June 21, 2021

Looking for the greatest F1 driver: Schumacher or Hamilton? (Part 1)

Schulweis Hamilton beat Michael Schumacher’s record 91 races. Hamilton’s career statistics reflect Schumacher in several categories. So how to choose the greatest racer? Macher or Hamilton?

History was done on Sunday at the Portimao racetrack in Portugal. A track that has never hosted an F1 before the 2020 season has been influenced by Covid-19, in a country where Hamilton has never raced an F1 car.

At the beginning

In an age when it seemed that only wealthy racers with great financial backing could pursue F1. Interestingly, both Hamilton’s and Schumacher’s parents made great sacrifices for their son’s passion.

While Schumacher’s parents worked in various jobs and relied on the kindness of a local businessman to fund his kart racing career. Father Hamilton, Anthony, did three jobs at the same time and mortgaged their house. That dedication paid off when their careers began to go well.

Hamilton had his first F1 victory in the sixth leg, at the age of 22. Even the British racer almost won the world championship in his first season in 2007. England and teammate Fernando Alonso respectively ranked 2nd and 3rd with 109 points, and champion Kimi Raikkonen just over 1 point. However, he won the title the following year, at the age of 23 and 300 days.

Hamilton started his career in the dominant McLaren team at the time. Schumacher faced an arguably tougher test when he began to drive a Benetton that competed with some of the greatest McLaren, Williams and Ferrari of all time.

In 1992, Williams’ Nigel Mansell won 9 out of 16 races that year. While his teammate Riccardo Patrese has won 1 leg. McLaren’s Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger have won 5 races. They had only one race left: Schumacher’s first win at the Francorchamp Spa. His risking turning to smooth tires from wet weather earlier than his opponent was an inspirational move and showed the all-or-nothing approach he took in chasing victory.

The 1993 season was the last year of the competition between Alain Prost – Ayrton Senna. In 1994 Schumacher won his first F1 world championship. It is worth mentioning that bitterness has followed the German racer throughout his career. In 1994, he failed to score a single point in four races because of the race ban. However, Schumacher still won the world championship.

Notable comparisons

Some say it is possible to judge the best level of a racer based on the performance of their teammates. And both Hamilton and Schumacher have had an amazing track record against their teammates.

Schumacher outperformed his teammates at 68% of the races he started. Hamilton is 61% compared to teammates. In terms of season performance, though, only twice in his 13 completed seasons, with Hamilton behind. That means if he continues his dominance in 2020, that achievement will be 2 out of 14.

Before returning in 2010, between 1991 and 2006, Schumacher was behind only three out of 16 seasons. In 1991 when he only raced once for Jordan and five times for Benetton. In 1997, Schumacher was disqualified due to dangerous driving, and in 1999 he broke his leg in the British Grand Prix, so he had to miss seven races. And with 3 years of playing with Nico Rosberg at Mercedes when he re-exported, that number became 6 out of 19 seasons.

Hamilton’s stumbling block at Mercedes came in 2016 when Rosberg beat him to win the world championship title in one of the toughest seasons.

It is a testament to the greatness of both riders that they finish races on the podium more often than anyone else. And with more than 40 lower races starting, Hamilton has a better ratio of 3 races/wins. By comparison, only Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari have a better win rate than Hamilton.

Even so, for the drivers who have been involved in more than 100 races, only Jackie Stewart, Prost and Senna are behind Hamilton and Schumacher. And this figure in Hamilton is the winning rate accounting for 35% of the races that he started.