When Hamilton raced Schumacher

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Years in the future we may look back on Michael Schumacher’s retirement and say to ourselves, ‘if only he had raced for one more year – then we would have seen him compete with Lewis Hamilton’.

Hamilton has a long way to go to become a great of Schumacher’s stature. But his performances in his debut season have been very impressive – he still leads the championship with three rounds to go.

They may never meet on an F1 track, but they have raced once before – when a 16 year-old Hamilton took on Schumacher in karts in October 2001.


A famous television advert for a sportswear company several years ago featured a roster of top footballers having a kick-around with scores of amateur players on Hackney Marshes in London.

But how often do professional sportsmen do the same thing in real life? Well, Michael Schumacher did in 2001.

Fresh from winning his fourth World Championship he jetted back from the final round at Suzuka in Japan and headed straight for the gym – he needed to trim three kilos from his already slender frame to be competitive in World Karting Championship final that was being held at his father Rolf’s circuit in Kerpen.

“I am of course aware that these guys against whom I will be racing drive every day, and I maybe only three times a year, but that entices me even more,” he said.


Hamilton, aged 16, was at a pivotal point in his young career. He had already secured the backing of McLaren several years earlier, now he was poised to make the switch from karting to racing. He had begun testing for Manor Motorsport in preparation for that winter’s British Formula Renault series.

He would leave a fine pedigree in karting behind, having won the European Formula A champion in 2000 and the Formula A World Cup the same year.

Practice, qualifying and heats

In the last practice session before the sequence of heats and finals got underway, Schumacher was quickest of all. He set a new lap record for the circuit with a time of 43.956 seconds.

But qualifying on Saturday brought an unwelcome change of fortune for the German. The drivers were split into two different groups and Schumacher’s session was hit by rain, leaving him 22nd.

That afternoon Schumacher and Hamilton were in the same race together, the Briton finishing second behind Vitantonio Liuzzi. Schumacher climbed through the field to finish eighth, having run as high as sixth, ending the race 9.5s behind the winner.

On the second heat on Sunday Schumacher and Hamilton finished in the opposite order – Schumacher 15th, Hamilton 26th. That meant they would start the first of the finals from 16th and 26th respectively.

The finals

The first final began brightly for Schumacher as he moved up the order to take third place. But on lap 15 he appeared to brake too deep into a tight corner, spinning the kart and stalling the engine. Several attempts to restart the kart failed, leaving him 25th overall.

Hamilton, meanwhile, rose from 26th on the grid to finish seventh.

In the final race Schumacher made a flying start and by the end of lap one was seventh, having passed Hamilton’s team mate Nico Rosberg. Rosberg latched onto the back of Schumacher’s kart and followed his experienced compatriot as he rose up through the ranks.

By lap 11 – just under half race distance – Schumacher was up to fourth with Rosberg sixth and Hamilton ninth. Then leader Franck Perera and second placed Maro Ardigo clashed, leaving a furious Perera in the gravel being restrained by a marshal.

Ardigo took the win with Schumacher third – but after Ardi was disqualified the German was promoted to second behind Sauro Cesetti, with Rosberg third and Hamilton seventh.

Asked about the race afterwards, Hamilton replied with the kind of nonplussed coolness we have come to associate with him: “I never really had a chance to get near Schumacher, which was a shame because I’d have like to have beaten him around a few corners. I could see him in the distance in the second race, but to be fair it didn’t really make much of a difference to me.”

The rivals

Several other drivers were racing that day that are worth mentioning. Liuzzi won the World Karting Championship that year and eventually became Formula 3000 champion in 2004 before making his F1 debut with Red Bull.

Rosberg won the 2005 GP2 championship and started F1 with Williams the following year.

Estonian Marko Asmer, fourth in the final race, has just won the British Formula Three championship and is targeting a move to F1. And Giedo van der Garde, who retired on the seventh lap, is McLaren’s ‘other’ development driver. He is one of Spyker’s four test drivers, and is currently languishing well down the order in the World Series by Renault.

But what did Schumacher make of Hamilton? “He’s a quality driver, very strong and only 16. If he keeps this up I’m sure he will reach F1. It’s something special to see a kid of his age out on the circuit. He’s clearly got the right racing mentality.”

Photo: Daimler Chrysler

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “When Hamilton raced Schumacher”

  1. hehehehe, Lewis the new Schumacher?

  2. Most dreams can never come true.
    Hamilton could never had beaten Schumacher.
    No one has that famous “Michael Magic” except the great Maestro himself!

    1. Don’t Agree With You..

      Hamilton Beat Alonso In 2007, And 2008, But Mainly In His Debut Year. Now Alonso Beat Schumacher… In 2005 and 2006, So That Means Hamilton Is Techincally Better Than Schumacher.
      I Know He Is Anyway, Just Trying To Find A Reason To Convince Ferrari Fans.

      Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes #1

      1. James Coulee
        15th March 2018, 0:47

        His cars always were the best, yes.

      2. By that reasoning John..

        Lewis was beaten by Button while they were at McLaren

        Button was beaten by Ralf Schumacher while at Williams

        Ralf was never as good as his brother.

        Therefore Schumacher is better than Lewis

        QED ; )

        1. @twentyseven yes but by that reasoning, you must count in that rosberg beat michael 3 seasons i think and lewis beat rosberg. one of the seans they say michael lost was dude to reliability, which we also can apply to 2016 with lewis and nico. lol

      3. Silly reasoning, sorry, you said alonso beat schumacher in 2005 and 2006 just cause he was in front in the championship? Ok, schumacher beat alonso in 2001 (minardi), 2003, 2004, schumacher > alonso!

        More seriously, alonso was probably a little better than schumacher by 2006 but he was also 26, schumacher was 37, that has to make some difference.

        Hamilton would’ve been 22 vs schumacher 38 in 2007, that’s a huge difference, so I don’t know, but considering the level of ferrari that year and how raikkonen performed, I think schumacher might have beaten hamilton, especially since him and alonso took points off each other.

        I consider schumacher a bit superior to hamilton at the same age, but 16 years difference is too much to compare them on track, when one is at peak the other one would be inexperienced and when younger one is at peak older one would already be declining.

  3. I would like to see The Ham qualify one spot in front of The Shu. Then when he tries that knifing maneuver he become famous for, Micheal would boot him into the wall.

    1. Please explain the knifing maneuver.

  4. It’s really pointless to compare both of them, Michael built a team from ground zero, made them winners, made them the Ferrari they ought to be. I really doubt any other driver (actual) can do that, certainly not Hamilton.

    1. @Haplo alesi? senna? prost? let alone lauda who actually did kick ferrari butts into gear. lol. yet here we are 12 years later…and thus- the second part of your statement is also now equally incorrect! lol

  5. Good story though Keith.

  6. Well well well, as you said, Hamilton is still young, yes it’s true, he looks very promising, but I very much doubt his capabilities against Shumi, to some extent, Hamilton was lucky racing on this year’s Mc Laren Mercedes, how would have Hamilton rated if he raced on last years Mc Laren?

  7. Schumacher retired 2 years ago.

  8. did schumacher win any races in his first f1 season?
    schumacher has had over 250 f1 races and for several seasons was in a car 3 years ahead of the rest of the cars so it is not surprising that those stunning statistings are written next to his name. the question is had senna not died, would schumacher have been a 3 time world champion?

  9. to add, there are seven books published about hamilton. how many books are out there about all the other drivers including schumacher?

  10. Louis, Schumacher won a race in his first full GP season (Belgium 1992), and he would have had quite a lot of trouble winning on in the part-season preceding it, since even Nelson Piquet Sr couldn’t get the Bennetton to win races.

  11. you are right alianora, but did schumacher have the same impact on f1 in his first three seasons as hamilton did in his first three months?
    after his first four races, hamiltons name was written and spoken more frequently than all the names in f1 put together, indicating how impressive he was to many.he has only been in f1 for a year and i can confortably say that he has brought more fans to f1 than schumacher ever did in his whole career so he must be better than the great 7 times world champion michael schumacher.i will not be surprised if hamilton won 9 races in a row this season….

  12. alianora, if schumacher was as good as hamilton, he would have been in a mclaren, williams or renault in his first or second season. many people fail to understand that hamilton is not driving a mclaren by chance. ron dennis has had a young drivers development program for many years and he has not come across anyone as good as hamilton thats the reason hamilton drives a mclaren.if alonso retired schumacher by beating him in two consecutive seasons and hamilton beat alonso in the same car, it can be concluded that there is no driver in f1 as good as hamilton. thats why ron dennis signed hamilton to drive a mclaren in his first year but schumacher never impressed the top teams to earn a drive in a top car.

  13. simply because he’s briton..

  14. I think many forget that when schumacher started out for jordan he was asked at spa “have you been around here before”
    he said “yes”
    they found out after he had done a lap on his pushbike and qualified 7th, today all these young drivers can do thousands of laps in simulation and learn every bumb, every corner before ever going to the track, back then you learned as you raced.

    also when he started out he had senna,mansel,pique,prost,patrese up against him and held his own and beat all them,and as has been said a inferior car,he could of driven a skip and it would of been quick, he obviously had a couple of seasons in a poor ferrari but helped turn them into the F1 giants they have become over the last decede.
    He also was able to keep up with technology,having driven those monster F1 and won he was able to drive these finally tuned beasts of today, and he would probably still be the driver to beat, in his last season had his engine not poped in japan he would of won the title, in brazil and if you don’t remember what he did in that race the find some highlights and enjoy one of if not the best drive you will ever see.

  15. Got the chance now to compete head to head.

  16. None of the current drivers come near schumi in his prime, hamilton sulks with team, alonso barks at team over radio, Michael created harmony in the team and delivered on every level winning races that left people baffled including other drivers.When was the last race that was won by somebody in an inferior car?

  17. I think comparisons to LH and MS are moot…no driver will likely ever be handed the advantages MS had over his teammates and his fellow competitors unless the FIA decides in the future that another mega deal with contracted subservients is in order so that a team’s WDC drought can be ended…

    As long as LH doesn’t become unethical with consistantly dangerous moves on the track including driving into people for the ‘win’, as long as LH doesn’t have a contracted subservient to remove that aspect of racing from his list of worries throughout the seasons and actually has to beat amongst the other drivers his own teammate with an equal chance, and as long as he is in a car that hasn’t been built strictly with his needs in mind and disregarding his teammates’, then I will honour any smaller amount of success LH will experience vs the conditions under which MS ‘won’ and compiled massive numbers on the strength of the non-racing that went on at Ferrari in the pinnacle of racing in that chapter of F1…

  18. and now they have meet and have also raced, both in F1 cars and both are great drivers!!

  19. Hamilton, arrogant since day one

    1. I think you are confusing arrogant with self confidence.

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