Formula 1,  History,  Statistics,  The Pantheon

Lewis Hamilton vs Michael Schumacher: the battle for statistical superiority in Formula 1

It’s Lewis Hamilton vs Michael Schumacher: increasingly in Formula 1 circles the topic of conversation turns to the poignant and extraordinary question, can Lewis Hamilton surpass all of Michael Schumacher’s Grand Prix racing records?

It’s a poignant question because Schumacher’s state of health and well-being is still understandably tightly guarded and shrouded in mystery following the terrible head injuries he sustained in his skiing accident at the end of 2013.

It’s an extraordinary one because a lot of the people asking it also witnessed the Schumacher juggernaut accumulating these fearsomely high numbers and genuinely never thought it would come up in their lifetime, let alone within a decade and a half.

Undeniably, the acceleration of the number of Formula 1 World Championship races held per season has been a major factor in Hamilton’s gallop towards immortality: the majority of years in F1 now are subject to an expansion of about 25% compared with those of Schumacher’s era. Time was that a driver who was dominating a season might be expected to return with eight race wins, today you’re unlikely to win the championship with any fewer than that.

Since the start of Lewis Hamilton’s domination of Formula 1 with Mercedes in 2014, his race victory count has been 11, 10, 10, 9, 11, 11. That’s 62 race wins in six years: Sebastian Vettel’s career total, the third-highest in the all-time list, is 53. In terms of cumulative totals, Hamilton and Mercedes exceeded Nigel Mansell’s mark of 31 in within three seasons, Ayrton Senna’s 41 in just over four and Alain Prost’s 51 in five.

It is not just quantity, of course, quality has just as much as a role to play. Everybody else competing in Formula 1 over the past six seasons has had just the same opportunity to feather their nest as Hamilton but he has proved, like Schumacher before him, to be an insuperable obstacle. Since Lewis joined Mercedes in 2013, Sebastian Vettel has the next highest return of Grand Prix wins with 27, 13 of those coming in 2013 and his last season at Red Bull Racing.

Today we’re taking a look at the marks Michael Schumacher left in the sport and the likelihood of Lewis Hamilton steamrollering those, too.

 

Lewis Hamilton vs Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher & Lewis Hamilton, finding their place among the F1 greats

 

World Championships

Michael Schumacher – 7
Lewis Hamilton – 6

Hamilton is now in a clear second-place in the all-time list, requiring just two more titles to take the top spot outright. This is, obviously, easier said than done: in 70 years of the Formula 1 World Championship there have been just 33 drivers to have won the title. However, there is little doubt that Hamilton starts 2020 as the clear favourite to win title number 7 and tie the standings. Whether or not he has the opportunity or motivation to go for number 8 will then be the burning question.

Probability rating: 3/5

Consecutive World Championships

Michael Schumacher – 5 (2000-2004)
Lewis Hamilton – 3 (2017-2019)

This one could remain in the Schumacher column yet. In fact, Lewis still has to win this year’s crown to equal Juan Manuel Fangio’s (1954-1957) and Sebastian Vettel’s mark of 4 (2010-2013).

Probability rating: 2/5

Most Grand Prix wins

Michael Schumacher – 91
Lewis Hamilton – 84

This one has to be Hamilton’s target for 2020 if he wants to win title number seven: it would take an extraordinarily open and competitive season across the 21 planned races for any driver to secure the title with fewer than eight victories. As such, this one should, under normal circumstances, take care of itself. The big question is probably going to be whether or not Lewis can hit triple-figures.

Probability rating: 5/5

Most Grand Prix wins in a season

Michael Schumacher – 13 (2004)
Lewis Hamilton – 11 (2014, 2018, 2019)

This one is likely to be out of reach, barring Mercedes producing a car that is literally unbeatable. Sebastian Vettel tied Schumacher’s record in 2013 with a run of nine consecutive victories in the second half of the season, winning every race after the summer break. Hamilton has held F1 in his thrall for much of the last decade and yet the closest he has come has always been two wins shy of Schumacher’s mark.

Probability rating: 1/5

Most pole positions

Lewis Hamilton – 88
Michael Schumacher – 68

Time was that Ayrton Senna’s mark of 65 looked far beyond anybody’s reach: at the time of his death it was almost double that of anyone else. Schumacher did, however, eventually manage to sneak past it towards the end of his time at Ferrari in 2006. Lewis Hamilton, however, could now emerge from the 2020 season with a hundred or more, a remarkable achievement.

Most front row qualifications

Lewis Hamilton – 145
Michael Schumacher – 116

Another one Lewis already has in the bag. Breaking 200 is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Most fastest laps

Michael Schumacher – 77
Lewis Hamilton – 47

This is a record that I think Michael Schumacher is likely to hold for all time, barring a major change in the rules of Grand Prix motor racing. For most of Schumacher’s era, mid-race refuelling was the order of the day and he was the undisputed master of the sprint between pit stops. Hamilton overhauled Kimi Räikkönen at the final race of the 2019 season to be second outright in the all-time standings, but I would be astonished if he were around for long enough in F1 to beat Michael.

Probability rating: 1/5

Most wins from pole position

Lewis Hamilton – 50
Michael Schumacher – 40

Unsurprisingly enough, given Hamilton’s mastery of qualifying, this one is already in the Hamilton column.

Most perfect races (win-pole-fastest lap)

Michael Schumacher – 22
Lewis Hamilton – 15

This one might not be as easy as you might think: since the rule change in 2019 started to reward fastest race lap with a point, it has become far more than just a statistic and, as such, far more likely to be shared around the field. Ironically, however, last season was the first time in his Formula 1 career that Hamilton emerged from a season having recorded the most fastest laps in the field. Ringing all three bells during a weekend, however, is no mean feat.

As an aside, Lewis Hamilton is already ahead of Michael Schumacher in terms of number of grand slams (win-pole-fastest lap-lead the entire race), his dominant performance in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix taking his total to 6, compared with Schumacher’s 5. Both men still lag behind Jim Clark’s mark of 8, however.

Probability rating: 3/5

Most podium finishes

Michael Schumacher – 155
Lewis Hamilton – 151

As you might imagine, this one ought to be only a matter of time. In fact, I’d be surprised if Lewis doesn’t take this record within the first half-dozen races of 2020.

Probability rating: 5/5

Most points

Lewis Hamilton – 3431
Michael Schumacher – 1566

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hamilton leads this one by a mile, his dominance of Formula 1 having coincided with the switch to 25 points being awarded for a win in 2010. Much of Schumacher’s career was spent with a win being worth just 10 points. Had each man’s careers been scored to the current points system (excluding the fastest lap point, with its prickly stipulation that the driver must also be in the top 10 to receive it), however, Schumacher would be narrowly ahead – 3876 to 3773.

Most points in a season as a proportion of the total available

Michael Schumacher – 84.71% (2004)
Lewis Hamilton – 80.21% (2015)

Those of you old lags who remember the soporific 2004 season, where the best driver in the world drove the best car in the field BY MILES around to crushing effect, will probably join me in hoping that Lewis Hamilton – or anyone else, for that matter – will never get near this mark. Sebastian Vettel came close in 2013, with his 397 points representing 83.58% of all of those on offer.

Should Lewis trounce the competition in 2020, though, the points total you are looking for is 485. This is equivalent to 17 wins (with fastest lap), another win without fastest lap and a second place.

Probability rating: 1/5

Most Grand Prix starts

Michael Schumacher – 307
Lewis Hamilton – 250

This one is a matter of longevity only, with Lewis due to pass Schumacher’s total – assuming a 21 race calendar – in 2022. Neither man is currently in the running to surpass the all time record, due to be re-established by Kimi Räikkönen this summer. He is currently 11 starts short of beating Rubens Barrichello’s mark of 323.

Probability rating: 4/5

Successive podium finishes

Michael Schumacher – 19 (2001-2002)

Not easy but Hamilton has proved to be the model of consistency and the Mercedes car is similarly reliable, so never say never. His team’s uncompetitive showing in Austria last season broke a run of ten consecutive top-three finishes, while his penalty for hitting Alexander Albon cost him the chance to go into 2020 with a six-race streak already active. So it’s possible, but there is so much that can happen in Grand Prix racing to prevent it happening.

Hamilton does enter the season with a record of his very own still ongoing, however: he has finished in the points for 33 successive races, engine failure at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix the last time he failed to trouble the scorers.

Probability rating: 2/5

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