Lewis Hamilton issued Michael Schumacher warning by Mercedes boss as 2021 F1 season nears
The Brit signed a new contract with the Silver Arrows to confirm that he will race alongside Valtteri Bottas in the upcoming season.
Heading into his 15th F1 campaign, the 36-year-old knows winning the Drivers’ Championship for a fifth successive season would see him surpass Schumacher.
The Ferrari great managed seven F1 titles in an illustrious career but Hamilton joined him on that number in 2020 as he finished 124 points clear of second-placed Bottas in the standings.
Now, Hamilton is looking to overtake Schumacher while the reigning world champion is also likely to clinch centuries for race wins and podium positions.
Hamilton currently has an unparalleled 95 wins and 98 poles going into the 23-race 2021 calendar, which begins in Bahrain on March 28.
But Wolff wants his No 1 driver firmly focused on the task ahead – as he and his Mercedes team have been every season until now.
“If you start to spend too much time thinking about an eighth title you forget that in between there are 20 or so races that you need to finish in the best possible outcome,” said Wolff.
“In that respect, of course, the eighth title is out there, but it’s not going to be something that’s going to play on his mind a lot, nor does it play on our mind a lot because we need to concentrate on the job.”
Hamilton did however admit before signing his new one-year deal with Mercedes that it would be a monumental feat to go clear of Schumacher.
“The eighth world title would be a huge thing,” the seven-time champion told La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Sportweek magazine.
“I can’t even fathom the number, but that’s what I’m focusing all my efforts on. I expect a tough year, I can assure you. Red Bull showed that they are very strong in 2020.”
Red Bull are the only team who look capable of ending Mercedes’ dominance with the Milton Keynes-based outfit even stronger after adding Sergio Perez to their line-up for 2021.
The Mexican, who impressed with Racing Point last season and won the Sakhir Grand Prix, will partner Max Verstappen as the Dutchman finally looks to clinch a first world title.
Red Bull chief Dr Helmut Marko has already stoked the flames of the rivalry between the two teams, insisting Hamilton is well overpaid.
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The Briton is expected to earn a base salary of around £35million from his new deal with Mercedes, which pays him slightly less than his previous agreement.
“Hamilton is simply too expensive for Formula One. That’s why the drivers’ salaries should be included in the cost cap,” Marko told RTL.
While Wolff has laughed off claims that Verstappen is a superior driver to Hamilton, after Red Bull team principal Christian Horner declared that George Russell’s stint in the Mercedes proved so.
Hamilton was absent at the Sakhir Grand Prix due to COVID-19 and Williams driver Russell, a Mercedes junior, thrived in his place and would have won the race in Bahrain if not for a team mistake and some misfortune.
Horner said: “I think he [Verstappen] is the best, and George Russell’s performance at Mercedes confirmed that for me. Max and Lewis stand out for me, but although we should definitely not be blind to what Hamilton has achieved, he does have a good package at his disposal.
“That while Max has to get more out of his car. At Mercedes, a Williams driver can qualify himself directly on the front row and Russell almost won the race.
“However, if at Red Bull someone had to get into Verstappen’s car, for example if Max had corona, nobody would reach his level.”
While Wolff hit back: “Christian can’t stop with the teasing in the background, but that’s part of the game.
“You can only judge the best drivers on the grid if you let them race each other. We didn’t see Lewis against Max, we didn’t see George against Lewis, we haven’t seen [Ferrari’s] Charles Leclerc in a top car.”
The Austrian added: “I think Red Bull with Perez will be a much stronger contender for the Constructors’ Championship. I think Sergio is very strong here.
“It will also be interesting to see how Sergio holds up against Verstappen. So a stronger opponent and otherwise it’s a season with the same equipment as last year.
“I think Honda will really push hard in their last year and that’s why it will be interesting.”
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