Lewis Hamilton column: Picking up the baton for Ayrton Senna

Lewis Hamilton Column
Singapore Grand Prix on the BBC
Venue: Singapore Dates: 18-20 September
Coverage: Highlights on BBC TV, coverage on BBC Radio 5 live, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV. Full details here

When I was a boy growing up in Stevenage, I would come home from school and quite often put on a video of Ayrton Senna.

I wanted to be like him. I aspired to one day drive the way he drove, and achieve something similar to what he achieved.

At the time, I felt that if I could get anywhere close to doing anything similar to him I would be super-proud of myself. That is what I set my sights on all those years ago.

The fact that with the help of my family I made it to Formula 1 is already a dream come true.

So you can imagine how special it is to me to be about to equal the number of races Ayrton competed in (161) - and, if I win in Singapore on Sunday, to match his number of victories as well (41).

I've only just realised I was that close to Senna's career statistics. Generally, I don't pay too close attention to those numbers or records.

Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna won three world titles and 41 races before his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix

But now it has come around, I am so proud to be in a position to emulate him. At the same time, though, I am also aware that if he had not passed away he would have continued and won so many more races and championships, because he was that good.

Now I am at the stage where I am getting to the levels he was at, it feels a little like a relay race - that I will be picking the baton up for him and carrying it for the both of us from now on.

If it doesn't happen this weekend, it doesn't matter. Of course, I want nothing more than to win on Sunday. But if something goes wrong and it's the next race in Japan, or the one after that, it will still be 41 wins, still be the same as Ayrton.

Achieving it is all that matters, not when I do it. All I'm really thinking is I have seven more races this season to get there.

I never set out to 'beat' Ayrton. And, as I say, I won't regard it as that anyway. I set out to do the same thing as him. To be on a similar level in terms of results is a bonus, and nothing else.

Some hard truths about F1

Lewis Hamilton, Lionel Richie and Keith Richards
Lewis Hamilton poses with Lionel Richie and Keith Richards after being named GQ magazine's sportsman of the year at their annual awards

While we're on the subject of records, I want to address some criticisms I hear from time to time about my position in Mercedes and our performance as a team at the moment.

People sometimes say things like, 'Well, he's in the best team with the best car - of course he's winning.'

When I hear that, I think to myself that they are kind of missing the point.

All the top drivers who have had periods of dominance, whether it be Sebastian Vettel or Michael Schumacher or whoever, they have all been in top teams with great cars. So people need to get over that.

Motorsport is not like tennis or golf where results are solely down to the athlete.

But there are still significant differences between the drivers. They might only be a tenth of a second in terms of lap time, but in our world that is worth a lot of money.

Teams spend millions to find that amount of time in the cars.

The championship

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel

I'm aware that, after winning the last race in Italy and my team-mate Nico Rosberg retiring, I am now in a strong position in the drivers' championship.

This is the time of year when the journalists start throwing statistics at whoever is leading, saying that if they do such and such for the next however many races, then they will win the title at a certain point.

I can honestly say I never think about that stuff - or the championship.

My approach from now on will be the same as it has been all year: focus on the now, getting everything right on a given weekend.

I haven't thought about the points I have, or the what-ifs. I know it's a cliche, but I really am just taking it one race at a time. Doing anything else just creates unnecessary pressure and distraction.

It doesn't matter when it gets done, as long as it does get done. For now, I'm just focusing on trying to win every race, starting on Sunday.

Loving racing under the lights

Lewis Hamilton and Kanye West
Lewis Hamilton met singer Kanye West during New York Fashion Week

After Italy, I headed back to the USA for Fashion Week in New York. I go to New York a lot now - I find it a great place to unwind and refocus ahead of the next race.

Some of you may have seen a video of me singing in a nightclub that made its way online. I kind of expected that to happen, given I was up there doing it. It's no big deal.

We're heading into a busy part of the season now, and it starts with one of the highlights of the year. The Singapore track looks great at night, there is a fantastic atmosphere and everyone enjoys the weekend. But for the drivers it is also one of the toughest events of the year.

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Singapore GP 2014: Lewis Hamilton wins as Nico Rosberg retires

There has been a bit of talk leading up to the race about the haze caused by burning forests in Indonesia, but I haven't noticed it since I arrived on Tuesday and, apart from being a little cooler than it can be, it feels like a normal weekend here so far.

'Normal' is a relative term in Singapore, though. It's not like any other race. The heat and humidity combine with the long, long lap - there are 23 corners at Marina Bay - to make it a real challenge.

It combines the physical toughness of Malaysia, which is hot and has demanding high-speed corners, with the mental drain of Monaco.

The difficulty of the race makes it stand out, and I really enjoy it as a track. Street circuits always suit some drivers more than others, and it is a place where I always feel I can make a difference.

You can follow Hamilton on Twitter @lewishamilton and you see exclusive content on his website www.lewishamilton.com.

Lewis Hamilton was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson.

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