Lewis Hamilton claiming a fourth Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship has only heightened comparisons to current record holder Michael Schumacher, but who really is the greatest?
Whether you’re a staunch fan of either or a neutral, it will always be a contentious question as – although their careers did eventually overlap after the German great made a comeback from 2010-2012 – they are from largely different racing eras.
But despite that, they have had similar racing conditions too, with hugely improved safety measures coming in shortly after Schumacher started out in the sport, meaning the mortality rate for both he and Hamilton dramatically decreased since the 1980s and early 1990s – something that may have seen the likes of Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark and Alberto Ascari win more championships.
Only Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio have more titles than Hamilton with seven and five respectively, while the Brit is on par with current rival Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost on four. And right now, it seems that Hamilton is the only one who will be able to challenge the record in the coming years, barring one or two circumstances.
Britain’s most successful F1 driver has previously questioned his own desire to stay in the sport for too long, before stating otherwise, while his future success could also depend on whether or not Ferrari can show further improvements, with Vettel tied down to the prancing horse until 2020.
But that is all irrelevant in the context of comparing Hamilton and Schumacher today. Now 32-years-old, the Englishman is the same age as the German when he had four titles too. Three more victories in five years until his first retirement followed, and there is plenty to suggest that Hamilton, who is 6/4 favourite in the 2018 outright Formula 1 betting, can match or even better that feat while at Mercedes or maybe even eventually and aptly with Ferrari if it works out that way.
At the time of writing, with one race left to go of the 2017 season, Hamilton actually already tops Schumacher in terms of he amount of pole positions gained (by three) after breaking it a couple of months ago, despite having entered 101 races fewer. However, he is still a long way behind the German’s record of 91 race wins, being on 62.
Interestingly, though, the Brit is just head in terms of win percentage at 29.95% – with Schumacher achieving a career figure of 29.55%, which included his three years without a victory on his return to F1. If indeed Hamilton does carry on until he’s at least 35, the age when Schumacher won his seventh and final championship, then the stats show that it will be close in terms of title and race wins – the two that really matter most.
But while you could speculate that Hamilton may eventually equal or beat both records, for now, you’d have to say Schumacher is still the greatest, having gone well beyond his predecessors at the time and set such a huge benchmark for others to follow.
Big Question: Hamilton vs Schumacher who is the greatest?