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Five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton said he was humbled to be put in the same league as Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna but his boyhood hero would always have a place of his own in the sport’s annals.
The late Brazilian triple champion’s former teammate Gerhard Berger said earlier this month that Hamilton was the only driver he ranked on a par with Senna, who died at Imola on 1 May 1994.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard of it,” Hamilton told reporters at a damp and overcast Baku street circuit ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“I’m really fond of Gerhard and he got to race up alongside him (Senna) and was a really good friend of his so that means a lot coming from him, someone who knew him so well. And it’s quite humbling to even just be put in the same sentence as someone like Ayrton.
“But for me Ayrton is always in his own light and he’s always on his own unique level that as a driver you just aspire to emulate or be like,” added the 34-year-old Briton of the charismatic Brazilian.
Hamilton holds the record for most pole positions with a tally of 85 to Senna’s 65 and with 75 wins is second only to Michael Schumacher (91). Senna won 41 grands prix.
Leading the championship by six points and with 18 races to go, Hamilton could eventually equal Schumacher’s tally of wins and the German’s record haul of seven championships.
Hamilton said Senna would always be his inspiration.
“I didn’t really know his personality so much apart from the small clips you were able to see,” said the Mercedes driver when asked what about Senna had inspired him.
“So it was more what he stood for, what he stood up against and what he was able to do in a car that I loved to see. He was the driver that inspired me as a kid and he’s still a hero today and he always will be.”