Statistically and stylistically, there are parallels between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. And then there are four differences, which underscore why the Brit’s feats in Formula 1 (F1) stand well!
Lewis Hamilton, arguably the best driver on the grid, is haring for title number six, a box previously ticked by only Michael Schumacher.
The parallels are many, statistically and stylistically. Both Schumacher and Hamilton took 12 years to win five titles. Both racked up impressive headline numbers, but Hamilton is slightly ahead.
Lewis Hamilton has begun his quest for a sixth Formula 1 championship-winning success in 2019, having affirmed his status as a modern-day great and moved within striking distance of arguably the sport’s all-time legend Michael Schumacher and his many milestones.
When Schumacher secured his seventh and final world drivers’ title in 2004, neither Hamilton or fellow four-time champion Sebastian Vettel had made their F1 debuts, let alone added their names to the roll call of champions. Juan Manuel Fangio’s previous record of five titles stood for 46 years until Schumacher eclipsed the Argentine, but to add a seventh was, to many, a step that would surely never be equalled.
Now, after winning four of the past five championships to add to his maiden title win from 2008, Hamilton has drawn level with Fangio and has only Schumacher ahead.
If this title-winning streak runs to the end of his current Mercedes deal, Hamilton will match Schumacher’s magnificent seven, and it’s not hard to imagine that he may just be tempted to put off his many interests outside of the sport to try and go one further.
Schumacher’s final win at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix moved him 40 victories clear of the great Alain Prost, who had previously held this record. For context, Prost’s tally combined with that of his fiercest adversary Ayrton Senna amounts to 92 – just one more than Schumacher’s alone.
It’s easy then to see how many believed Schumacher’s count would never be matched, or even threatened, but Hamilton’s dominance during F1’s hybrid era has changed that. From the beginning of 2014 to the most recent race in Japan, Hamilton has won 59 out of a possible 117 races – that’s 50% and an average of roughly 10 per season.
Barring a shock exit from F1, Hamilton has dozens of races still ahead of him. If he were to continue winning at his current pace, he would end 2020 with nearly a century of grand prix triumphs, suggesting one of Schumacher’s hallmark records is under serious threat.
Schumacher: 8 (French GP)
Hamilton: 7* (Canadian GP, Hungarian GP)
Schumacher holds the records for most wins at several grands prix, but Lewis Hamilton has enjoyed considerable success in many during his own career.
Schumacher’s record haul in one event stands at eight. Despite his name being so intrinsically linked to several memorable wins in Spa, it was – in fact – the French Grand Prix that proved to be his most prolific event.
Hamilton has moved closer to the great man at two races so far in 2019, Canada and Hungary – with both victories coming hugely against the odds. Hamilton can also hit a lucky seven in the USA this year if he leaves COTA with victory.
With at least one more attempt in Montreal and Budapest to come, and likely many others, Hamilton looks in good shape to match or better Schumacher.
Schumacher’s record of winning at least one race in 15 consecutive seasons will surely be equalled if Hamilton extends his contract beyond the end of 2020.
In his very first season in F1, Hamilton matched Jacques Villeneuve’s benchmark for the most wins by a rookie and has since gone on to register at least one race victory in each of his subsequent 12 seasons, adding at least nine in each of his past five seasons.
One that Hamilton has stormed to since this article was first published. He secured the record at the Russian Grand Prix, the 14th of 16 races he had lapped in P1 during the 2019 season.
Schumacher’s 142 races led during his career was a massive 56 more than the next man on the list, Senna, until the emergence of Hamilton and Vettel. Vettel has led 103 grands prix during his career.
Hamilton has only failed to take the lead in 22 of the 117 races held in the V6 Hybrid era. He will more than likely retire having led more than half of the races he’ll have entered during his F1 career.
Schumacher’s record of 22 hat-tricks, or grand slams, was largely cemented during his five dominant championship-winning seasons at Ferrari from 2000 to 2004. Similarly, Hamilton has achieved 12 during the hybrid era.
It’s a difficult record to surpass as it requires Hamilton to not only have a dominant car underneath him for the remainder of his contract but to also string together a series of near-perfect weekends – not as easy as it sounds.
Hamilton has taken to the podium in 60% of his F1 races to date, a better hit rate than anyone in the modern era.
He has frequented the F1 podium so often in the hybrid era that he must now be considering having his mail redirected there.
An astonishing 80% of races since the start of 2014 have featured Hamilton spraying champagne after the chequered flag has fallen. This is another one that looks certain to leave Schumacher’s hands.
Schumacher: 14 years, 1 month
Hamilton: 11 years, 10 months*
They say you should never tempt fate – indeed this piece used to be the eight Schumacher records that Hamilton could beat.
But then Kimi Raikkonen had to go and get involved, winning the 2018 United States GP and massively extending the record for gap between first and last wins, which now stands at over 15 years.
Hamilton would have to be racing – and winning – until 2022 to take this one. The catwalk and recording studio may have called him away by then.