From the December 2020 issue, this graphic marks the moment that Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula 1 wins; a statistic that he has already surpassed.
Mick Schumacher’s presenting of one of his father’s crash helmets to Lewis Hamilton at the Nürburgring in October as the British driver equalled Michael’s 91 grand prix wins, was a reminder that eras come and go.
Michael and Lewis barely overlapped on the track. Schumacher was elbowed out of Ferrari the year before Hamilton arrived as F1’s best prepared and best, as it turned out, rookie. In 2012 they swapped helmets to mark Schumacher’s F1 exit after three underwhelming seasons with Mercedes, as Hamilton joined the Silver Arrows.
Yet they are linked in many ways above and beyond their 91 grand prix wins, and surely soon to be seven world titles, apiece.
Both were born in January, albeit 16 years apart. Both are blue-collar heroes. Both families made sacrifices for them to achieve their dream. Both immediately caught the eye at the highest level. Both were fundamental to the revival of sleeping giants. Both used their status and wealth to reach out, support and inspire in the wider world. And both divided opinion.
The stats shown here tell their own story, but not everything is so black and white. There are caveats: quality of team-mate; capability of ‘second- or third- rate’ car; ethos of team.
Only recently has Hamilton had a team wrap itself around him, as did Benetton and Ferrari with Schumacher. Prior to his Ferrari split, Schumacher’s 91 wins had come at a rate of one every 2.7 starts. By the time of his second retirement this had ‘slumped’ to 3.36.
It has taken Hamilton 15 more starts to reach 91 – 261 to Schumacher’s 246 – but his current rate of one win every 2.87 starts is bettered only by two: Fangio (2.13) and Ascari (2.46). But can you compare different eras? Sir Jackie Stewart – win rate 3.67 – cast doubt on the matter with his recent listing of Fangio, Jim Clark (2.88) and Ayrton Senna (3.93) as the three best ever.
But are Schumacher and Hamilton so far removed from one another that comparison is inequitable?
Their F1 careers have followed broadly similar paths and the mind-boggling stats underpin the same story: indubitably they were/are the best of their eras.
Illustration Josh Gowen
Data journalist Jake Williams-Smith
Hamilton vs Schumacher