Tuesday, October 27, 2020

F1 best ever driver debate: Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher?

F1 best ever driver debate: Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher?

The debate over Formula 1’s best ever driver is revving up again following Lewis Hamilton’s latest grand prix success.

Hamilton’s victory at the Eifel GP on 11 October means he is now level with Michael Schmacher on 91 career race wins. F1’s next race in Portugal on 25 October will give Hamilton the opportunity to move ahead of the German icon. 

Following the race at the Nurburgring the Mercedes driver has built a commanding 69-point lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the top of the 2020 F1 drivers’ standings. With seven wins from 11 races this season Hamilton is odds-on favourite to secure a seventh F1 world championship and equal another of Schumacher’s all-time records.

‘An incredible honour’

Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick, was on hand to present Hamilton with one of his father’s crash helmets after the Briton equalled the F1 wins record.

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Hamilton. “When you grow up watching someone you generally idolise them in terms of the quality of the driver they are but also what they are able to continuously do race on race, year on year, week on week. So it’s an incredible honour and it’s going to take some time to get used to it.”

In an interview with Sky Sports F1, the 35-year-old spoke of how he used to watch Schumacher during his dominating years.

“I just remember sitting on the couch with my brother and my dad watching the grand prix every Sunday and watching Michael storm ahead,” he said. “We used to watch the start of the race, and probably the first half of the race and then, at the end, me and my brother would go and race a racing game upstairs and I would be Michael. I think it was Grand Prix 3. I was always Michael. He was phenomenal.”

The big F1 debate 

Hamilton says it’s not the most important thing for him to be “remembered as the best or the greatest”, but his latest achievement has certainly brought the debate back into discussion. Here’s what people are saying about the two drivers… 

Ross Brawn, F1 managing director, motorsport

“Lewis drove an exemplary race in style, which has earned him an equal number of race wins to Michael Schumacher. It’s a remarkable achievement. 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.”

Ralf Schumacher, ex-F1 driver and Michael’s brother 

“I am asked again and again whether Lewis Hamilton is the greatest racing driver of all time. Now that he is breaking many of my brother’s records, my opinion is he is definitely the greatest of his time. Just like Michael was. But a comparison with my brother is difficult, because many factors play a role. Lewis of course has a mega car package in addition to his brilliant talent. This is not comparable to Michael at that time. But what he does with it is still great. What I particularly like about him is that he gets a lot out of compromises and that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s why you have to say that he is by far the best driver in the field.”

Martin Brundle, Sky Sports F1

“We can be pedantic with the statistics and note that Michael took 15 races less to do this [91 race wins], and that Lewis has had far more races per season in his prime years to make his mark, but LH is still at the very top of his game and this appears to be but a stepping stone to many more victories. Lewis has also had the best car in a particularly challenging technical era, but so have his team-mates, and Michael also had a whole team focussed on him with a dominant car for a while.”

Luke Slater, The Daily Telegraph

“You can argue all day long about the relative merits of Hamilton vs Schumacher as drivers – and indeed, I have done exactly that. Both men stand above all others when it comes to the sheer weight of their achievements. Yet there can be no argument whatsoever that Hamilton is the better champion. When the time comes, it will be a great relief to see the dethroning of someone whose records were corrupted by some of the most cynical moments in the history of the sport.”

Ewan Gale, GP Fans

“One cannot deny the brilliance of both drivers across their respective eras. At the moment, Schumacher just pips Hamilton to the moniker of being greatest. I mean only just. Hamilton still has time on his side though and more than likely will break Schumacher’s championship record in the near future. There is just something about Schumacher, he has always had that aura of an icon around him. Hamilton is on his way to achieving such status and maybe will be given the same recognition by the next generation of drivers.”

All-time F1 race wins

Michael Schumacher 91
Lewis Hamilton 91
Sebastian Vettel 53
Alain Prost 51
Ayrton Senna 41

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