F1's seven-times champions: Hamilton and Schumacher

F1’s two seven-times champions: Hamilton and Schumacher’s title wins compared

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By winning his seventh Formula 1 world championship, Lewis Hamilton has equalled the record for most world championships won by any driver in the history of the sport.

He stands together with Michael Schumacher, the only other driver to have claimed seven drivers’ titles. Here’s how the two titans of the sport set the ultimate benchmark of F1 success.

#1: Schumacher 1994, Hamilton 2008

But for a disastrously late pit call on a drying track in Shanghai, and a mysterious gearbox glitch at Interlagos, Hamilton could have won the world championship as a rookie in 2007.

He delivered the title the second time of asking, aged 23, after a campaign which included some sublime wins – notably his victory by over a minute in a sodden home race – but also a few calamities, such as when he rear-ended Kimi Raikkonen in the pits in Canada. The pair scrapped furiously in Spa where Hamilton, the winner on the road, was controversially penalised, handing victory to Felipe Massa. The latter proved his closest title rival, and would have taken the crown had Hamilton not overtaken a struggling Timo Glock at the very last corner in a heart-stopping season finale.

Michael Schumacher collides with Damon Hill, Adelaide, 1994
Schumacher won his first title in controversial fashion
Schumacher was two years older than Hamilton when he won his first crown in season which began with tragedy and was mired throughout by bitter acrimony. He was already 20 points ahead of Ayrton Senna when his rival crashed and died at Imola. Aside from Nigel Mansell’s occasional reappearances in Senna’s seat, the championship was now without any champions. Two disqualifications and a two-race ban for a variety of infringements meant Schumacher arrived at the season finale just one point ahead of Senna’s team mate Damon Hill. After Schumacher skidded wide and hit a barrier, he turned in on Hill at the next corner, taking the Williams driver out and clinching the title.

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#2: Schumacher 1995, Hamilton 2014

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2014
Hamilton had to wait six years for his second title
If the controversies of 1994 overshadowed some of Schumacher’s genius moments – such as his second place in Spain despite being stuck in fifth gear – his second title the following year was a more consistent showcase of driving brilliance. His Benetton was now equipped with the same Renault power as Hill’s Williams, and as the season wore on Schumacher ground his adversary down. He won from 16th at Spa, mastered tricky conditions at the Nurburgring, and passed Hill brilliantly at Estoril. With title number two in the bag, he accepted a big-money move to Ferrari.

Hamilton had to wait six years for his second title, by which time he’d turned 29. He’d come close to the 2010, and a season of superb driving in 2012 was under-rewarded by an unreliable McLaren, which prompted a fateful move to Mercedes. In 2014 the team produced a gem of a car with his V6 hybrid turbo W05, and Hamilton won 11 of 19 races, though his consistent team mate Nico Rosberg kept him honest until the (one-off) double-points finale. Hamilton’s car had let him down in the season opener, Rosberg’s did in the finale, and that settled the title fight.

#3: Schumacher 2000, Hamilton 2015

Pit error cost Hamilton 2015 Monaco win
By the time Hamilton clinched his third championship – Mercedes again little troubled by rival teams – Rosberg increasingly looked like a spent force. Hamilton’s title-clinching win at the Circuit of the Americas was his 10th from 16 races. Rosberg, who blamed his defeat that day on an inconvenient gust of wind, had won three, as many as Sebastian Vettel had mustered in a far less competitive Ferrari.

But those who wrote Rosberg off proved too hasty. He won the next seven races in a row, including the first four of 2016. From there Hamilton fought back to regain the points lead, but a combination of too many poor starts and an untimely power unit failure in Malaysia gave Rosberg the whip hand. He needed only to follow Hamilton home in the remaining four races, which he did, despite Hamilton ignoring the protestations of the Mercedes pit wall at Yas Marina and reversing his team mate back towards their rivals. It wasn’t enough; Rosberg took the crown, and promptly quit the sport.

Schumacher ended Ferrari’s long wait for a drivers’ champion
Schumacher endured three near-misses before finally delivering his third title, and the first for a Ferrari driver in 21 years. In 1997 he tried to repeat his Adelaide 1994 move on Jacques Villeneuve, but failed, and was disqualified from second in the championship. He stalled at the start of the 1998 season finale, handing Mika Hakkinen the championship. In 1999 he broke his leg at mid-season when a brake failure sent him into a barrier at Silverstone.

Early in 2000 a third title finally seemed to be coming Schumacher’s way, as he won the opening three races while Hakkinen retired twice. But the McLaren driver fought back, aided by two consecutive first-lap retirements for Schumacher. Like Hamilton and his Finnish rival eight years later, the pair scrapped memorably over victory at Spa, but on that occasion Hakkinen prevailed. The next race proved a turning point, however: Schumacher scored the first of four wins in a Ferrari which was now the fastest car over a single lap. Engine failure for Hakkinen at Indianapolis gave Schumacher the chance to clinch the title at Suzuka, which he did, jumping ahead of his rival through the pits.

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#4: Schumacher 2001, Hamilton 2017

Hamilton and Vettel clashed in Baku
Both drivers won their fourth championships as 32-year-olds, and also coincided in ages when they took their subsequent three titles. By this point in their careers both drivers had very competitive cars underneath them, but while Schumacher’s Ferrari team were increasingly drawing ahead of their rivals, Hamilton and Mercedes’ dominance was finally facing credible opposition.

Hamilton’s competition came from a driver who had joined Ferrari with aspirations of emulating the success his hero enjoyed before him. Vettel’s win in the season-opening race of 2017, and further victories over the opening rounds, indicated Hamilton finally had to go up against someone in a different car. He patiently chipped away at Vettel’s lead, but past the halfway point in the season the Ferrari driver still lay ahead. Vettel should have drawn further ahead in Singapore, where he took pole and the Red Bulls relegated Hamilton to fifth on the grid, but a disastrous first-lap collision with his team mate and Max Verstappen wiped out all three and handed the Mercedes driver a precious win. Vettel’s title hopes never recovered.

Schumacher put a lock on his fourth title earlier in the 2001 campaign. Hakkinen, who had begun the previous season out of sorts, was on his way out of the sport and seldom figured; team mate Coulthard took up the fight against Schumacher, but by the time the title was decided at the Hungaroring in August he’d won just two races to Schumacher’s seven, and lagged even further in the qualifying fight, underlining Ferrari’s growing dominance of F1.

#5: Schumacher 2002, Hamilton 2018

Schumacher won his fifth title as early as July
Schumacher’s dominance of Formula 1 soared to new heights in 2002. The return of tyre supplier Michelin to F1 as a rival to Bridgestone increasingly shaped the competition: Ferrari and Schumacher led the development of Bridgestone’s rubber, and their partnership gave them a distinct upper hand over rivals on Michelins. There was no prospect of Schumacher facing any worthwhile competition within his own team: As early as round six Ferrari ordered Rubens Barrichello to hand him a win in Austria, to jeers of derision from the crowd.

BMW’s potent V10 helped Juan Pablo Montoya to a string of pole positions for Williams, but the car usually chewed its tyres in the race. Schumacher equalled Juan Manuel Fangio’s record of five world championships in July, an achievement which prompted one of F1’s knee-jerk rules changes: From 2003 the points system was reworked to make second place and lower positions more valuable. This would obviously extend the duration of title fights and was a clear indication that those running the show felt someone was doing too much winning.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hockenheimring, 2018
Hockenheim win was vital for Hamilton’s 2018 title bid
Remarkably, it took Hamilton until the fourth races of 2018 to score his first win. Vettel began his latest title bid with two victories on the bounce, and while the first was somewhat fortunate, it meant Hamilton again had to come from behind in the title fight. Arriving at the mid-point in the season Vettel lay ahead and had pole for his home race in Hockenheim, Hamilton only 14th after a hydraulic problem. But on race day rain fell, Hamilton edged towards the front – and Vettel skidded into a barrier. It was the first of six wins in seven races for Hamilton which put a seal on title number five.

#6: Schumacher 2003, Hamilton 2019

Schumacher ended lively 2003 season on top again
Schumacher’s bid to do something no one had ever done before – win a sixth Formula 1 world championship – immediately proved a more challenging proposition than his last two titles. Michelin made strides with their tyres and McLaren won the first two races on them – one each for Coulthard and new team mate Raikkonen. Having won 15 of 17 races the year before, Ferrari began the season with their old car: Schumacher won round four in the F2002, then the next two with its replacement. Williams proved a stronger challenge, though his brother Ralf and team mate Juan Pablo Montoya often took points off each other.

The season swung on a controversial FIA decision, following lobbying from Ferrari and Bridgestone, to outlaw Michelin’s tyre specification following the Hungarian Grand Prix. There Fernando Alonso had scored a breakthrough win for Renault, Schumacher a lap in arrears. The consequences were seismic: Having won just five of the previous 13 races, Bridgestone won 15 of the next 16, all bar one of which went to Schumacher. Barrichello’s sole win during that spell, in the Suzuka finale, assured Schumacher’s of his record-breaking sixth title on a curious off-day for the driver who was now quantifiably the greatest in the sport’s history.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019
Mexico win set Hamilton up for title number six
Hamilton’s rivals should have made him work harder for his 2019 title. Ferrari had a very fast car – dubiously so, it later emerged – and helped themselves to nine pole positions. Valtteri Bottas, in his third year as Hamilton’s team mate, matched his team mate pole for pole. Yet Hamilton piled up win after win as he pleased, and though he had to follow Bottas home at Circuit of the Americas, it was enough for his sixth title.

#7: Schumacher 2004, Hamilton 2020

Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races in 2004
For both drivers, their seventh titles were arguably the most dominant. By 2004 not only was the Ferrari-Bridgestone combination a formidable winning machine, but their rivals had lost the plot. McLaren’s MP4-19, based on a temperamental and unraced development car from the year before, was a disaster. Williams began the season with a radical nose which proved as competitive as it was attractive. Renault also struggled to build on their 2003 breakthrough, and all three Michelin-shod teams took a single win apiece. By the time Schumacher arrived at Spa, to clinch his final title at the scene of his first win 13 years earlier, he had won 12 of the 13 races.

Lewis Hamilton, Mick Schumacher, Nurburgring, 2020
Schumacher’s son Mick congratulated Hamilton on 91 wins
In much the same way Hamilton has been able to dominate 2020 partly because Mercedes’ rivals have fallen short. Ferrari were required to make changes to their power unit during the off-season and are presently enduring their worst campaign for four decades. Red Bull also fell away from Mercedes during the winter, and have been slowly regaining their lost ground ever since. In a season heavily disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hamilton won with regularity, and beat Schumacher’s career record of 91 wins in Portugal. By the time he clinched the crown – with a sublime drive at a wet, grip-less Istanbul Park – he was on 94.

The near misses

Alonso denied Schumacher a title-winning farewell to Ferrari
Both drivers won seven championships, but both could also point to opportunities missed and claim they could have won more – and potentially even reached double-digits.

In addition to his near-misses in 1997 and 1998, Schumacher almost regained the title in 2006. But a blown engine in the penultimate race at Suzuka all-but ended his chances. At a stretch, his leg-breaking crash in 1999 might be considered another example. But there was still more than half of the season to go at that point in the year, and Schumacher was trailling Hakkinen in the championship when he crashed at Stowe. Nonetheless, 10 titles were clearly possible for Schumacher.

Hamilton was two points from winning the title as a rookie
The same cannot be said quite as confidently about Hamilton – yet. Undoubtedly 2007 was an opportunity missed: Raikkonen produced arguably the greatest championship upset in F1 history to wrest the title from the rookie. But 2010 and 2012 are more cases of titles he ‘could have’ rather than ‘should have’ won. Hamilton was very much the fourth driver in F1’s only four-way title-decider in 2010, but ended the year just 16 points off the crown. Race-ending collisions in consecutive races at Monza and Singapore cost him dearly. In 2012 he was much further away from taking the title, but repeatedly let down by an unreliable car.

The crucial difference is that for Hamilton, a record-breaking eighth, ninth or even 10th world championship may yet lie ahead of him.

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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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32 comments on “F1’s two seven-times champions: Hamilton and Schumacher’s title wins compared”

  1. Lewis Hamilton! Outstanding!

  2. 2010 and 2012 are only could have seasons for Hamilton, but 2007 and 2016 are should have seasons

    Add in the title it will take a miracle to lose next year and he’ll soon be a should be 10x WDC

    1. I agree with 2016 season, but not with 2007. Even the reigning 2xWDC in the same car was not able to win the title in the same car. My opinion is that a lot of people underestimate the strength of 2007 (and 2008 for that measure) Ferrari car, which was actually on pair or even better than the Mclaren.

    2. I am not so sure about 2012. Hamilton retired in Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Brazil through no fault of his own. Well, could have is the way to describe it. But, I believed that Hamilton had a real shot in 2012 at the end of season. Reliability just ruined it for him. However, reliability is related to the car, and who knows what could have occurred if Hamilton took care of the car. I believe that you sacrifice speed if you decide to make the car less prone to failures. Let’s not forget also, when Mclaren made the blunder in Spain to underfuel his car when he put the car on pole by half a second. Although I am not sure about the race as Alonso and Maldonado were really competitive in Spain.

    3. Yes, I think they somehow overlooked the 2016 near-miss on the article.

      1997 was especially close for schumacher, 1998 and 2006 reasonably close and 1999 a pretty realistic possibility without that accident, but hamilton was as close as 1997 in both 2007 and 2016, and honestly was the most deserving driver in both years imo.

      This just to argue near misses, my stance on car dominance didn’t change.

  3. Excellent comparison and summary, thanks for the article!

  4. Next up: Comparing the team-mates of these two.

  5. Schumacher had to fight other teams that were trying to destroy him in order to win most of his titles whereas 6 of Hamilton’s 7 titles have been won against the lower paid driver on the other side of the garage while Toto, Niki, Paddy, James have been his corner barely suppressing their glee when he finishes ahead.

    Schumacher gave up almost certain wins and titles when he left Benetton as the current double world champion to go to a basketcase Ferrari team.

    Just winning that 2000 title to break the drought for Ferrari was worth more than the 2001-04 championships combined. His job was done and greatness cemented Suzuka 2000.

    It wasn’t until 10 years into his career that Schumacher got the best car on the grid over the course of an entire season. Still managed to have 75 wins after 200 races. Hamilton more of a late bloomer coming alive in the hybrid era with the massive Mercedes superiority.

    I think it’s 81 or 82 front row lock outs for Mercedes now since they went on their run in 2014.

    Ferrari 2000-04 had 15 front row lock outs.

    McLaren in 1998 alone had 8 front row lock outs in a 16 race season but Schumacher still took the title to the final race of the season. Incredible.

    1. +1. Hamilton is a beast, but the circumstances of his achievements make them less valua le.

    2. Why do you guys keep trying to rewrite history? When Schumacher joined Ferrari, they were 3rd in the constructors championship, suffering from reliability issues & not pace (3rd the previous year as well if my memory is accurate). Ferrari had recently signed Jean Todt fresh from his multiple WRC, Le Mans & Paris-Dakar titles (his endurance racing experience was a perfect addition to a team with reliability issues). All the Benetton brain trust (Brawn, Byrne, Tombaszis etc.) soon joined the “basketcase” Ferrari team as well. Aldo Costa was Byrne’s assistant. Ferrari was even better funded than Benetton ever was.

      1. Todt hadn’t achieved anything at Ferrari before Schumacher arrived. They were a dysfunctional team.

        Ferrari with the V12 were only competitive on power circuits and had terrible reliability.

        Benetton had become the second best team in the sport, McLaren was a better team fundamentally but going through a transition from the Honda to Ford, to a horrible Peugeot engine to eventually the Mercedes engine.

        If you were going to go to any big team at the end of 1995, Ferrari would be your 4th option if you’re looking for success.

        1. Yeah… no… quit being ridiculous.
          “Todt hadn’t achieve anything at Ferrari before Schumacher arrived. They were a dysfunctional team.”
          Uh…. Todt’s mandate was to rebuild the team & win championships. He was the one who hired Schumacher & the Benetton brain trust. But before he hired them, Berger won in Germany ’94 & that was the 1st Ferrari win in 4 years. They went from 4th to 3rd in the constructors. In ’95 Alesi won in Montreal & red cars scored 10 other podiums, netting another 3rd place in the constructors title. I’d say that was achieving quite a bit before poaching Schumacher & company from Benetton, who people forget had just tied up with Tom Walkinshaw & TWR, as well as moving into spanking new facilities at Enstone… currently occupied by Renault… that’s why they were suddenly a powerhouse. Well, that & the Elf/Japan Tobacco money & Ford/Cosworth & Renault/Renaultsport engineering (and associated budgets as well). But nobody was expecting a repeat result with all the engineering & driving talent headed to Ferrari, who were on the up & now rolling in cash after Montezemolo took the reins. The smart bets were on red.

        2. We know who you are…

          Quit wittering on about front row lock outs!

          Some of around here have lived a bit and know about the refuelling years you numb nut!

          1. Exactly, front row lock outs mean nothing when qualifying on different fuel loads due to race fuel qually and refueling.

    3. I completely agree! Hamilton is good but no where near Schumachers level!

    4. Really well said. Leaving a winning team like Benetton and make the move to a big question mark team as Ferrari. That’s what I always emphasize. They always compare Senna to Schumacher, and I am a huge fan of Senna, but Senna ALWAYS went after the best car (he most likely would become 1994 champion, because the same car that killed him, allowed a driver like Damon Hill become vice-champion in 1994).
      And if someone thinks that Mercedes success now, having Schumacher in the team on the first years is coincidence, you do not know F1. Unless you have a genius like Adrian Newey or John Barnard behind the car’s design, you need to rely basically on the driver input for the car development. Just a few drivers have that talent and Schumacher was one of them. Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet are others I can add to that mix.

  6. @keithcollantine Nice round up, thanks for this synopsis.

  7. “Schumacher had to fight other teams that were trying to destroy him in order to win most of his titles whereas 6 of Hamilton’s 7 titles have been won against the lower paid driver on the other side of the garage while Toto”

    So the 2017/19/19, victories for Hamilton, that I’d wager anything Shui or Lewis would have won in that Ferrari, were only because he had a weaker team-mate

    The jokes keep on coming!! Keep posting please

    1. The Merc was the clear better car 2017-19.

      Ferrari had 14 wins in that span, RBR had 9, Mercedes had 38.

    2. Bold claim I think especially in 2019, but partially true, there was definitely a title to play for for a better driver in 2017 and especially in 2018.

  8. Hamilton is the more gifted and naturally talented/quicker driver of the two in my opinion.

    MSC the more dedicated and diligent of the two.

    1. Schumacher was a lot more dominant over his teammates than Hamilton.

      Prime Barrichello was as good as prime Button, prime Rosberg, certainly better than Bottas.

      Schumacher sticking a Jordan 6th on the grid with no preparation in his first race weekend, Spain 96, Monaco 97 and Spa 97 in the wet in very ordinary cars was all natural driving ability.

      1. Go back & compare Rubens’ actual results with those of Jenson (especially while they were teammates) & see if you can still make that comparison with.a straight face. Prime Rosberg had little trouble seeing of a bit-past-his-prime Schumacher (who was still good enough to score a pole @ Monaco… the “Driver’s circuit”…) during their time together but only managed to squeak out a single championship win over Hamilton over the duration of their years competing, dating back to karts.

        1. Please. Schumacher was nearly 44 by the time he retired in 2012 yet matched Rosberg 10-10 in qualifying, beat him 7-3 in races where both drivers finished.

          Schumacher was 10 years past his absolute peak yet was matching Rosberg for pace in 2012.

          Rosberg did beat Hamilton in 2013. 8-7 in races were they both finished (would have been 9-6 if Brawn didn’t gift the Malaysia podium to Hamilton).

          But I don’t really rate Rosberg.

          1. Again we know who you are!

            Who won that year!

        2. Come on are you really suggesting Schumacher was at his peak during his Comeback

          Id say he wasn’t even there to win titles but just for the love of racing.

          Even in 2009 Button beat Barichello yes but look at the age difference! Button was in his prime and Barichello was a year away from retiring! Had this battle been atleast 2 years earlier Barichello would have won im sure! But it just wasn’t meant to be i guess

          1. Indeed, for sure he wasn’t at his peak, I think from mathematical model it emerges like a 6 tenths loss per lap due to age alone at that age he came back. I think rosberg was pretty good to run hamilton that close at times, but I think peak schumacher would’ve compared to rosberg as favourably as hamilton did or even better.

  9. Kinda pointless article, as Hamilton is miles ahead of Schumacher in terms of real speed. In equal machinery Schumacher would have hard time to make it through Q1 in modern grid

    1. And Hamilton would probably not even qualifying… Lol

  10. Mark in Florida
    16th November 2020, 12:47

    My take on it is this. They are both great champions who did what was necessary to win. They are from different era’s with only a slight overlap of years one going out and another coming into his own as a champion. Let’s just be grateful that we have been able to see talent like this and not try to drag them down. One day Hamilton will be outside looking in and he’ll be the old champ. So let’s just enjoy it while we can, time passes faster than you realise.

    1. Was good to see a race like this where he had to fight for the win instead of blowing past with a dominant mercedes, would be good to see more of this before he leaves, tired of seeing dominant car after dominant car.

  11. I think Hamilton is a true talent and is one of the best ever perhaps the best ever but nobody will really ever know. Look at Vettel coasting to four titles in a row when Red Bull was dominant then nothing. I think that there a at least a half a dozen other like Fangio, Jimmy Clark, Senna, Montoya, Prost, Lauda, Alonso, Andretti who could easily have done what these guys have with equally dominant cars. This is like comparing Babe Ruth to Bonds, Aaron or Rodrigeze. They are at the pinnacle of their sport.

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