Hamilton is now Schumacher's natural heir
As a youngster growing up in the nineties, beginning my own discovery of Formula 1, Michael Schumacher was the nemesis for a Damon Hill fan like me. On-track, Schumi was the driver I wanted Damon to be: a stupendously rapid and ruthless winning machine. Off-track, he appeared swaggeringly arrogant, which is why I was drawn towards Hill’s humbler character – even though it was clear he was the lesser driver (sorry Damon).
Whatever I felt about Schumacher personally, I couldn’t help but respect his driving brilliance. My dad always preferred Michael. But he saw Senna race, and presumably recognised that same capacity for changing the face of the sport Schumacher came to redefine and dominate for the best part of 10 years – until someone called Fernando Alonso came along and finally knocked him off his perch.
In this issue, we pay homage to Michael Schumacher, kicking off a series of special events across the Motorsport Network, as the great German driver will turn 50 on 3 January. The man himself sadly remains shut away from public life as he battles to recover from head injuries suffered in a skiing accident five years ago, but the legacy he left F1 is still there for all to see. Michael’s methods have galvanised a whole generation of drivers to aim for ever greater heights.
Perhaps no driver embodies that better than Lewis Hamilton, a driver inspired by Senna but achieving like Schumacher, who increasingly looks primed to eventually topple Michael as the most successful driver in F1 history. Hamilton’s method is different, but he is in the process of similarly raising the bar for modern drivers. Having wrapped up his fifth world championship with two races to spare in Mexico, Hamilton has now equalled the late Juan Manuel Fangio, a man Hamilton refers to as ‘the Godfather’ of F1. Schumacher is the only target left.
It’s conceivable Hamilton could match Michael’s tally of 91 wins and seven titles before his current contract expires at the end of 2020. That’s easier said than done, but what once seemed unfathomable – to Hamilton as much as anyone else – now seems perfectly feasible, especially if Lewis decides to stick around for 2021 and beyond, and Mercedes remain competitive through another major rule change.
Presently, Lewis is utilising the incredible juggernaut Mercedes have created in the hybrid era to stunning effect, in the same way Schumacher and Ferrari swept all before them after the turn of the Millennium. We at F1 Racing congratulate Lewis and Mercedes on their fine achievements this year. Whatever your feelings about Hamilton personally, you cannot help but respect his Schumacher-esque brilliance. If Alonso was Schumacher’s conqueror, Hamilton is surely his natural heir.