Lewis Hamilton is not feeling sentimental about the 1000-race milestone Formula One is celebrating at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Chinese Grand Prix, including whether or not Charles Leclerc should remain the No. 2 driver at Ferrari.
The Chinese Grand Prix has been dubbed Formula One’s 1000th Grand Prix, a landmark that has attracted plenty of attention from fans and media alike.
The measurement of that figure has been questioned this week, although Sunday’s race will be the 1000th time since 1950 there has been a race awarding points towards an overall world championship. F1 has created some fanfare around the occasion with a big marketing push around that number and several drivers are expected to carry some one-off helmet designs for the weekend.
Hamilton, the reigning world champion and a man who has started 231 and won 74 of those races since his debut in 2007, says the occasion means little to him and that his only focus is on claiming his second victory of the season.
“I’m not one with birthdays, I’m not one for anniversaries, I’m not one for special days like this,” he said on Thursday in Shanghai. “It’s no different to any other race for me, I’m here to do one job, and one job only, and that’s winning. Doesn’t matter if it’s the thousandth or two thousandth or ten thousandth, it’s an irrelevant figure for me.”
F1 briefly considered moving July’s British Grand Prix to this weekend in order for it to be the 1,000th race — the current host venue, Silverstone, was where the first world championship event took place in 1950. Hamilton is relieved that never took place.
“I’m glad it’s not Silverstone now, because the weather’s not particularly great back home in the UK. I like the Silverstone GP being where it is. I don’t know why they have it around Wimbledon [tennis], it’s probably poor timing in that respect, but the weather’s been good for the last few years at Silverstone, which is great for the fans.”
Plenty of drivers reflected on their first memory of a Formula One race on Thursday, but one of the most telling was from Hamilton’s chief rival of the modern era, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. After winning his four world titles with Red Bull Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 to emulate his boyhood hero, Michael Schumacher, who claimed five in red at the start of the 2000s. Vettel is yet to do that, but appears to have the car to do so in 2019.
“I don’t think it’s fair to pick one. My father obviously was a big fan of Formula One. He was watching so I grew up watching with him. The first one I remember is the one where Senna won in Brazil, but only very small bits of the race, the fact that he was hardly able to stand after the race.
“Then Michael obviously. Michael’s races especially then when he moved to Ferrari. The 1996 car wasn’t very pretty but was the first car he drove with Ferrari. And then the years after, trying to win the title. 1998 when he lost it in Suzuka, when he blew the engine. Then I think 2000 when he sealed the championship. So key races, really, but not particularly one [when I said] ‘this is what I want to do.'”
Earlier this week, former F1 boss Bernie Eclestone suggested the championship series will come under serious threat from the all-electric Formula E in the near future. F1 is currently thrashing out new car and engine regulations for 2021 and there has been an ongoing debate about how relevant it should try to be to the car industry.
Haas boss Guenther Steiner was given the chance to predict whether F1 would still exist in its current form long enough for a 2,000th race and he jumped at the chance to start off with one of the one-liners he has become famous for.
“You know I see the 2,000th race without me! I will not be around any more. I don’t know. That’s a difficult question. I have no idea.”
When asked if he thought the series would still exist in any form, he replied: “I think so. I mean at the moment we don’t know what we are racing in 2021, never mind in another 1,000 races which is about 50 years away.
“I don’t know. I think there always will be car racing. I don’t know where transportation in general goes. Look at horse racing, we don’t use horses any more and horse racing is still around. I think car racing will be still around. I think it’s a great sport, but exactly how it looks like, I have no idea.”
There was some numerical symmetry at the last race, the Bahrain Grand Prix, when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc became the 99th driver to claim pole position at what was the 999th race to count towards an F1 world championship.