Lewis Hamilton has vowed to win more Formula 1 races in Ayrton Senna’s memory as he closes in on the legendary Brazilian’s victory tally.
Hamilton, who has spoken of his admiration for Senna throughout his grand prix career, will match his idol’s record of 41 wins should he triumph under the lights in Singapore on Sunday.
Senna, the triple world champion, was tragically killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix but Hamilton believes he would have won more championships had he not lost his life on that fateful day in May more than two decades ago.
“I am not approaching this weekend thinking I will be equal with Ayrton,” said Hamilton, who will start his 161st race on Sunday, the same number Senna competed in before his death at Imola.
“It doesn’t matter if it is this weekend, the next weekend, or the race after – I will eventually have the same amount of wins as Ayrton.
“But if Ayrton was able to continue he would have won many more races and many more championships, so I am going to be carrying the baton for both of us and striving to win more for the both of us.
“I think if he was around we would be friends so I’d like to think I could do that for him.”
Hamilton, a two-time winner here in Singapore, is also on the brink of emulating Senna by claiming a hat-trick of world titles after he extended his lead over Nico Rosberg to 53 points following his victory in Italy.
It marked Hamilton’s seventh win of a campaign which he has dominated as he bids to become the first British driver to successfully defend his grand prix crown.
But while Mercedes and Hamilton are making it look easy this season, the 30-year-old Briton insists it has been anything but.
“We never arrive at a weekend thinking we don’t have to do anything to win,” said Hamilton.
“Every weekend all my engineers, my mechanics, the guys back at the factory, are pushing to win this championship and there is never a moment during the weekend where we are not pushing.
“It is never ever easy for us and while we have got more pace than the others, just because we are ahead it does not mean we are taking it easy.
“When I go out in the car I drive the nuts out of it every single time. There has never been a difference from when I have had a crap car to the time I have had a good car.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Rosberg has refused to give up hope of catching the Briton even though Hamilton can now afford to finish second at each of the remaining seven races and still win the title.
“I have the chance so I keep believing or I don’t, and I have chosen to keep believing,” Rosberg said.
“Historically in sport anything can happen. There are still seven races to go and lots of points so I will keep pushing. I’ll focus on the race weekend and see what Lewis does but I want to win the championship.”
Jenson Button, meanwhile, is confident his Formula 1 future will be resolved by the end of the month. Speaking after the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, Button was hopeful an announcement would be made ahead of this week’s race. McLaren have an option on whether to retain Button for 2016 – a clause which is said to expire at the end of September.
Young McLaren charges Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, the GP2 series leader, are waiting in the wings but Button said: “I said the next couple of weeks at the last race and I was wrong. So, I think by the end of the month definitely. It is not frustrating at all but there is a lot that you have got to think about over that period of time. It is an important couple of weeks but I am in a good place.”