By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday his campaigning for equal rights and diversity made him more proud than an imminent seventh Formula One world championship.
The 35-year-old Mercedes driver will match Ferrari great Michael Schumacher's record seven at this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix if team mate Valtteri Bottas fails to beat him by eight points.
"Winning a world championship is very much a personal thing... and that doesn’t necessarily impact people’s lives," he told reporters at the Istanbul Park circuit.
"Something I’m much prouder of (is)... trying to improve conditions for people around the world... that's the most important thing for me."
Hamilton said he would still be "incredibly proud" to pull level with "an icon like Michael" and seven was way beyond his wildest dreams, but numbers and titles maybe meant more to those on the outside.
"When you’re in it, it’s different," said the winner of a record 93 races.
"What’s important with the journey this year is it’s been combined with the fight for equality and a real growing process of learning what’s happening around the world and being a little bit more aware of surroundings and starting to see progress with that."
Hamilton said he hoped also to send a message, mostly to children, that "you have to dream bigger than you think you can dream and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t go for that."
When Schumacher clinched his seventh title in 2004, many felt the German's record would stand the test of time.
Hamilton had always hoped to emulate his late boyhood hero Ayrton Senna by winning three titles and he did that in 2015.
Those who felt his move from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, as Schumacher's replacement, was a mistake have been eating their words for years.
"I knew it was the right thing for me, but did I know we’d win six world titles? No," said Hamilton.
"I think what it says is that in life we’ve got to definitely make sure we take that leap of faith, do what you think is right for you and not what people tell you to do."
Hamilton said he felt refreshed and ready to go.
"For me this is another race. I need to approach it exactly the same as I have in the past because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," he added.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)