Formula 1
Formula 1
28 Mar
Event finished
R
Emilia Romagna GP
18 Apr
FP1 in
2 days
R
Portuguese GP
02 May
FP1 in
16 days
09 May
Next event in
22 days
23 May
Race in
39 days
R
Azerbaijan GP
06 Jun
Race in
53 days
13 Jun
Race in
60 days
27 Jun
Race in
74 days
04 Jul
Next event in
78 days
18 Jul
Race in
95 days
R
Hungarian GP
01 Aug
Race in
109 days
29 Aug
Race in
137 days
05 Sep
Race in
144 days
26 Sep
Race in
165 days
R
Singapore GP
03 Oct
Next event in
169 days
10 Oct
Race in
179 days
R
United States GP
24 Oct
Race in
193 days
31 Oct
Race in
200 days
R
Australian GP
21 Nov
Race in
221 days
R
Abu Dhabi GP
12 Dec
Race in
242 days

Schumacher and Hamilton compared, by those who worked with both

Lewis Hamilton’s achievement in matching Michael Schumacher’s career total of 91 grand prix wins has rebooted the discussion about how two of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time compare.

Hamilton is also set to match Schumacher’s total of seven world championships this year. However, it’s not just about analysing the statistics – what about their personalities and the way they went about winning?

The men who perhaps have the best appreciation of how they stack up are the guys who worked closely with both drivers.

As technical director, Ross Brawn was one of the architects of Schumacher’s successes at Benetton and Ferrari, and then as Mercedes boss he tempted him out of retirement in 2010.

Later he played a key role in getting Hamilton on board, although he left the team before the titles began to pile up in the hybrid era.

“It’s a remarkable achievement,” noted Brawn of Hamilton’s 91st win in his F1 column this week. “Michael always said that records are there to be broken, but I admit I didn’t expect to see this one broken so soon.

“And I can’t imagine Lewis is going to stop here. The way he’s going, he will raise the bar in the next few years to a level that will be astonishing.

“Michael was a driver who was very dramatic on track in many ways and had a very quiet persona away from the track. Lewis is almost the opposite - quiet but lethal in terms of delivery on track, but his flamboyance comes out away from the track.

“You couldn’t have two more different characters. Both have achieved an astonishing accomplishment.”

Podium: race winner Michael Schumacher with Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella

Podium: race winner Michael Schumacher with Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella

Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

That lesson in personality contrasts but similar outcomes is echoed by Mercedes trackside engineering boss Andrew Shovlin.

He worked with Schumacher in 2010-12, and has subsequently been a key part of Hamilton’s recent successes.

“The two characters couldn't be more different,” he said after Sunday’s race. “If you look at how they drive, when Michael arrived at our team, the things that stood out with him were the way he would always go after the marginal. It doesn't matter if it's a hundredth of a second, he'd try and do it. He'd sort of collect those up.

“Michael also had an ability to drive whatever balance was quickest, if it was an understeery car that he needed, he'd do it. If he needed to move the work onto the front tyres, he could. So he was very, very adaptable, in his driving style.

“And those are certainly two characteristics that Lewis very much has. A lot of the good drivers don't have a particular style, it's just whatever's quick, they'll adapt to do it.”

The greats have always been able to multitask, managing difficult situations in the cockpit while at the same time contemplating strategy calls and the sector times of their rivals.

“With Michael it didn't matter how many things you told him to do on a lap,” says Shovlin. “Whether it was moving the brake bias, where to look after tyres, what he needed to do to get them in the right window, he'd be able to sort of put them all together.

“And again, that's one that Lewis does. Quite quietly often, but you can just keep layering one thing on top of another and he doesn't forget it. He just sort of does it. And then if you give him more things to do, it's layered on top.

“So I think just in terms of the way they are in the car, they're actually more similar than you might believe. It's just that out of the car they're two quite different people.”

Race Winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 celebrates on the podium with the champagne

Race Winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 celebrates on the podium with the champagne

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Even the best drivers have room for improvement – indeed recognising that and acting upon it is one of the defining factors that makes a good driver into a great – and Schumacher was always looking for ways of getting more out of himself.

Hamilton was a proven world champion five years before he even joined Mercedes. And yet Shovlin says that he has improved enormously since his arrival at the Brackley team.

“If you think back to when he joined in 2013, he is a very, very different character, and a very different character I think in and out of the car. Obviously, our team's evolved a lot, we've got better, but a lot of it is how we changed working with Lewis to get the best out of him. And also he's kind of worked out how to get the best out of the team.

“When he started with us, he was instantly quick, he was brilliant at winning races, he had that ability to sort of dig deep and deliver whatever he had to on a Sunday to keep the hopes alive of a win.

“Now, he's so much more tactical, in how he views the year, and how he views how he works. He's not just looking for the improvements he can find, in how he's driving the car. It's just the whole way he's leading his life and how he's approaching the business of being a professional racing driver.

“And year on year, he comes back, and it's this sort of slightly improved version of the guy that you last saw in Abu Dhabi.

“But the level that he's at now is seriously impressive. It's just consistency, and the relentless way that he just goes about hoovering up the points and controlling the championships.”

Read Also:

Schumacher was known as a hard worker, someone who was always ready to meet with his engineers at Maranello or go testing in the days when it was unrestricted.

Hamilton is sometimes criticised for pursuing interests outside the sport – although in 2020 COVID-19 has inevitably impacted his social schedule – but his laser focus on his day job is not hampered.

“He works very hard,” says Shovlin. “And he's a driver that perhaps a lot of his rivals like to think of as just this person who's fast in the car, but doesn't put the hours in.

“And he's one of the hardest working drivers we've ever known. The more he can understand about tyres, about how the car works, about how to use all the available tools, and he's just able to take that and build it into his driving.

“And it's just this kind of relentless way that he looks at every missed opportunity as something that needs fixing before the next race. He goes off and works with Bono [Peter Bonnington] and Marcus [Dudley], his engineering crew, and with the wider team, trying to understand any issues.

“And it's just the way he’s constantly building his skill set. And so long into a career, you kind of think drivers top out on this sort of skill set. But Lewis keeps finding new and different things to do, and how to get the most out of the car and the tyres.”

Few people in the F1 paddock know Hamilton better than his team boss Toto Wolff, who joined Mercedes after Schumacher left. Like Shovlin he sees a relentless quest for improvement.

“I think that what impresses me the most is that as a human being he develops from year to year,” says Wolff. “And the Lewis Hamilton that we see today has nothing to do with the Lewis Hamilton that I met in 2013.

“That is most impressive for somebody who is performing on that level and is still capable of getting better every year and getting better as a person, getting better outside of the car and getting better inside of the car. That is something that is truly inspiring.”

Wolff has no time for those who downplay Hamilton’s recent success because he’s had the best car for so long.

Like Schumacher he made sure that he was in the right environment at the right time. And thanks to lobbying from Brawn and Niki Lauda he recognised that the pieces would fall into place for Mercedes long before the rest of the world did.

“Winning races and winning championships is always in this sport a team exercise,” says Wolff. “But you need to put yourself in a position that you end up in the best car.

“You can see lots of talents and skilled drivers took wrong decisions, or not well-advised decisions, and in that respect it was him who joined Mercedes in 2013, and it is him that sits in the car and is able to execute on track with a tool that we provide to him. But it's always a tool, we couldn't achieve the records that we have, and he probably couldn't achieve the records, without the right car. Full stop.

“I don't want to allow these voices that say, ‘Well, he drives a Mercedes, it's obvious that he wins so many races.’ The drivers that say that, they should analyse why they haven't found a way into a Mercedes.”

Hamilton always downplays records and statistics, and that’s another characteristic that he shares with Schumacher, who was usually non-plussed when the latest numbers were quoted at him.

“When you think too much about points and race wins or championships you are getting distracted,” says Wolff. “I think you need to be as good and as close to perfection in every single session and try to score as many points as possible in the race.

“That is why you mustn’t look at too much on what could be and just concentrate on the task in front of you.

“For me personally Michael will always be the most iconic race driver. I remember watching those years with Ferrari and Michael. Whoever would have thought that his record could be broken but here we go, 91 race wins, something to be proud of but not something that could or should trigger too much complacency.

“That risk does not exist in our team as we relentlessly push for perfection and for tomorrow rather than looking back.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, 1st position, celebrates after securing his 91st F1 race win, equalling the record of Michael Schumacher

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, 1st position, celebrates after securing his 91st F1 race win, equalling the record of Michael Schumacher

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

shares
comments

Related video

Has "hungry shark" Alonso timed his Renault return perfectly?

Previous article

Has "hungry shark" Alonso timed his Renault return perfectly?

Next article

Ferrari could wait until Abu Dhabi to run Schumacher, Ilott

Ferrari could wait until Abu Dhabi to run Schumacher, Ilott
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Lewis Hamilton
Author Adam Cooper
The themes to watch in F1's Imola return Prime

The themes to watch in F1's Imola return

Three weeks is a long time in Formula 1, but in the reshaped start to the 2021 season the teams head to Imola to pick things up after the frenetic Bahrain opener. Here's what to look out for and the developments to follow at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Prime

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. Ben Anderson looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

Formula 1
Apr 12, 2021
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Prime

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says Nigel Roebuck.

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Prime

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now? Prime

Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021
How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend Prime

How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend

Williams held out against the tide for many years but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, the age of the owner-manager is long gone

Formula 1
Apr 6, 2021
When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m Prime

When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m

Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix lasted mere corners before he wiped himself out in a shunt, but his financial backing affords him a full season. Back in 1993 though, Marco Apicella was an F1 driver for just 800m before a first corner fracas ended his career. Here’s the story of his very short time at motorsport’s pinnacle.

Formula 1
Apr 4, 2021
How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his teammate's F1 career climb Prime

How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his teammate's F1 career climb

Kimi Raikkonen's emergence as a Formula 1 star in his rookie campaign remains one of the legendary storylines from 2001, but his exploits had an unwanted impact on his Sauber teammate's own prospects. Twenty years on from his first F1 podium at the Brazilian GP, here's how Nick Heidfeld's career was chilled by the Iceman.

Formula 1
Apr 3, 2021