Michael Schumacher is widely regarded as F1's best ever. File photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi.

Leipzig, Germany - Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is closing in on Michael Schumacher's record of seven Formula One championships, but the British driver says the German will remain the best ever.

The 33-year-old Hamilton claimed his fifth title last season and will almost certainly cut the gap to Schumacher's record of 91 grand prix wins next year.

Hamilton has two years left on his current contract with Mercedes but is not thinking of chasing historical marks.

"I just don't feel that I have to try to break his records," the Briton told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper. And even if he does, Hamilton says Schumacher will remain the "greatest of all-time."

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton salutes the crowd after becoming Formula One Champion at the Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City. Picture: Tomas Stargardter/AP

Hamilton replaced Schumacher at Mercedes in 2012 and said the influence of the record champion was "quite clear ... he was part of the foundation laid for the success we enjoy today."

In the interview, Hamilton also spoke of his first meeting with Schumacher, who has not appeared in public since a skiing accident on December 29, 2013, when he tested an F1 car in 2006.

"I was still not a regular driver and it was simply unreal for me to suddenly be on the track with him," Hamilton said. "I didn't try to overtake him, I just drove behind him because directly before I was still playing computer games as Michael Schumacher."

dpa