Lewis Hamilton and the significance of six F1 world titles
F1's five-time champion bids to be a six-time title winner by Sunday night in Austin; Hamilton aims to take step closer to 2019 triumph in US GP Qualifying at 9pm live on Sky F1, with build-up from 8pm
By James Galloway in Austin
Last Updated: 03/11/19 7:04pm
Lewis Hamilton stands on the brink of further F1 greatness this weekend in the USA with a sixth Drivers' Championship the prize now firmly within touching distance for him.
But it would be a mistake to assume that a sixth championship would represent just another title for Hamilton, a driver already the most successful from Britain and occupying rarified air towards the top of all of F1's key statistical tables.
The significance is much wider than that.
Hamilton heading for exclusive group - of two
The Formula 1 world championship is reaching the final weeks of its 70th season and 772 drivers have started a race which has counted towards the series in that time.
Thirty-three of those have become world champion.
Just 16 have done so more than twice. And just five on at least four occasions.
Yet only one of has become world champion six times or more up until now - Michael Schumacher, the legendary seven-time title winner.
So by moving onto six crowns himself on Sunday, Hamilton can take outright hold as the second-most successful driver in F1 history after spending the last 12 months alongside 1950s great Juan-Manuel Fangio on five titles.
"Pretty unreal," was how Hamilton described the prospect of moving onto six when asked about it in his Thursday session with the media in Austin.
So how would moving clear of Fangio resonate with Hamilton?
"I don't know, I've got to get there first," replied the focused Mercedes driver. "There are still three races and anything could happen. I'm just approaching it one race at a time."
Most F1 Drivers' Championships
|1. Michael Schumacher||7 titles|
|2. Juan-Manuel Fangio||5 titles|
|2. Lewis Hamilton||5 titles|
|4. Alain Prost||4 titles|
|4. Sebastian Vettel||4 titles|
Hamilton's hard-earned success
Incredibly, Hamilton is at the same age as Schumacher was - 34 years old - and in his 13th season of F1 when the German became a six-time champion with Ferrari at the 2003 Japanese GP.
The parallels do not end there, either.
Schumacher's sixth title - he would add a seventh and final crown a year later - came during a run of six successive Constructors' Championships for Ferrari, a record sequence Mercedes have just equalled.
But that is not to say that Mercedes' title domination of the hybrid era since 2014 has made Hamilton's own sustained success a given.
"He has won those championships because the last three years - 2017, 2018 and this year - Ferrari could have won it," said Sky F1's Karun Chandhok. "If Vettel in the first of those two years, and then Leclerc in this one, didn't make so many mistakes."
Johnny Herbert added: "This is very special and we have to enjoy watching it."
Fresh from setting the pace in Friday practice, and with what appears a relatively straightforward mathematical task awaiting him in Sunday's race, the stage appears set for Hamilton to take that next historical step.
Tune in to Sky Sports F1 on Saturday and Sunday evenings to see if he can do it.