Then along came Michael Schumacher, and the record books were re-set, the German winning a total of seven titles with Benetton and Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton subsequently won four titles, and now the Briton – already the sport’s most successful driver in terms of pole positions and points, and second only to Schumacher in terms of wins, is on the cusp of his fifth title.
Already Britain’s most successful driver, when asked if he was looking to surpass Schumacher and become ‘the greatest’, Hamilton was keen to play things down.
“Honestly that has never been my goal,” he tells Reuters. “I started out with the goal to match Ayrton Senna or to equalise with Ayrton Senna who is my… who’s the guy that I aspire to be like, and I equalled him two years ago. So since then it’s kind of been going into unknown territory.
“So I mean Michael’s stats are incredible and still quite a long way away,” hre continues, “but I’m here for some time still, so I’m just going to keep working hard and keep trying to do what I do and what I love and enjoy it and we’ll see where it takes us.”
With a 67-point lead, Hamilton can secure his fifth title this weekend, yet, as he heads to COTA, where he has won five times previously, he insists he has no intention of changing how he approaches the weekend.
“The approach that I’ve had up until now has worked very well,” he says. “We naturally want to win this weekend. So diligence and going through the same steps in terms of getting the car to where it needs to be through the weekend, I feel naturally relaxed and I know what I’m going to do.”
“This year has been the most intensive,” he adds, “the cars are faster, the requirement on the driver’s side physically and mentally is on another level. We’ve been fighting another team who have had the upper hand for a long part of the season. So collectively as a team we’ve had to go above and beyond to deliver more than them.”