problem all around,” Hamilton said. “For sure, all the engineers are on the edge of their seats, a bit nervous because it is very hot here. … The cars are always on their limit with the cooling. They have to open up the car to create cooling.”
Last year, Max Verstappen won the race against the backdrop of the Austrian Alps. While Red Bull has not really threatened any of the Mercedes wins this season, Ferrari came tantalizingly close when Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first at the Canadian Grand Prix, only to lose his win on a five-second penalty which handed runner-up Hamilton another victory.
After winning the French Grand Prix in Le Castellet last Sunday, Hamilton said “I totally understand” when people call Formula One boring. Hamilton led from start to finish in the race and Mercedes is heading for its sixth straight drivers’ and constructors’ championship.
And Hamilton wasn’t expecting an exciting race on Sunday, either.
While the track with just 10 turns and the shortest lap time of all circuits usually offers limited possibilities for overtaking, it might become even harder this time.
“Having to cool your car, [you have to] pull back from the car in front of you,” Hamilton said. “I hope it’s still a good race.”
Verstappen was also hoping for a good race, but the Dutchman, a five-time Grand Prix winner often known for his on-track daring, didn’t expect to stop Mercedes from reaching the straight-win record.
“We need quite a bit of luck for that,” said Verstappen, when asked what would lead to a repeat of his 2018 triumph.
While Mercedes is even more dominant than last year at this point of the championship, Verstappen is also enjoying a very consistent season – but mostly just off the podium.
In eight races, Verstappen has never been worse than fifth but also never better than third, and he cynically commented “great!” on his total of five fourth-place finishes.
“I wouldn’t call it frustrating, it’s not that I am miles off,” he said. “I always have a Ferrari in front or a Mercedes, but I am not that far away.”
With two third places this season – in Australia and Spain – Verstappen has only marginally added to his career total of five wins and 24 podiums.
It has prompted speculation that Verstappen could move to another team even before his current contract with Red Bull expires at the end of the 2020 season.
“It is more important to just see what the team will bring in the outstanding races,” Verstappen said. “I am not too worried about what is going to happen next year, or even beyond that.
“At the moment I just want to focus on this project, as I think there is still a lot of potential and we are just getting started,” he added, referring to the team’s switch of engine manufacturers for this season from Renault to Honda.
“Of course, I am not here to be fourth, I want to win races,” Verstappen said. “It’s not nice to be at this fourth spot, always just missing out on the podium.”