LONDON (Reuters) - As Lewis Hamilton gets closer to matching the Formula One achievements of his great hero Ayrton Senna, so the sense of unreality -- that he might be caught up in some crazy daydream -- grows in his mind.
On Sunday, the 30-year-old Briton won the Belgian Grand Prix and in the process matched the late Brazilian’s tally of 80 podium appearances.
If the Mercedes driver keeps on going at his current pace -- with 10 pole positions in 11 races and six wins so far this year -- he will join Senna as a triple world champion before the end of the season.
“It just feels very surreal,” Hamilton, who now leads German team mate Nico Rosberg by 28 points with eight races remaining, told British reporters after an unusually sunny Spa weekend.
”I remember watching the races when I was five, I remember the first time driving a go-kart and watching Ayrton and wanting to one day be like him. I always said as a karter I want to do something similar to what he’s done.
“And to think I’m fighting for my third world championship, which he had, and have now got the same amount of podiums as him... it’s almost like a crazy dream that I’m going to eventually wake up and find out I’m working at McDonalds or as a dustbin driver.”
Hamilton was quick to emphasize that there was nothing wrong with those occupations, with his own father holding down several jobs to fund his son’s start in karting including putting up real estate boards.
But his world of private jets, of mixing with celebrities and waking up in Monaco or Colorado, is now so far from his youth in a rough neighborhood of Stevenage that he has to pinch himself.
Already he is just two wins away from matching Senna’s 41 victories.
If he wins the next two in Italy and Singapore then he will have chalked up the tally in 161 starts, coincidentally the same number that Senna made in a career that ended prematurely in Imola in 1994.
Senna holds the record for eight successive poles in a season, Hamilton now has a run of six. The Briton has a career 48, Senna managed 65.
Those who feared he was cramming so much into his private life over the August break that he might pay a price on the racetrack were proven emphatically wrong on Sunday.
“It feels great. A huge contrast to last year when we were down on poles, on qualifying results and I was always having to come from behind,” said Hamilton.
“This year qualifying has been awesome... he (Rosberg) was still quick, able to close the gap at times and he will still be a threat. But my qualifying pace is how it should be.”
Next up is Monza, a race Hamilton won from pole last year to start a run of five wins in a row. He will be favorite again but first he has more traveling to do.
“I do like flying,” he said. “I don’t like being in one place... If I go home, I die of boredom. I like moving, being in different places and seeing different people. For sure I’ll be doing a little bit of traveling.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar