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Ecclestone 'surprised' Hamilton wanted to continue in F1

Bernie Ecclestone had been expecting Lewis Hamilton to walk away from Formula 1 ahead of the 2021 season, rather than continue and potentially surpass the record number of World Championships achieved by Michael Schumacher.

Bernie Ecclestone says he was "surprised" that Lewis Hamilton chose to continue in F1 this year, as he had not expected the Mercedes driver to want to surpass Michael Schumacher's record number of titles. Hamilton currently sits on equal footing with Schumacher, with both having achieved seven Formula 1 World Championships. If Hamilton triumphs in his title fight with Max Verstappen this season, the Briton will claim a record eighth. Ecclestone does not believe, though, that this would detract from what Schumacher managed during his time in the sport. "No, not at all," Ecclestone told RTL when asked if an eighth championship for Hamilton would place the 36-year-old above Schumacher in fans' estimations. "In fact, I'm surprised Lewis didn't say at the beginning of the year, 'I'm stepping down, I don't want to win more races or World Championships than Michael.'"

Title fight is "what people want"

Hamilton remains in contention for the 2021 F1 World Championship and currently trails Verstappen by eight points with two races remaining. With the fight having been closely fought throughout the season, Ecclestone believes that it is delivering what fans want to see. "It's a fight we've been waiting for, for seven or eight years. It's finally a competition again," the former F1 boss said. "This is what people want when they watch Formula 1, or any sport for that matter - they want competition." Ecclestone thinks that the different approaches taken by Hamilton and Verstappen have added to the spectacle. "They are both very competitive in their own way," he explained. "They have a different style, a different way of dealing with things and then that suits the races." It is mathematically possible for Verstappen to win the title at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix , though there is also the possibility that the battle could go down to the wire at the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix one week later.