‘There’d only be a few thousandths between them’

Former Mercedes vice-president Norbert Haug thinks there’d be nothing to choose between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at their peaks.

With Hamilton joining Schumacher on 91 wins at the Eifel Grand Prix and all but set to match the German haul of seven World Championships, the debate over which, if either, is the best Formula driver of all time has grown and grown.

Haug, who was vice-president of Mercedes’s motorsport branch until 2012, has now weighed in, refusing to pick a side by stating that there’d be little to choose either way.

“If they had both raced each other in their prime, there would probably only have been a few thousandths of a second between them,” he told Motorsport.com.

“Both drivers also have the utmost respect for each other, which is nice to see. I have never heard one of them speak a bad word about the other.”

Schumacher was renowned for his work-rate and dedication, fundamentally changing the sport in terms of fitness levels and regimes.

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Hamilton does not have the same reputation, with the Brit enjoying an often glamorous lifestyle outside of F1. Some criticise him for this, but Haug thinks that he’s every bit as hard-working.

“All kinds of pictures on Instagram really do not deliver fast lap times,” he added.

“All extremely good drivers are willing to make those extra meters [in terms of training work]. They are both perfectionists, always ask questions and even after a one-two punch they want a very long debrief.

“That’s why they can get on people’s nerves.”

Like Haug, Schumacher too left Mercedes in 2012, with Lewis Hamilton replacing him. There has been talk that the team forced the former out to ensure the latter would join, but that apparently isn’t true.

“But I know only a few rumours from the F1 world that actually turn out to be correct. That also applies in this case,” Haug said.

“No one retired him early. In reality, it was a very clear and structured process, with Michael always in charge.

“He laid the foundation for Lewis’s records in a way.”

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‘Schumacher considered quitting after Senna’s death’

Flavio Briatore has revealed that Michael Schumacher “seriously considered” walking away from motor racing following the death of Ayrton Senna.

The 1994 F1 season was a bittersweet one for Schumacher as he won the first of his seven Drivers’ Championship, edging Damon Hill from Williams, but the year is also remembered for the deaths of F1 great Senna and Roland Ratzenberger during the San Marino Grand Prix.

Schumacher went on to win the race following Senna’s crash, but there were emotional scenes on the podium and in the post-race press conference.

Broadcaster RTL commemorated the 25th anniversary of Schumacher’s maiden title win recently and former Benetton team boss Briatore says Senna’s death had a major impact on the German.

“Schumacher was the Pavarotti of driving a car,” he said.

“He changed after the death of Ayrton Senna. He seriously considered whether to stop motor racing.

“Fortunately for us all, he stuck with it. Damon Hill was not a Championship driver. He completely messed it up.”

Schumacher won the first of his two Drivers’ titles with Benetton, who also won the Constructors’ Championship in 1995.

Not too many people fancied the team before they won their first title, but Briatore said their “star” driver drove them to great heights.

“The truth is we did not have the money to hire a good driver. A world champion, a star,” he said of Schumacher.

“They all laughed at us. That’s why we had to look for a talent.

“For the established Formula 1 teams we were a danger. A T-shirt manufacturer that beats all the legends. They complained about us all the time.

“But when they saw Michael in the car, they all shut up.”

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Ralf: I Think Lewis Can Beat Michael’s Records

Michael Schumacher could have his records beaten by Lewis Hamilton, according to the legendary German’s brother Ralf.

In Austin, Mercedes’ Hamilton put the lid on his sixth drivers’ title. Only Schumacher, with seven world championships, won more.

“Both of them achieved something incredible,” Ralf told Auto Bild.

“I think Lewis can break Michael’s records now,” the former F1 driver added.

Schumacher says Hamilton has “the best package” on the grid, but insists there is more to his success than that.

“He always gets the maximum from the opportunities,” Ralf said. “Everything fits together with him.

“He has the experience, he has a crazy natural talent, he knows when to attack and when to sit back, and he feels extremely comfortable in his team. He knows he is the absolute number 1.

“That creates trust and is very good for a driver. He probably doesn’t make many mistakes because of that,” Schumacher added.

As for Sebastian Vettel, Ralf thinks the Ferrari driver is simply feeling the pressure.

“You make mistakes when you feel the pressure like that,” said the German. “Look at Montreal. He sensed that Lewis was getting closer and lost his focus for a moment.

“Lewis and Mercedes are the best at dealing with pressure,” Schumacher added. “Toto Wolff has put all the right people around them.”


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Jordan: Why Hamilton has already surpassed Schumacher

Lewis Hamilton has yet to beat Michael Schumacher’s record number of wins and titles in F1, but as far as Eddie Jordan is concerned the Mercedes star has already surpassed the German legend.

Hamilton’s coronation in Austin last weekend has put within reach of Schumacher’s seven-world championships, while the 34-year-old is just 8 wins short of matching the former Ferrari driver’s record of 91 career victories.

From paddock pundits to armchair enthusiasts, Hamilton’s sixth crowning inevitably reignited the never-ending debate about where the Briton resides – statistics notwithstanding – among Grand Prix racing’s greatest drivers.

The man who gave Schumacher his big break in F1 in 1991 is now convinced that relative to the German ace, Hamilton is in a league of his on.

“Everyone has their own view on this, but I am of the view he’s already surpassed Michael,” the former F1 team boss told talkSPORT.

“Michael started with me so there is a love affair there, but there is a situation some people may not fully grasp.

“At the time I handled people like Barrichello, Irvine, Fisichella and Alesi, and every time we went to sign a contract with Michael Schumacher or Ferrari it always had conditions in it, where what we saw in Austin wouldn’t have been allowed to happen.”

Jordan contends that Schumacher’s success in F1 was partially achieved thanks to his complying teammates who were often ordered to yield to their leader, whereas Hamilton has most often relied on himself.

“Lewis, if he had in his contract the same things, he would have been able to pass Bottas [in Austin].

“You can’t have that in a competitive sport, where one part of the team dictates to the other.

“For me, that is a flaw factor for Michael. Seven World Championships… how many would he have won if he hadn’t had the influence and support of the other people in the team?

“And I’m not just talking about team members – I’m talking about the drivers.

“Lewis is already in a different league, in my opinion. He’s done it on his own.

“What he has done has brought great pride to his family and his people, and he can be justifiably proud.”

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The next Schumacher records in Hamilton’s sights

As Lewis Hamilton moves onto six driver titles, he’s surpassed nearly every driver in that stat and every other, apart from one man…

Michael Schumacher is considered the all-time greatest by many, and with good reason, leading the record books in multiple areas.

Hamilton himself has already taken some said records from the German, such as pole positions and races led, but is still behind in various others.

So, what numbers does the Mercedes man have to hit in order to be, statistically at least, the best Formula 1 driver ever?

World Championships 

Schumacher: 7

Hamilton: 6

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way, shall we? Hamilton moved past Juan Manuel Fangio when he claimed his sixth World Championship in Austin and now only Schumacher has more than him.

The German won his seventh title in 2004 at the age of 35, and Hamilton, at the very same age, will match him should he triumph next season. Given how dominant he and Mercedes were this season, that seems like a strong possibility.

Can he then go one better than Schumacher? The car he’s in will obviously be crucial, and given his Mercedes contract ends at the end of 2020 and the pecking order may well be shaken up by the 2021 regulations, there’s no way of knowing whether he’ll have capable machinery. Based on the way he’s driving alone though, it would take a brave man to bet against him reaching eight or more.

Race Wins

Schumacher: 91

Hamilton: 83

When Schumacher first retired in 2007, such was his dominance in this category that many believed he would never be caught. His 91 victories were more than the combined total of the two closest behind, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

And then along came Lewis Hamilton.

Prior to the hybrid era, it didn’t look like the 34-year-old would challenge Schumacher number of wins, but his dominance from 2014 onwards has propelled him to within touching distance.

He needs just nine more in his career to take top spot. That could feasibly be done next season if Mercedes have the best car again. Even if he doesn’t do so then, two or three good, if not great, seasons would most likely be enough. With the number of races increasing too, this is another record Hamilton looks likely to take from Schumacher.

Fastest Laps

Schumacher: 77

Hamilton: 46 

A category in which Schumacher is truly in a league of his own. His record of 77 fastest laps is the most by far, with Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton both some way off in joint second place.

The Briton has five fastest laps to his name this season. At that rate, he would need to stick around for six more seasons to get close to Schumi’s tally. Even if his car turns out to be a great deal faster than the rest of the grid, he’d still need two near-perfect seasons at the least.

Moreover, there’s more competition than ever to set a fastest lap, now that it can get drivers in the top ten of a race an extra point. Basically, this is one record that will stay in German hands.

Most wins in a season

Schumacher: 13

Hamilton: 11

In his ridiculously dominant 2004 season, Schumacher won 12 of the opening 13 races and ended up winning 13 out of 18 in total. This is the joint-most ever, equalled only by his compatriot Sebastian Vettel in 2013.

Hamilton’s most in a season is 11, which he did in 2014 and 2018. He can go one better this season if he wins the final two races but would still fall on short of the record set by Schumacher and Vettel.

This is unlikely to be his last chance to beat it though. With him claiming he’s driving better than ever and the race calendar growing by the year, there’s undoubtedly a decent possibility that he can surpass them. Mind you, 13 is a pretty impressive amount. We’ll put this one at 50-50.

Most podiums

Schumacher: 155

Hamilton: 150 

The record that’s the easiest for Hamilton to break, and the one he’ll do soonest. Schumacher was a whopping 49 podiums clear of second-placed Prost in this category in 2007, but Hamilton has been closing in on the Ferrari legend rapidly ever since.

He’s managed multiple podiums in every season he’s driven in F1, with his lowest tally being five, which he managed in 2009 and 2013. He merely has to better that by one next season, and may even have to do less if he gets a podium or two in the final two races of 2019.

This seems incredibly likely unless something goes drastically wrong for Hamilton or Mercedes in the near future. He has this one in the bag.

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‘Schumi could’ve won more if he hadn’t joined Ferrari’

Michael Schumacher would have won more grands prix and World titles had he opted to join another team instead of Ferrari, says former team-mate Eddie Irvine.

With two World titles in the bag having won with Benetton in 1994 and again in 1995, Schumacher moved over to Ferrari despite the Scuderia having not won a Drivers’ Championship since 1979.

It took him five years to change that, winning the Drivers’ title in 2000 with nine race wins on the board.

It was his first of five successive World titles with the Scuderia.

However, Irvine, his team-mate from 1996 to 1999, believes Schumacher could have possibly won even more had he joined a different team back in ’96.

“Schumi was very German, except for drinking, in that he was terrible!” Irvine said at the Il Festival dello Sport in a panel discussion about Schumacher and Ferrari.

“Michael was very professional and he was one who worked very hard, a great professional.

“I remember that at that time in Ferrari everyone had his role and everyone knew that he had a lot to do. I remember when we arrived at Ferrari we were way behind but Michael had set the goal of winning with Ferrari.

“He was very determined and, I repeat, all the other teams wanted him but he just wanted to win with Ferrari.

“He could have won more going somewhere else but he was a very focused person, and in the end after so many years where he came close he managed to win the World Championship five times with Ferrari thanks to his hard work.

“A great talent but great perseverance and determination, an unbelievable driver.”

Michael-Schumacher-PA

Those thoughts were very much echoed by ex-Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali, who gave an insight into how Schumacher and Jean Todt operated together.

“When you win 15 of 17 races [in 2002] you prove to be the best and we were in that moment,” Domenicali added.

“But still every morning we were afraid of not winning the race. Jean Todt and Schumi wanted to win every single race and so every morning before the GP we concentrated on making sure we would have won that race.

“Jean Todt and Michael were winners, obsessed with details and yes they had a great time together and we saw their great talent bring Ferrari to dominate the World Championship.

“I think they were very close because they has similar attitude. I believe the biggest secret of the Ferrari success was the relationship between those two.”

Domenicali also reflected on Schumacher’s famous crash with David Coulthard at Spa ’98 and how that showed his true character.

“At Spa after that incredible crash between Schumi and David Coulthard, Schumi wanted to go to the pits to look for David,” he recalled.

“Michael was heading to the McLaren garage to clarify with David and I approached him to tell him to give it up, but he pushed me away.

“The most beautiful thing is that not the same day, he was still very angry, but the day after he then apologised to me saying I was doing the right thing but he was too focused.

“And this is Schumacher, he wanted to win every time, he was so focused.”

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Hill on ‘po-faced, chin jutting’ Schumi

Damon Hill says it wasn’t until he was retiring that he got to see the “po-faced, chin jutting” Michael Schumacher as a “guy you’d want to know.”

The rivalry between Hill and Schumacher in the early 1990s is the stuff of legends.

The two clashed several times on the track, the most notable of which was at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix.

Fighting for the Drivers’ title, Schumacher turned in on Hill – some would say deliberately – causing the two to collide.

Both drivers retired and Schumacher won his first of seven World titles.

It is safe to say the two were not friends.

In fact it wasn’t until he was retiring from F1 in 1999 that Hill got to see Schumacher as more than just a rival.

The Brit remembers sitting down with the German only to realise that, as a person away from the race track, he was a “guy you’d want to know”.

“Oddly, when I retired I interviewed him here in Suzuka for a magazine and he was a charming guy,” the Brit said in an interview with the Daily Mail.

“The game was over, I was retiring, he was able to drop his guard and he seemed a guy you’d want to know.

“As a professional, he was a completely different kettle of fish. That po-faced, chin jutting out character was someone who gave nothing away.

“He was very adept at reducing his opponents, even without his driving, so he was formidable in every way.

“But they all were. Senna wasn’t an easy character to get to know, aloof.

“This new generation seem much more relaxed and more outgoing.”

Hill also revealed he was heart sore to hear about Schumacher’s ski-ing accident especially as the seven-time World Champion’s son, Mick, was with him at the time.

Hill lost his father, Graham, in 1975 when the aeroplane he was piloting crashed.

Hill was just 15 at the time.

Speaking about Schumacher’s accident, he said: “I was very upset when I heard the news, particularly because he was out with his son, Mick, and that resonated with me.

“I wanted to have a relationship with my dad when I grew up and it never happened because of a tragedy and now Mick’s experienced that.

“Not only that, he was there when it was happening and his dad is still recuperating from it and clearly going through quite a lot of difficulty.

“I haven’t been to see him. I haven’t asked. It’s too private. I didn’t know Michael that well.”

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Unofficial update on Schumacher hospital stay

Since his freak skiing accident in 20113, the condition of Michael Schumacher is a closely guarded secret and since that day on 29 December, the Formula 1 legend has never been seen in public while security around him is iron-clad.

Thus his visit to a hospital in Paris this past week, for stem cell treatment, triggered headlines while prompting speculation (at times wild) and rumours.

Again the curtain of security coupled to no official information and a surgeon close to the hospital treating the seven-time last week has played down reports that the treatment would have involved the F1 legend’s damaged brain.

When it emerged that Schumacher would receive stem cell treatment at Hospital Europeen Georges-Pompidou in Paris, many of his fans were hopeful that it could help the 50-year-old German overcome his apparent brain injuries.

But professor Michel Puceat, who according to La Gazzetta dello Sport is a stem cell expert who is close to the team treating Schumacher, thinks the treatment is more likely to be related to the former Ferrari driver’s heart.

“Without knowing the patient’s clinical picture, it is difficult to offer a precise reading of the type of treatment,” he said.

“But taking into account the place of hospitalisation and the person in charge of his care, it is not a question of brain treatment.”

He said some experimental brain stem cell treatments have been tried in Russia, while in France and Sweden some attempts were made to limit the effect of Parkinson’s disease.

“The results were interesting but only in the short term,” Puceat said. “To my knowledge, there are no studies on the application of stem cells to treat brain injuries in comatose or vegetative patients. In those cases, the cells are irreversibly dead.”

He said it is more likely that the stem cell treatment is to resolve inflammation in other organs, like the heart or to treat osteoarthritis.

Puceat concluded: “Experiments to regenerate cardiac cells did not succeed as it was hoped.”

Meanwhile, Le Parisien reported that “according to our information” Schumacher could benefit from “infusions of stem cells that are distributed in the body to obtain a systemic anti-inflammatory action throughout the body.”

“The treatment was to have begun Tuesday morning, with Schumacher reportedly expected to return home on Wednesday. Prof Menasche said details of Schumacher’s treatment would remain secret for reasons of medical confidentiality.”

A nurse taking care of Schumacher at the hospital also told the newspaper: “He is in my service and I can assure you that he is conscious.”

The report added: “And at 5.15pm [Tuesday], Jean Todt visited Schumacher for 45 minutes before quietly leaving the hospital.”

“According to other unnamed sources, the World Champ made at least two visits to the Pompidou hospital earlier this year,  admitted each time under a false name and treated by a small medical team,” La Parisien added.

On both occasions, he arrived by helicopter from Switzerland and landed at a heliport in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris. (Additional reporting GP247)


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