ISTANBUL • Lewis Hamilton can match Michael Schumacher's record seven world championships and overtake the Ferrari great as the most successful Formula One driver of all time at the Turkish Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Mercedes ace, who has a record 93 race wins, will be champion again at the Istanbul Park circuit if his teammate and sole title rival Valtteri Bottas fails to score at least eight points.
The 35-year-old Briton, who has 282 points, leads Bottas by 85, with 78 remaining to be won after Turkey when the season heads to the Middle East for a closing triple header in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
That means second place would be enough even if Bottas wins, providing the Finn does not also take the bonus point for fastest lap.
At its simplest, Hamilton just has to beat Bottas - something he has done 10 times in 13 races this year.
Hamilton, who already holds records for most poles, podiums and points finishes, has only twice finished out of the top three this year, with a worst result of seventh.
He is on a record run of 46 successive scoring finishes.
Mercedes won the constructors' title for an unprecedented seventh year in a row at Imola in Italy on Nov 1 and are assured of a seventh successive drivers' crown as well.
"We, as a team, have done such a remarkable job," said Hamilton, remarking that the team title was "almost better" than the drivers'.
Hamilton, who has yet to sign a contract beyond this season, may feel differently on Sunday.
Former Ferrari rival Felipe Massa has no doubt that the Englishman deserves that "greatest of all time" sobriquet and a salary to match it.
PATH TO GLORY
What Hamilton needs if Bottas finishes...
• 1st with fastest lap - cannot win
• 1st without fastest lap - 2nd
• 2nd with fastest lap - 4th
• 2nd without fastest lap - 4th or 5th with fastest lap
• 3rd with fastest lap - 5th
• 3rd without fastest lap - 6th
• 4th with fastest lap - 7th
• 4th without fastest lap - 8th
• 5th with fastest lap - 8th
• 5th without fastest lap - 8th or 9th with fastest lap
• 6th with fastest lap - 9th
• 6th without fastest lap - 10th
• 7th with fastest lap (or lower) - Wins title regardless of result
"Lewis can really be the best of the best and everybody will say that for years and years, or maybe decades, or whatever," he said on the F1 Nation podcast.
"So, I think he is just preparing his two-or three-year contract, which I think he deserves.
"What he is doing... He shows that he definitely deserves it, to be different to all of the other drivers in terms of everything and even in terms of salary."
The title race is the focus but Turkey's first race since 2011, as a replacement to fill out a championship depleted by the Covid-19 pandemic, will be welcomed by all.
The circuit, with its Turn 8 triple left-hander, was always a favourite among drivers even when crowds were small.
This weekend the race will be held behind closed doors.
"It's a track that made for good racing in the past, so it will be interesting to see how the modern Formula One cars do on it," said Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, who won the first Turkish Grand Prix for McLaren in 2005.
The battle to be best of the rest behind Mercedes and Red Bull is also on a knife's edge, with just a point separating Renault, McLaren and Racing Point.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
F1 TURKISH GRAND PRIX
Practice 1 & 2: Singtel TV CH114/ StarHub Ch208, 3.55pm & 7.55pm