Lewis Hamilton’s record-equalling world championship has been hailed by Nico Rosberg as one of the greatest sporting achievements ever.
Hamilton delivered a mesmerising drive at Sunday’s rain-affected Turkish Grand Prix to seal his seventh title with three rounds to spare.
It marked the Briton’s sixth triumph in seven years and moved him level with Michael Schumacher 16 years after the great German drove to his final championship.
Rosberg beat Hamilton to the 2016 title and retired just days later. The former Mercedes team-mates endured a fractious relationship in the three seasons they tussled for the title. But the 35-year-old German led the tributes to Hamilton on Sunday night.
“7 x World Champion – that’s insane,” said Rosberg. “Massively deserved. Surely one of the greatest achievements in the history of sports.
“Congratulations Lewis and enjoy the celebrations with your family and friends.”
Sebastian Vettel, who won four consecutive titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, also moved to acknowledge Hamilton’s record.
Vettel was soundly beaten to the 2017 and 2018 championships by Hamilton despite competing in a Ferrari that was on par, if not better, than Hamilton’s Mercedes machinery.
“It is special for us because we can witness history being made,” said Vettel, who was the first to offer his congratulations to an overwhelmed Hamilton after the race.
“It is always difficult to compare. How can you compare Juan Manuel Fangio and Sir Stirling Moss to our generation? You can’t.
“Maybe we would be useless because we would be s******* ourselves in those cars, or they would be useless in our cars because they are too fast.
“But every era has its driver, and Lewis is certainly the greatest of ours. Emotionally, Michael will always be the greatest for me, but there is no doubt that Lewis is the greatest in what he has achieved.
“He has equalled the championship record and he has more wins and more poles that anyone else so he has done everything you could ask for. It wasn’t his race to win today but he still won it.”
Hamilton’s £40million-a-contract with Mercedes expires next month. After securing his seventh title here, the team will ramp up talks with their star driver in order to retain his services.
“Lewis just got really more expensive today,” said Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal. “His driving was impeccable. There was not one foot he put wrong today in a car that was not the best out there. He has cemented his position among the all-time great sportsmen in the world.”
Reflecting on his future, Hamilton, 35, said: “We do need to get on to it but it has to be organic and not something that is forced.
“There are days where you think what happens if you start making mistakes or you get worse. Does your value decrease? Does your bargaining power decrease and does your reputation go off a cliff?
“I know there are scenarios in life where you want to sign up quickly and secure your future. But I bet on myself to do the work. I know myself better than anyone, better than ever.
“I wanted to put the contract aside and wait until the job is done. We have got three races in the Middle East and they are races I want to win. But we will get the contract done, of that, I am sure.”