How Schumacher set a record 91 F1 wins – and Hamilton drew within striking distance

2020 F1 season

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When Michael Schumacher crossed the finishing line first at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix, we knew we had seen one of the last victories of a tremendous career. Just two rounds of the season remained, and Schumacher had already announced he would leave F1 at the end of the year.

His eventual return to F1 with Mercedes, who were engine suppliers to McLaren at the time, was not on the cards. Few would have expected it, and surely none would have thought the driver who had dominated much of the previous decade would come back to F1 for three years without winning another race.

So that superb win in tricky conditions at Shanghai proved Schumacher’s swansong victory. He signed off his 2006 campaign with an astonishing tally of 91 wins, a figure which hadn’t changed when he left F1 for good six years later.

Schumacher didn’t just break the previous record for most Formula 1 wins, he smashed it. He reached Alain Prost’s benchmark of 51 wins, which had stood since 1993, in 2001. By the time he was done with F1, Schumacher had added two score victories to it.

Even with the F1 calendar steadily growing in size, it would surely be a long time before anyone would approach Schumacher’s 91 wins. As it turned out, Schumacher’s record may ultimately fall to a driver who made his debut in the race which followed his 2006 exit from Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2006
Shanghai 2006: The last of Schumacher’s victory leaps
It was obvious from the first corner of the first race of Lewis Hamilton’s F1 career that he was a special talent. Fernando Alonso, who had just denied Schumacher a title-winning end to his Ferrari career, saw his new team mate sweep audaciously around the outside of him at the start of the Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton did not win that race, but within just six rounds he found his way to the top of the podium. He has won at least one race every season since.

That Schumacher and Hamilton are two of the greatest talents motor racing has ever seen is beyond question. But what allowed them to ascend these heights and win, at the time of writing, 13 world championships and 175 races between them?

The cars

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2007
Hamilton won his sixth F1 start
Of course neither would have enjoyed such success without consistently competitive machinery at their disposal. Predictably, a common criticism levelled at both is that they wouldn’t have won so many races without such strong cars. But drivers do not get race-winning equipment for year after year by accident.

Hamilton is unusual in that he had a potentially championship-winning car in his very first season. With better luck and/or judgement in the final two races of 2007, he might even have been world champion in his rookie season.

Like most drivers, Schumacher did not start his career in a front-running team. Following a one-off drive for Jordan he joined Benetton – race-winners in 1989, 1990 and 1991 – and scored their only win of 1992 in his first full season. He followed that up with another in 1993, and the team took advantage of extensive changes to the rules in 1994 to make a major step forward. Schumacher won eight races and took the title along with it.

As the final three seasons of Schumacher’s career demonstrated, a great driver cannot necessarily win races in an average car. But while Schumacher’s return to F1 was win-less his 2012 team mate Nico Rosberg managed to win a race in the Mercedes W03. And Schumacher could have won in Monaco that year: He would have started on pole position had he not incurred a grid penalty for crashing into Bruno Senna at the previous race.

Whether Hamilton will have to endure uncompetitive equipment later in his career remains to be seen. But he did seize two chances to win races in McLaren’s unfancied MP4-24 of 2009. And four years later, after replacing Schumacher at Mercedes, he took a single win in Mercedes’ W04. Rosberg won twice, though that wouldn’t have been the case had Hamilton not suffered a puncture while leading at Silverstone.

Schumacher and Hamilton exemplify how great drivers can snatch opportunities for wins in sub-standard cars, and win prolifically when they have top-quality equipment. Schumacher’s Ferraris of 2000-04 and Hamilton’s Mercedes since 2014 are obvious cases of the latter, where the pair scored the bulk of their huge win tallies.

But there are two other important dimensions to take into account when considering the relative successes of these two great drivers.

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The competition

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2001
Schumacher took a record-breaking 52nd win at Spa in 2001
Schumacher’s rapid rise coincided with the departures of several other champions and prolific race winners. Alain Prost retired after 1993, Nelson Piquet – Schumacher’s team mate for a handful of races in 1991 – stepped before then, and Ayrton Senna was tragically killed in the third race of 1994. Nigel Mansell briefly returned from IndyCar racing to fill the void left by Senna, but his attempt at a full-time return in 1995 proved a failure.

Hamilton, of course, arrived on the scene immediately after Schumacher’s first retirement. At that point two other drivers were widely expected to assume the Schumacher mantle as the sport’s leading driver: his replacement Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso (who, like Schumacher before him, had switched teams immediately after winning his second title). Compared to Schumacher’s 91 wins, Alonso and Raikkonen had 15 and nine respectively.

That they didn’t achieve Schumacher’s levels of success was only partly due to the rise of Hamilton. It was also because of the emergence of another major talent who went on to win multiple championships: Sebastian Vettel.

By the time Red Bull’s prodigy had won his fourth world championship in 2013, sealed with a record-breaking run of nine consecutive race wins, the 26-year-old Vettel had amassed 39 victories – 17 more than Hamilton at that point – and seemed the likeliest threat to Schumacher’s record. It would be an appropriate achievement for the driver referred to by some as ‘Baby Schumi’, who had cut his teeth on the same Kerpen kart track as his idol.

But the V6 hybrid turbo era hasn’t been as kind to Vettel, even after he succeeded Alonso as the latest driver to fill the Ferrari seat once occupied by Schumacher. Hamilton, of course, has enjoyed sustained success at the wheel of Mercedes’ mighty cars. He has won the most races of any driver every year and only missed out on the title once, to team mate Rosberg, due to a combination of unreliability and a few too many sub-par starts. While doing so, he has propelled himself within touching distance of Schumacher’s wins record.

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The team mates

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2016
Rosberg pipped Hamilton to 2016 title by five points
The other dimension which explains the relative success of Hamilton and Schumacher is the quality of competition they faced within their own teams – always a contentious point. It is hard to imagine any of Schumacher’s team mates taking a title from him in the way Rosberg did to Hamilton, not just because of Schumacher’s superiority, but because his team mates were required to play a supporting role to him.

This has generally not been the case at Mercedes for Hamilton and his team mates. Indeed, between 2014 and 2016 Hamilton’s only real rival for the title was his own team mate. Since Rosberg’s departure, Valtteri Bottas has often been allowed to challenge Hamilton for wins. The notable exception was in late 2018 where Bottas was required to surrender victory in Russia to help ensure Hamilton beat Vettel to the title.

Such tactics were more commonplace in Schumacher-era Benetton and Ferrari. One of the most notorious examples occured at the A1 Ring (now known as the Red Bull Ring). During the 2001 race Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher’s team mate during the peak of his successes, was running second behind McLaren’s David Coulthard when Ferrari ordered him to let Schumacher by into second.

“After the race I went to talk to them and I said ‘what would have happened if I was leading the race?’,” Barrichello recalled in an interview for the official F1 website last year. “They said if you were leading the race, we would never ask you that.” But one year later when Barrichello was leading the same race he again got the call to let Schumacher by.

Barrichello reminded the team what they had said one year earlier. “‘You guys told me that, in my face’ – they said ‘oh Rubens we can talk later’.” After eight laps of wrangling, Barrichello let Schumacher through for his 56th career win. Three races later, Ferrari made a show of not ordering Barrichello to let Schumacher by when he led his team mate to the flag at the Nurburgring.

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Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, A1-Ring, 2002
Barrichello handed Schumacher victory in Austria
According to Barrichello, Schumacher’s preferential treatment behind the scenes was less overt. Although he accepted his pit strategy would usually be the “B option” compared to Schumacher’s, Barrichello stressed the pair usually received equal equipment. He even cast doubt on how far Schumacher understood he was the team’s preferred driver.

“He was a bit naive in the way that he worked,” said Barrichello. “So many times I grabbed my chair because a meeting was already finished. And then they started another meeting with just Michael there. And I said ‘hmm, this is funny’. I took my chair and I would just sit there, say nothing and just stay there.”

Mercedes insists it is more open with its drivers. The fact Rosberg beat Hamilton to the 2016 title is surely proof of that. Team principal Toto Wolff says their approach won’t change even as Hamilton is on the brink of reaching Schumacher’s record tallies of wins and championships.

“We have been always very neutral to the drivers,” said Wolff. “We want to provide them with equal equipment and equal opportunity and both know that there is no hidden agenda within Mercedes, no politics.

“I think we will see how they get out of the blocks and end up. I hope that Valtteri will have another great season but equally I obviously cheer for Lewis, giving it his best as a seventh title to equal Michael’s record.”

How far will Hamilton go – and who will catch him?

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Yas Marina, 2019
The young guns are coming for F1’s six-times champion
Hamilton hasn’t racked up his wins at quite the same rate as Schumacher. His most recent win at Yas Marina last month came in his 250th race start; Schumacher’s 84th win came in the notorious six-car race at Indianapolis in 2005. However the long win-less coda to Schumacher’s career leaves his final strike rate of 91 wins from 306 starts a realistic goal for Hamilton.

If Hamilton reaches that, the question then becomes how much further is he prepares to go? Will he race on in pursuit of a century wins and face down the rising threat from new-generation talents like Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc?

It may be not Hamilton’s rivals which slow his winning rate but F1’s desire to level the playing field and dilute the kind of dominance Mercedes have enjoyed in recent years. But if that happens, it may also make it much harder for future drivers to achieve the kind of staggering win tallies Schumacher and Hamilton have amassed.

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Author information

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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65 comments on “How Schumacher set a record 91 F1 wins – and Hamilton drew within striking distance”

  1. Without wishing to be a terrible pendant, Schumacher only scored one victory in 1993, although it could easily have been two had his engine held out in Monaco where he was leading senna comfortably.

    I think Hamilton can do it but it relies massively on how red bull and Ferrari perform. Better reliability and strategies from those teams would surely have reduced his win tally this year and next year promises much the same , what with the stability in regulations.

    1. @frood19 Good point – have changed “more wins” to “another”.

      1. @keithcollantine
        Could you guys include a graph of wins vs starts, similar to your wins vs years one above. Would be very informative and interesting. Thanks.

    2. I think Hamilton can do it but it relies massively on how red bull and Ferrari perform. Better reliability and strategies from those teams would surely have reduced his win tally this year and next year promises much the same , what with the stability in regulations.

      @frood19

      I think regardless of Ferrari and Red Bull’s performance he’ll get there. He’s won a race in every season in F1 so far.. even in 2009 with a dog of a car for most of the season… even in his poorest season to date in 2011.. and even in 2013 when he entered Mercedes before they were title contenders.

      He needs 7 more wins to break the record.. I doubt he would require more than two seasons in F1 to reach that feat regardless of Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s progress. Reaching a 100 wins… that would only happen if he sticks around after 2021.

      1. @frood19

        and even in 2013 when he entered Mercedes before they were title contenders.

        Rosberg outraced him 2-1 in 2013. As you seem to think these stats (never with an engine other than Mercedes) are so great, I bet you come back with a put down for Nico.

        1. @bigjoe
          lol, “outraced” – I’m just going to assume you didn’t watch the 2013 season, but even with that assumption in mind, you should be able to read.
          “Rosberg won twice, though that wouldn’t have been the case had Hamilton not suffered a puncture while leading at Silverstone.” It’s written in this very article.

          1. @andrewf1

            Don’t assume anything Andrew.

            You want to live by quirky stats such as a 4 v 4 win tally in 2007 = Hamilton won. Then you can die with the 2-1 victory tally to Rosberg in 2013.

            Well done for being so utterly predictable though.

  2. Schumacher was disqualified for 1997 season and the kangaroo court set that year means his record of 91 wins counts rather than stripping wins from that season. Also Hamilton has a benifit of having more races/season compared to older days and he has a more dominant car with a grounded team in V6 hybrid era.

    1. Schumacher also had the benefit of more races and dominate cars.

      1. F1 season back when Schumacher raked his wins was limited to just 17(16 in 2003 and 18 from 2004) races/season while since 2014 number of races/season has grown.

  3. Hamilton will pass the GP wins record this season.

  4. I guess one of the main differences about how people appreciate both drivers is given by how F1 GPs have changed over time. Schumacher got famous by driving at the limit, by doing fastest laps one after another during a race sprint. He looked as a competitor in his own league many times. On the other hand, Hamilton is winning in a era where drivers apparently over manage the cars. Today the only time when drivers can drive at the limit is during qualifying, but it is just one lap per GP in very idealized conditions. This is, by far, less spectacular and less appreciated.

    1. In my view, Schumacher won because he was ready to ruthlessy cripple his opponents’ cars. Whereas Hamilton tried ruthlessness but it didn’t fit him as wel. He races hard but a lot more fair than Schumacher ever did at his limit.

      1. I am of a different opinion on that. In my view, Schumacher was none more vicious than any of the other racers when he arrived in F-1. Back in those days, it was pretty much just another day in the office for drivers to hit each other, even during title decider rounds. Look no further than Senna, who is idolized by many, including Hamilton, and his era is considered by many as more or less the golden years of F-1. Schumacher shouldn’t be labeled “ready to ruthlessly cripple” others, he just stuck around so long that times and tolerance for accidents began to change, and it took him some years to adjust to that. One can’t really recall famous controversial crashes between him and other drivers after, say, 2000. On the other hand, Hamilton did seem to have a tendency to edge his rivals off the track, especially during his fights between 2014-2016 with Rosberg, which is of course far from hitting the other, but agressive all the same.

        1. @palagyi – I think I agree with much of what you are saying but…

          One can’t really recall famous controversial crashes between him and other drivers after, say, 2000.

          See: 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix. I’m a big MSC fan but…

        2. @palagyi Monaco 2006 and Hungary 2010 prove that he didn’t change after 2000.

          1. Doesn’t exactly seem a frequent occurance to me, to label someone that way.

          2. Not a Michael fan but Hungary 2010 was fine. The rule was to leave a gap and not change direction twice and he did that. I see no difference between that and Webber pushing alonso onto the grass at suzuka 06 or Alonso pushing Seb off at monza one year.

            Everyone lost their mind because there was a wall there. The rules don’t say give more room if there is a wall.

            The pit lane bit was a tad scary for Rubens but that would be the case even if MS gave him an extra 10 meters.

          3. Monaco 2006 is a perfectly bad example to prove that Schumacher was excessively agressive against his fellow racers, because:
            – first of all, he didn’t hit anybody, as it was a qualifying session;
            – and he got heavily penalised, got sent to the back of the gird and very likely lost at least 4 points, because it’s highly probable he would have finished at least second without the whole mess, even if Alonso actually got to beat his time and claimed the pole.
            It wasn’t a dignified act, mind. But it’s nowhere near hitting somebody or something intentionally.

    2. Schumacher was able to drive that way because he was in the re-fuelling era. Does it matter if they drive to the limit or not? Do they still not win?

    3. Schumacher’s era was mostly sprint stints, but yet Hamilton won the fastest Hungarian gp ever in 2019. The cars are ridiculously fast right now, even with the terrible tires.

  5. I think part of this is what is mentioned above is that Hamilton is the first of a new generation of drivers who are bred for F1. If your career is engineered to go to F1 the likelihood will be that you get a shot at winning early in your career rather than having to prove you deserve a seat at a top team. If this trend continues you will see a increase in drivers who win early in their career and then are able to maintain it.

    1. “Bred for F1” ? Really? Following that logic all of today’s F1 drivers have followed the same path and everyone of them has equal ability and all should be winning races. As it happens, there are only a few winning drivers on the grid, at much the same proportion as there’s always been.

      1. Hamilton, like Le Clerc and the Red Bull academy drivers their route to F1 is bought and paid for. Senna, Schumacher and the older drivers had to beg, borrow and steal to get a drive in F1. On top of this Hamilton was able to get a seat straight at mcLaren rather than have to be loaned out at a junior team to start. Alonso started at Minardi, but if you take these younder drivers and pay for the path to F1 then sit them in a top team from race 1 it does smooth the path to winning. I’m not saying that even with all this falling into place its going to happen im meerly pointing out that it all helps

        1. Didn’t Senna actually come from a comparatively wealthy background though? His family wasn’t outrageously rich, but it was wealthier than average.

          Also, strictly speaking, I am reasonably sure that Mercedes did actually make a financial contribution to Schumacher’s career – it is why he nearly ended up at Sauber when they used Mercedes’s engine, as his contract with Mercedes gave them an option to place him at a team using their engines.

        2. That old chestnut. Ron Dennis made a decision based on Hamilton’s previous seasons. Are you saying he was wrong? I don’t see the same whinge bought up about Verstappen, who all but jumped from carts into F1. Hamilton was 22 when he joined McLaren, quite a few of today’s F1 drivers started much younger than that.

          Even if a driver receives help as he makes his way though the various levels of motorsport, he is still required to make the returns expected of him. There are many drivers who’ve fallen by the wayside who were expected to do so much better than they actually did, even those who’ve got into F1.

        3. Senna’s family was and is very wealthy. Schumacher grew up with a carting track in his back yard. There was no scrimping and saving for those two.

          1. @darryn

            Lewis had a local Kart track (25 mins away) and was eventually backed by the local Karting business getting him his own Formula rather than racing in the bigger grids with equal talent.
            He was pushed into TV twice from the age of 5. A very media savvy and dedicated father gave him a massive advantage. We hear of other driver’s families trying to talk them out of motorsport.
            What they all have in common, is that they were bought Karts.
            Alonso being an exception as his father built one for his sister.

        4. @Ed Schumacher actually was a pay driver, same goes for Alonso i believe. Get your fact right at least before lashing out at Hamilton.

          1. I haven’t lashed out at hamilton, but people in here could do with learning F1 history. A pay driver is not what we are talking about. Give senna his debut season in a McLaren not a Toleman Hart he would have won races. Give Schumacher a seat in 1991 in a Williams not a Jordan he would have won races. If you start your career in a championship winning car and combined with talent you will start to rack up career wins earlier. This isnt going to happen to everyone cos there arent enough championship winning seats in the field. But for those few who do get one and stay at teams at the front of the field it does provide more opportunities to rack up wins.

          2. agreed @Ed
            Schumacher, Alonso and Senna were all blowing minds on their debuts. Lewis’s rookie status in the 2007 Mac was unprecedented . Yet people still try to compare other rookies.
            LeClerc drove better in his 2nd season that Lewis did in his, yet Lewis still clinched the title.

          3. @Ed Lewis still was up against reigning double world champion Alonso with No2 status the first six races. Look what McLaren did to Lewis in Australia 2007 to help out Alonso, that action alone cost Hamilton the 2007 title. Never mind how McLaren put more fuel in Hamilton’s car from Malaysia onwards, Alonso only won that race because Lewis battled two Ferrari’s or how McLaren messed up Hamilton’s strategy in Bahrain after Lewis outqualified Alonso the first time. Lewis was more than a match for reigning double WDC Alonso and without all those actions McLaren did Lewis would have won from Alonso in bigger numbers. Schumacher on the other hand never ever had a top teammate and those who challenged him where made sure not to do it again.

  6. Johnny Herbert got too close to Schumacher when they were team (not) mates at Benetton. Immediately Schumacher put a stop to Herbert being able to see his technical information, but Schumacher continued to have access to Herbert’s data. Suddenly Herbert’s lap times increased by a couple of seconds. Rumours started to circulate that Herbert wasn’t good enough to be in the same team and should be sacked. Unfortunately, Johnny was unable to explain the reason for his poor times, until he wrote his recent book.

    How do you win 91 races and 7 WDCs? You cripple your team mate, and ensuring you have all the best parts and are the only driver in the team to get practice between races.

    1. Yes, I noticed the same. Even in Schumacher’s first win in a wet Spa, Herbert was out driving him until Schumacher spun, broke the car and had to pit for a new front wing and thus took a gamble on slicks. Schumacher was never as impressive to me as the stats suggested, too many mistakes and infractions, and the whole preferred #1status.

      1. Herbert was not with Benetton team in 1992 when Michael won Belgian GP. It was Martin Brundle who was Michael`s teammate that season ;)

        1. My mistake, all those short brots look the same to me.

    2. And all the other teams and drivers are just for fun… years and years..

    3. Oh, interesting, and what if the other teams are stronger than yours? Crippling your team mate won’t help you then, only ferrari dominant years were 2001, 2002, 2004.

      1. First rule of motorsport. Beat your team mate, in Schumacher’s case ‘by whatever means’.

    4. One was a colossal cheat and the other isn’t. Pretty simple. It always makes me wonder how Schumacher justified all the cheating in his head. Running people off the road is one thing, but running traction control when all the others weren’t is something completely different. People criticize Lance Armstrong, but he was doing what all the others were also doing. Schumacher and his traction control was just on another level in my book. FTG

      1. Jonathan Edwards
        15th January 2020, 12:54

        Why do you think he had traction control? Because Senna said so? Because of Option 13? Please, do tell….

        1. Maybe he’s one of the many engineers who relabelled Benetton’s luggage at the airport as ‘ cheats’

  7. Schumacher was a dirty racer who would purposely crash into others. Also he had the benefit of team orders the most famous one being ‘let michael pass your for the championship’.

    1. @johnson Well said mate.

  8. Predictably, a common criticism levelled at both is that they wouldn’t have won so many races without such strong cars.

    The best artists have the best brushes, but even without having the best brushes they would still be great artists. The best musicians have the best instruments, but even without a great instrument they are still a great musician. The same applies here: The best drivers end up in the best cars, but even if they don’t have the best car they are still a great driver. It isn’t surprising that Lewis ended up at Mercedes, because they make very good F1 cars. What is a bit surprising is that they’ve enjoyed year upon year of success compared to their competitors. In the first few years the Token System, which I suspect was meant to hinder them, actually helped them.
    Maybe Mercedes wouldn’t have done so well last year if Daniel Ricciardo hadn’t left Red Bull, and again Mercedes shouldn’t have done as well as they did do because Ferrari let them.

    1. @drycrust Just to be clear. Mercedes was a midfield team when Lewis joined them at the end of 2012.

  9. Your_Typical_Mental
    14th January 2020, 21:17

    Lewis Hamilton’s success in the second half of his career will always ring hallow to me. The new engine rules put Mercedes in the right place at the right time and left literally everyone behind. Whereas Michael Schumacher went above and beyond what was the norm of his era to win. I can link an interview with Murray Walker where he said Schumacher was the first driver to practice and perfect how he entered and left the pit box.

    1. On the other hand, I consider many of Michael’s victories as “hollow” (I’m assuming you meant that instead of “hallow” = extra holy) because team orders and strategies meant Rubens (or whoever) had to submit to team orders to help Michael win. Lewis, on the other hand, doesn’t (or nearly always doesn’t) have team orders and favourable strategies to make sure he beats his team mate.
      In regards to the Token System, my belief is that it was intended to help Ferrari win lots and lots of races, so I don’t have any complaint that it helped Mercedes win lots and lots of races instead. Actually, I’m very pleased it helped a team other than Ferrari win lots and lots of races.
      Maybe Michael was the first driver to perfect driving into and out of their pitbox, but he is the only one that I know of who wanted a Start-Finish line shifted because it was more photogenic.

  10. “How did Lewis Hamilton become the driver best-placed to beat him?”

    Answer: He drives a Mercedes.

    1. @depailler Mercedes was nothing more then a midfield team when Lewis joined them and left a winning team McLaren. That’s what people like you forget.

      1. Let’s not make it sound like the ‘midfield’ team you are talking about had midfield level resources.

      2. @noname

        How come Nico won 2 races in their first season together? Beating Lewis 2-1 and damaging HAm’s his previous qually reputation.

        1. Well. Hamilton had more poles and more points than Nico. If you are saying that the win tally is all that matters then does that mean you are ready to say Hamilton “beat” Rosberg in 16? I doubt it. Sometimes you over reach in your efforts to discredit LH. It’s entertaining.

  11. I’m not sure if I’m being pedantic or if the text was purposefully written that way to make a point but:

    …and Ayrton Senna was tragically killed in the third race of 1994.

    That makes it sound to me like it was someone else’s doing rather than, he died as a result of an accident while racing.

    1. @hobo Perhaps stop overthinking.

    2. His steering column snapped. That’s the very definition of someone else’s doing.

      1. Lots of parts ‘snapped’. Senna was killed trying to keep up with an illegal car.

        1. 1) Senna was leading. The illegal car was behind him.
          2) The steering column was hastily lengthened by Williams by cutting then welding support braces along the external length rather than using a smaller diameter tube internally to the cut tube. His steering column snapped, and no-one who watched Senna in his prime could ever dispute a more realistic root cause of the incident. Any suggestion his car speared off because of the chassis grounding out is ignoring fundamental car behaviour with loss of rear grip – the car would’ve spun and not proceeded in an arrow straight line.
          3) There’s publicly available footage which more than hints towards this information.
          4) That said footage mysteriously ends before impact
          5) The FW15’s black box was destroyed before it could be investigated
          6) The entire FW15 was destroyed before the conclusion of the inquest

          Senna was killed because his sub-standard steering column snapped at the highest load corner of the F1 calendar, causing the car to instantaneously change from a left-trajectory to straight ahead. Senna somehow reacted to the impending catastrophe by slowing the car down quickly but Tamburello had a wall that couldn’t be negotiated. It was a perfect storm of engineering failure.
          If he’d survived the crash, he would’ve walked away from F1 there and then and more than likely sued Williams out of existence. Williams got the best possible outcome by virtue of evidence destruction and a suspension arm.

  12. Watching in the mid 90’s to mid 2000’s, it was clear who was the best driver on the grid. No question about it.

    Schumacher utterly dominated every teammate until his first retirement.

    Schumacher was number 1 driver much like Verstappen, much like Hamilton, much like Le Clerc will be.

  13. Another aspect overlooked on this analysis is the reliability of cars from mid 90s onward.l and driver longevity. In the 70s and 80s the reliability was so woeful that now any driver in a top car will rack much more wins than drivers from other generations. Should the reliability would be on par with the 2000 / 2010 an Alain Prost would have much more wins than 51. This, combined with increased calendar and safety will lead to longer careers and more opportunities for racking up wins. Imagine if a Verstappen get a Mercedes like top winning car for 4 seasons? He’s the most likely driver to beat all others, as he was already performing really well in his teens!

  14. Yeah, Schumacher did it by contractually hobbling his team mates, utilising a bottomless pit of money and getting bridgestone to custom make his tyres.

    and cheating.

    1. Daniel Ricciardo’s management want a word.

  15. The number of races per year plays a huge part. 22 now vs 16 means the opportunity to win more in one’s prime or with a good car goes up. If this trend continues, a dominant driver/car combo, much more dominant that we’ve seen in recent years, admittedly, could sweep the board and get to 100 wins in just a few years. While this has helped Hamilton score a bunch of wins recently, the other factors above such as the higher level of competition even in his own teams, balance that factor out in my humble opinion.

    Guess if we artificially curtailed all recent seasons after the 16th race we could compare win total at a 16/year race pace but that might eliminate some of Hamilton’s more successful tracks from the totals so it could never be done fairly.

  16. Thanks for the article, Shumi def pushed the boundaries as did others in that era. Diff eras, diff standards.
    The one difefrence I would note is that Hamilton’s teammates not only raced against him with equal support, but overall, I think the quality of his teammates was greater. He had three WDC as teamnmates (Alonso, Button and Rosberg) – and even though Rosberg became one against him, he also beat Shumi as a teammate – admittedly when Michael was past his best, but still a noteworthy diffreence.

  17. Hamilton’s stats are not as good as Schumacher’s or Vettel’s in terms of dominance % over a season.
    MS 72% + 64.7% versus LH 57.8%
    Vettel also got a 68.4%

    Of course Hamilton fans don’t like it and will pick and choose their own stats or make excuses about DNFs and even sabotage.

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