Lewis Hamilton will match Michael Schumacher’s record seven world championships before his Mercedes deal expires, Nigel Mansell has claimed with his fellow Briton standing on the brink of an historic title.
Hamilton, 33, requires just eight points more than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the US Grand Prix on Sunday to wrap up the championship and join Juan Manuel Fangio on five title triumphs.
There are a number of permutations as to how the Mercedes star can get his championship over the line, but the simplest is this; if he wins here in Austin, Texas and Vettel is third, the glory is his.
A fifth championship for the Silver Arrows star would leave him two shy of a record that many thought would never be beaten.
But Mansell, the 1992 world champion, who until Hamilton surpassed him, had won more races than any British driver, believes Schumacher is now firmly in his countryman’s sights.
Hamilton will remain with Mercedes until at least the end of 2020 after signing a deal to become the sport’s first £40million-a-season driver earlier this year.
“Lewis is on a crest of a wave and I predict that within the next couple of years he will get his seventh world championship,” Mansell told Press Association Sport.
“The confidence of winning puts you on another level, and if he keeps his desire I can’t see anyone challenging him next season either.
“Sebastian will again be there or thereabouts, but Lewis is racing in a different stratosphere because he has been able to build his momentum, race-by-race, year-by-year.”
Indeed, Hamilton is set to sew up his fourth championship in five seasons either in America or Mexico next weekend, with a Mercedes team that Mansell believes must now be considered the best Formula One has seen.
Could the same also be said for Hamilton?
“Will Lewis go down as one of the greatest drivers of all time? Of course he will and he should, but times are very different now,” Mansell added.
“I broke my back three times, I broke my neck, and my feet were in bits because the pedals were six inches behind the front of the car.
“I believe the great drivers are those that competed with no seatbelts, no crash helmets, and if you were involved in an accident there was a 50-50 chance you would die.”
Hamilton has been in unstoppable form since the summer break, winning six of the last seven races, to establish a 67-point lead over a mistake-ridden Vettel with only 100 remaining.
The British driver is the emperor of Austin, unbeaten on US soil since 2013. But with the heavy rain which disrupted practice on Friday, set to play a role in qualifying, Hamilton is not taking anything for granted.
“None of us at Mercedes are saying how cool it would be if it happened this weekend or the next in Mexico,” he said. “We are not focusing on ifs, we are focusing on making sure we deliver.
“You can never be complacent in life or in a championship which is as intense as this one has been. We have got to make sure we come here and raise the bar again.
“So, I am definitely not thinking how it will feel if we do the job. That just adds more pressure, and I don’t need more pressure.”