Lewis Hamilton v Michael Schumacher: How do the F1 legends rank against each other on racing style, controversy and stats
- Lewis Hamilton won his fifth drivers’ championship title in Mexico on Sunday
- He is now just two shy of equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven
- The German’s reputation is tinged with controversy during his time at Ferrari
- Away from the race track the two drivers could not be more different in style
As Lewis Hamilton cruised over the finish line at Mexico’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Sunday in the knowledge that he had, at last, secured his fifth world title, it dawned on the F1 community that he is on course to be the sport’s best ever.
Michael Schumacher’s records, set during his dominance in the 1990s and 2000s, at once appeared impregnable. Seven championship titles. 91 wins. 77 fastest laps.
But having produced the finest season of his career to date – and given he has committed to Mercedes for a further two years – Hamilton almost has the German’s records in an overtaking zone.
Separated by just two drivers’ championship titles, Sportsmail breaks down the pair from their racing, their controversies and their life away from the race track.
Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his fifth drivers’ championship title in Mexico City on Sunday
He is now just two behind Michael Schumacher, the most successful man in the sport’s history
HAMILTON: The Briton burst onto the scene earning a podium on his debut race, before going on to become the youngest ever world champion the following season. It was at that point fans sensed they could be in the presence of someone special.
Without a doubt title No 5 has been Hamilton’s most emphatic; his performances jaw-dropping at times and he has not made a memorable mistake since Brazil in 2017.
Hamilton is a man driving with such confidence in the knowledge that, over the course of the season, he has the best all-round car.
Hamilton made his mark early and became the youngest ever world champion back in 2008
Red Bull excelled in Mexico and Ferrari have their moments like Belgium but Hamilton seems to possess a pace that leaves rivals in his rear-view mirrors more often than not.
His racing has evolved to a point where Hamilton is producing near perfection with such reliability it begs the question why Ferrari did not provide an offer he could not refuse before he was tied down by Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel went into this season level with Hamilton on four world titles but the difference between the two was striking. While in his early days at McLaren Hamilton showed an aggressiveness to get the max from his car, these days he has seen it all before and trusts he knows what he is doing.
‘Why don’t you leave me to it?’ he told his race engineer in the early stages at Mexico on Sunday as his tires became heavily worn. He knows what it takes to drive to a title. Don’t expect No 5 to be the last.
His experience on the grid now is largely unrivalled as he continues to eradicate any mistakes
SCHUMACHER: A serial winner. Probably the best way to sum up a man who would go to any length in the quest to be the best among his peers.
He demanded the best from himself and those around him and his fixation with achieving perfection in the car pushed him out in front of the rest.
Often aggressive on the brake pedal, Schumacher showed consistent performances which were hard and fast when it came to navigating corners and chicanes.
Schumacher was a serial winner who enjoyed plenty of tussles with rivals over the seasons
Schumacher once admitted he would have been happy ‘fixing go karts’ for a living and his personal fascination with cars and motorsport no doubt kept engineers on his toes.
But like any great champion Schumacher was not universally liked.
His desperate antics to preserve pole positions and race wins tarnish the legacy he left on track which was as one of the best race-drivers the sport has, and will ever, see.
The field was undeniably more competitive across Schumacher’s career than it is right now for Hamilton and while neither can mirror the dangers experienced by icons Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna, they are without doubt the two fastest drivers of all time.
His quest for perfection, and desire to do whatever it took, saw him quickly fill a trophy cabinet
HAMILTON: Mercedes have without question been the pick of the bunch since the introduction of the hybrid engine in 2014.
No other team has gone on to lift a drivers’ championship since then and Nico Rosberg the only blip in Hamilton’s surging run.
Qualifying has become something of an art form for Hamilton which peaked this season in Singapore with what his race engineer described as ‘the greatest lap in Formula 1 history’.
Fastest laps: 41
Win ratio: 31 per cent
Eighty one pole positions is far and away the best the sport has ever seen and his target will no doubt be to take that number beyond a century.
With two seasons to go the remaining Schumacher records, whether that be race wins (Hamilton is 20 behind) or podium finishes (22 behind), it seems that nothing can stop the Briton right now.
Max Verstappen is ever improving and will be Red Bull’s undisputed No 1 driver next year but Hamilton is producing performances that are poetry in motion while rivals falter around him.
SCHUMACHER: The German has the most titles in the sport’s history and is naturally the benchmark.
His ruthlessness in the red overalls of Ferrari made him a fearsome character on the track as he used whatever it took to be standing on the podium and holding another trophy aloft.
Unlike Hamilton it was not all about excelling in qualifying for the Ferrari king.
Fastest laps: 77
Win ratio: 30 per cent
Ninety-one race wins from 68 pole positions tells its own story.
Competition was arguably tougher in Schumacher’s prime as he tussled – sometimes controversially – with Mika Hakkinen, Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill to name three.
With rookie drivers like George Russell and Lando Norris coming through next season and Bottas a willing accessory for Hamilton at Mercedes, it is tough to see who will come along to both halt Hamilton’s charge and preserve Schumacher’s now vulnerable records, in the process.
Pushing to the limits
HAMILTON: Given his fierce battles with Schumacher during his career, it should come as no surprise that Villeneuve is in Hamilton’s corner when legends are asked for the sport’s greatest ever.
The 47-year-old Canadian, when asked by reporters ahead of Mexico, succinctly gave his thoughts.
‘He’s had his career always clean,’ he said. ‘He’s never resorted to any questionable actions to win and he’s always on top of his game. It’s been very impressive.’
One of Hamilton’s controversies came in 2015 after he sprayed a grid girl in the face in China
Much of the controversy that is attached to Hamilton has been for his antics off the track rather than on it.
His exuberant celebrations at the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix were heavily criticised after he sprayed grid girl Liu Siying in the face, before later issuing an apology.
In 2010 in Melbourne he was labelled a ‘d***head’ by local politician Tim Pallas and fined £288 for driving illegally near the track by ‘burning out’ his Mercedes sports car.
But while he has not been the bad boy on track like some of the sport’s other great names, he does not have a squeaky clean report card. His biggest faux-pas came at the start of the 2009 season, as he began his title defence on a sour note.
But the biggest mark came early in his career when he cost Jarno Trulli (R) a podium finish
Running fourth under a late Safety Car, Italian Jarno Trulli slid off the road and was passed (legally) by Hamilton for third. Hamilton slowed on the next lap to let Trulli back past under the Safety Car to reclaim third position, something McLaren had advised him to do.
But, speaking to the media after the race, he said he had received no instruction to let the Italian past again, insinuating Trulli had passed him illegally, which saw the Toyota man demoted to 12th. The case reopened at the next race in Malaysia where Hamilton continued to insist he had not been told to let Trulli past.
But with McLaren’s radio communications proving otherwise, Hamilton was disqualified from the race, team manager Dave Ryan was sacked and McLaren was handed a suspended three-race ban for being ‘deliberately misleading’.
Since then, Hamilton, on the track at least, has majorly cleaned up his act.
The fiasco saw McLaren team manager Dave Ryan sacked and Hamilton was later disqualified
SCHUMACHER: Whenever a debate rolls round, as it often does following a milestone title win, about the sport’s GOAT (Greatest of All Time) there is always a reflection on Schumacher’s frequent use of underhand tactics.
While Hamilton simply has his rivals’ number on sheer race pace, the German had his car marked on multiple occasions where he really did push the boundaries on what was considered ‘hard but fair’ racing.
The signs were there early from Schumacher. Looking back to the 1994 season, as he and Hill, who were separated by a single point pre-race, jostled in Adelaide for a maiden championship title, the German collided with the Briton, forcing both cars to retire on lap 36 which ensured the title went home with Schumacher.
Underhand tactics stained Schumacher’s reputation and it began in 1994 when he hit a rival
In 2006 he parked on the final corner in qualifying to end the session and get pole by default
Whether that was deliberate is a debate continuing to this day but three years later it was deja vu for race fans as Schumacher, again leading the title standings by one point, turned into Villeneuve on the inside.
He was stripped of his second-placed finish by the sport’s governing body (FIA) and lost out on that season’s crown.
Frankly, the list of controversial moments is exhaustive.
From the angry exchange in Belgium in 1998 where he almost came to blows with David Coulthard – who Schumacher accused of wanting to ‘kill’ him – to the qualifying fiasco in Monaco in 2006 where he parked up in a desperate bid to bring out the yellow flags and secure his pole position.
But the biggest controversy for him came when Ferrari used team orders in Austria in 2002
Rubens Barrichello, who slowed down on the final corner to let Schumacher through, was handed the trophy by an embarrassed Schumacher as the sport was brought into disrepute
But the stand-out Schumacher controversy is arguably in Austria in 2002. Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello was ordered to slow down and he allowed the German past on the final corner to jeers in the crowd as he wrapped up the race win and the title.
The day that F1 died is how some cynics describe the incident. No doubt embarrassed by how it played out, Schumacher let Barrichello put his foot on the top of the podium and hold the winners’ trophy.
Ferrari were fined £1m and warned to never have a repeat of the farce that brought the race into disrepute.
Lifestyle off the track
HAMILTON: The Briton has no appetite for a quiet life. In fact, you get the sense he finds the notion of one unpalatable.
Everything he has done since he first pulled on his McLaren overalls in Australia laid the foundations for the superstardom he has gone on to achieve.
The boy from Stevenage, as he consistently refers back to following championship successes, has seen his face on advertising boards across the globe from Times Square to Tokyo.
Off the track Hamilton is something of a phenomenon with over £100m in sponsorship deals
Mamma I made it, that’s me on the @nasdaq building in Times Square
A post shared by Lewis Hamilton (@lewishamilton) on
The 32-year-old is a freak of nature off the track, boasting an unrivalled social media presence across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram of 17.4million.
For reference, on Instagram alone, Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel have a combined total of just 5.9m – two million behind the five-time champion.
He began the 2018 season with sponsorships worth £112m on his race suit – no surprise given he is the golden boy of the sport.
Add on his own £10m in personal endorsements and while on the track he is joint-second, off it he is far and away the sport’s biggest ever success.
At the start of the 2018 season, Hamilton’s Mercedes race suit bore sponsorship worth £112m
SCHUMACHER: While the pair share so many similarities on the track, off it they couldn’t have been further apart.
Fiercely private and determined not to let his family become consumed by what he dubbed an ‘artificial world’ where fame and fortune went hand in hand, Schumacher had no burning desire for clothing lines or kick-starting a music career like Hamilton has.
In an interview in 2002, the Ferrari supremo insisted the idea of being regarded as a global superstar is one that does not sit well with him.
Schumacher had little appetite to be viewed as a global star and was fiercely private off track
But the pair share a number of similarities – not just their use of scooters – as Hamilton, who is at Mercedes for two more years, attempts to usurp the German as the ‘Greatest of all Time’
He said at the time: ‘I don’t want it, I have a problem with it. I’m just like everyone else.’
What Schumacher did to thrust Formula 1 into the spotlight came down to his ruthlessness on the track.
For Hamilton, his impact on the sport both as a racing and commercial asset is like nothing that has been seen before (and possibly will never be seen again).
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