LEWIS HAMILTON says his campaign to promote equality means more to him than a seventh world title.
The Brit can equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven championships in Turkey on Sunday — as long as he finishes ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton, 35, has been unstoppable during this Covid-hit season, winning nine of the 13 races.
While off the track, he has promoted Black Lives Matter and highlighted inequality and environmental issues across the world.
He has used his platform as Formula One’s most successful driver of all time to help raise awareness — and says that is more special to him than another title.
Hamilton said: “The numbers and the figures and the titles and all that stuff, it perhaps appears to mean more from the outside.
“Watching the TV and watching Michael get the seventh and being like, ‘Wow, that’s seven’.
“But when you’re in it, it’s different. We’re going to continue to fight for more championships, we’re going to continue to try and improve and continue to race and do what we love doing.
“What’s important is that journey. This year has been combined with the fight for equality and learning what’s happening around the world and being a little bit more aware of surroundings.
“Naturally, matching an icon like Michael, I’d be incredibly proud of that. But I think it’s more the message that it sends to people.
“Not just kids but hopefully mostly kids because they’re the future, that you have to dream bigger than you think and don’t let anyone tell you can’t go for that.”
Perhaps, given that the title takes second billing to his work for equality, Hamilton says he is not thinking about matching Schumacher’s total this weekend.
Instead he wants to take it all in his stride knowing he has a comfortable 85-point margin over Bottas with four races to go.
He added: “I am just focused on trying to do a good job, just taking it one race at a time, trying to do the best we can as a team, not thinking about anything else.
“I have learned not to add pressure that’s unnecessary. I have four races to battle for those points, so I don’t put it all on to one weekend, one day.
“For me, it is another race. I need to approach it exactly as I have in the past.
“Maybe then that’s why sometimes it’s a shock. All of a sudden it hits you because you have not thought about it much and you don’t know what to say, because you never truly know whether it is going to happen.
“I am not focused on the ‘what if?’ I am focused on preparing myself the same as before to try to deliver the way I have all season.”
Nonetheless it seems a formality — although it could have been a lot different had he not decided to join Mercedes from McLaren in 2013.
Hamilton admits it took some convincing from Ross Brawn and Niki Lauda — who were both working for Mercedes at the time — when they first approached him about signing.
He said: “I had first spoken to Niki. I was back home in Monaco and he’s like, ‘You’ve got to come to the team’. And I wasn’t convinced necessarily at the beginning.
“I think the convincing stage, which really made me look into it more, was when Ross came around my mum’s house and sat in the kitchen and we had tea.
“He showed me what the plan was for the team. That was the real, in-depth insight into what the team was planning and the changes they were trying to do.
“So that was really the ‘selling’ point. With Niki we worked on the layout of the deal.”
Once his seventh title is wrapped up, either this weekend on the outskirts of Istanbul or in the next race in Bahrain, Hamilton will switch his attention to signing a new deal.
It is expected to be a three-year contract worth around £40million a year — but as yet, nothing is signed.
He added: “I am very conscious of the idea I want to continue with Mercedes. I’d love to help them on this quest of pushing for change.
“They are taking their cars green, electrifying more and I want to help them on that road, I want to help them push for diversity.
“There is a lot to discuss and go through but it is something we will do if not after the job is done, then at the end of the year.
“Nothing is set in stone — it is just about talking about it. I don’t feel I’m finished. I don’t feel moving forward . . . there are always areas to improve.
“I love racing and the challenge and I don’t think that is going to change any time soon.”
Hamilton’s title-winning hopes got off to a slippery start in yesterday’s practice.
With no running since being resurfaced, the track was thick with dust, meaning the drivers were left struggling for grip.
Hamilton sat out a large chunk of first practice as others tiptoed their way around, while in the afternoon session, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the time-sheets.
Charles Leclerc was second quickest for Ferrari, with Bottas third and Hamilton fourth.
Hamilton said: “It was a bit of a disaster today.
“This track is such a fantastic circuit and I don’t fully understand why they spent millions to re-do the surface of a track.
“They could have cleaned it instead of wasting their money and now the track is worse than Portimao.
“So for us, the tyres aren’t working and you see it.
“It is like an ice rink out there, so you don’t get the enjoyment of the lap out there and I don’t see that change there.
“It is terrifying the whole way around. It is like having wet patches the whole way around and I guess the oil is seeping from the Tarmac.
“It is s**t with a capital S.”
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