Is Michael Schumacher the best?

OK, I'm going to be a little controversial here. Does Michael Schumacher really deserve the title of “best driver ever”, or is he merely a first-rate driver amongst a group of drivers that are less than first-rate?

Here is a thought. Recent drivers to have beaten him to a championship are Mika Hakkinen (a distant second to Senna when they were teamates), Damon Hill (another distant second to Senna when they were teamates) and Jacques Villeneuve, (beaten to a championship by Damon Hill). These are the best drivers that Schumacher has had to challenge him on his way to all his records.

In an era where a driver needed bucket loads of money before being given a drive, how long would it have been before mediocrity became the norm? Now with the introduction of some serious manufacturers into the competition, teams like Renault and Jaguar seem to have been able to skip the money buckets and go directly to the talented drivers. Consequently, have they brought in some drivers that will finally challenge Schumacher?
Your train of thought is in line with mine. There is a bunch of young drivers that are coming up the ranks from all facets of racing. It seems shifter carts are where most are coming from. Michael will have his run but you can bet the newer more ambishous drivers are gunning for him.
Gees, he won't even drive in Indy cause he says it's too dangerous. I think It maybe something Ferrari is telling him to stay away from. It's hard for me to believe a young guy like that wouldn't want a chance at Indy and a place in history. In my opinion Indy is the crown jewl of open wheel motorsports.


David Morton

Lifetime Supporter
Its more a function of good management and ruthless ambition. Ken Tyrell told me about 4 years ago that one end of the pitlane is awash with cash and the other end don't have a clue if they can survive to the next race.
Schumakers move from Benetton to Ferrari had multiple strings attached (Willi Webers management) and one of the strings was obviously that Ross Braun was brought along
for the ride as as well. Fiat have bankrolled their team for a long time hurling hideous amounts of cash (probably near £10m {$16m)per race this year ) and any driver in the number one slot in that sort of team will inevitably get the points.
A few years ago I working for the McLaren International (the F1 Team) and I was amazed at the amount of money then (1998). They had 12 engines per race (some said even more) and Ilmor engines cannot be less than (IMHO) 1/4 million each. That was on top of a race budget then of about £6m per race. And Hakkinen won that year.
Schumaker would not shine if he was in a Minardi. He'd be another also ran.
Every driver that has ever been champion is totally single minded, often quite selfish with his peers without morals or scruples when dealing with them. Senna was incredible but he was often regarded as a bully in and out of the car. But for Imola, Senna would still be there (and Schumaker would still be scratching his head)
Edited after Dave Champ's subsequent mail.
Undoubtedly, writ very large is Juan Manoel Fangio and I would reccomend anybody going to Buenos Aires to go further south to Balcarce and see the Fangio museum. Next week in Monte-Carlo is a statue unveiling of him. I doubt Schumaker will ever be accorded the same. Another great racing driver, though never gaining too many points, is Jos Verstappen. A measure of this is he is the most polite and courteous guy in F1-period.
Somebody else who was given the bums rush by Schumaker in Benetton.
Dave M

[ May 24, 2003: Message edited by: David Morton ]

[ May 24, 2003: Message edited by: David Morton ]
There no drivers in F1 at the moment quite as good Schumacher, though some might be as fast given the other Ferrari. You can't win without a good car and Schumacher has recently been flattered by exceptionally good Ferraris. At least I would say the number of Championships he has won is not a definitive yardstick of his true ability, even though he probably lost another in 99 when he broke his leg.

I’ve followed F1 since the late 50’s. In those days drivers would drive just about anything and safety measures were almost non-existent. I never saw Fangio but it’s clear in Stirling Moss’s authorised biography (a great read by the way) that he was a really great driver who almost never made mistakes – Moss normally beat him in sports cars – and Moss helped him to several wins, shadowing him all the way, this is why I would rule Fangio out. Moss probably was as good he just didn’t have consistent machinery, and in those drivers drove for several teams in one year.

In the 60s Clark won the championship twice and was unlucky not to win also in 62 and 64 and of course died while at his peak in 68 after only 72 races - he also won at Indy. Graham Hill won the championship twice, Indy and Le Mans – a record but by common consent not one of the truly greatest drivers. Schumacher hasn’t proved himself at Indy or Le Mans.

Another factor is that this is a sport, isn’t it? Clark was very fair, Ayrton Senna less so but Schumacher has proved on several occasions he is prepared to blatantly cheat to win. In Australia he rammed Damon Hill to win his first championship and tried unsuccessfully to do the same to Villeneuve. This IMHO rules him out.

In my eyes it would be between Clark and Senna, after all would you believe Schumacher was the best if he died in 1999 with 2 championships to his name?

[ May 24, 2003: Message edited by: Dave Champ ]
I look at guys like Foyt, Gurney P. Jones. Those guys drove everything (dirt track, open wheel, lemans racers and stock cars)and won in them, and they wern't Prima Donnas , hell sometimes they even worked on thier own cars. I don't see to many of the F-1 guys doing exceptionally in IROC. Jim Clark (who I met a Indy once) was close to these guys.


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What is the question?

If it's "who is the best F1 driver of all time, you have to include Schumaker in the top 3 or 4. No if/ands/buts.
His record speaks for itself.
I enjoy watching him drive.
Not his fault there is not much competition
these days for the Ferrari.

However if the question is whether Schumaker
is one of the 3 or 4 best all around drivers ever, the answer is no. He is a specialist. And the reason he will stay
a specialist has something to do with
being paid $ 20 million a year to just
race F1.

Years ago racers "crossed over"
since there was MONEY to be had by
participating in other venues.
There is no need for that today.
Top NASCAR/IRL/F1 drivers make PLENTY
just by being specialists.

If you want my vote for one of the top
3 or 4 best all around drivers ever,
I'll go with my hometime hero...Mario.
He raced and won in ALL types of cars.

Mario slipped my mind. Saw him race many times and got to inspect one his cars at Elkhart Lake when I worked Tech. He also was driving a very cool Excaliber as his daily driver. He belongs in the group.


I guess my question was a little vague. It actually arose from my annoyance in the local media’s suggestion that Schumaker’s record breaking successes are evidence that he is the BEST EVER Formula 1 driver, and I was just wondering if I was alone in thinking that they may have made an incorrect conclusion. There seems to be no comment in the media that there is a lack of talented drivers to challenge him so maybe I am way out of line. However, the general media would probably see no advantage in suggesting that F1 is currently in a talent vacuum.

The "greatest driver" question is a tough one to answer. Is Shuney good? Absolutely. Would he have been as successful, hence "good", had he been with McLaren, Williams and Jaguar for the last four seasons? Probably not. When you look at F1 (and I have been a close follower since 75), there are more and more parts of the overall success equation. In the 60's and 70's, since most of the grid ran Cosworth DFV's, it came down to chassis effectiveness, and driver ability. In the 80's, the factory turbo's were added to the mix, along with carbon fiber. In the 90's, electronics entered the scene, as well as exotic materials and MUCH larger budgets. So the question today is more difficult to objectively answer, more so than 30 years ago.

One interesting thought is to put Schumey, along with 8-10 other top drivers from any era, into identical cars on different tracks, and see the results? Can you see Michael driving a Lotus 49B against Jim Clark and Mario? How do you think he would do? Or, how about Prost, Senna, Mansell and Michael (and Mario?) in identical Williams FW14B's? I think people would be surprised at the outcome.

My opinion, Michael has the success because he is very good, has had the right teams supporting him, and has done so in a period of great technical inequality within the F1 teams. Is he the greatest? No. Is he the most successful? Yes. There is a big difference...

My two cents...


Jim Rosenthal

I think Schumacher wins (or won) a lot because he has first-rate talent AND the best car- at that time. If he had driven for Ferrari 91-95 he wouldn't have won any more than anyone else could have. So he's good at driving the best car to the finish line, with the best support in the business. Does he compare with versatile drivers like Moss, Fangio, Clark, Foyt, Gurney, Ickx, Andretti? I don't think he does. Those guys could win in anything. Schumacher is a one-trick dog; he's the best at it, but I agree no one's going to put up a statue of him.
Plus, he's not a sportsman. He's not a graceful winner, and he's not a good loser either. There have been other drivers who had long successful streaks and I don't think they were spoken of in the same disparaging way as Schumacher.
The longer motor racing continues as a sport, the harder it is to make these comparisons; the technology changes, the business of the sport changes, and the sport evolves so that one driver can't compete in many forms of motorsport. It's not like baseball where you can have a meaningful discussion about pitchers from decades ago versus the current stars.
If Schumacher wanted to be thought of as a great all around driver, he would leave F1 and try something else- GT or Indy. As it is, I don't think he's interested. He'll remain a specialist; but not a great driver, just a very good one who was in the right place at the right time, a place he helped create.
Actually, I am glad Ferrari is struggling in F1 a bit; I was sick of the Ferrari steamroller and all their chest beating.
Shuey is good, don't get me wrong, but the best - not for me he's not!

I don't think anybody has come close to the natural driving talents of Senna. However, who could discount Fangio who drove all sorts and won won won!

Modern Rally Driving brings us drivers with fantastic abilities - Richard Burns, Colin Mcrae et al.

Are any of these better than Shuey or Senna - in the right environment absolutely!

That my h'pennys worth.
I agree, he's the best F1 driver currently, and it has a bit to
do with his cars.

Mansell owned Schuie for a while, and then came to Indy
and showed he could do it there as well.

But, I'd have to agree that who knows what Senna could have
become, considering where he was when it all ended. And guys
like Mario, Foyt, Clark, Fangio, etc. all showed they could be at the
top in almost any vehicle, and win in races of just about any

For the past few years, I have been disappointed that Villeneuve
has been stuck in unreliable machinery. The year he and Schuie
went head to head was phenomenal. I hope his lot improves
before he calls it quits. Oh, he did pretty well in Indy too!
His dad was a pretty good driver to IIRC /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif

well, let me think....... Alberto Ascari, there is someone to consider. Micheal is in the top 5 in my book.

Did you guys see Jeff Gordons drive in the Williams?

David Morton

Lifetime Supporter
Schumaker was clearly not the best last Sunday at Silverstone and once again he reverted to type by rather dangerous driving (his move on the Renault) which has since been the subject of complaints to his team from Renault F1.
I come back to one of the points I made earlier - world champions are ruthless [ in this day and age].
Dave M
I'm not sure I agree with the "dangerous" part. I think everyone would agree Rubens drove a truly spectacular race. That must be one of the best F1 races in recent memory. Plus, just watching Rubens on the podium reminds you of the emotions involved. How could anyone not be a fan of Rubens?

David Morton

Lifetime Supporter
He's at the top of the drop now.
The Scuderia has been found wanting, The Italian press are
baying like a pack of hounds (likened the GA to a Hungarian bus)and I imagine the tifosi will be rather vocal with their disapproval on Sep 14th. I cant wait. What goes around.....

Dave M /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif