Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are two of F1’s greatest-ever drivers.
Statistically-speaking, no one comes close with Schumacher and Hamilton leading the way in terms of titles, victories, pole positions and podiums.
There are many parallels from their respective eras of dominance, with Schumacher’s four consecutive titles with Ferrari spanning from 2000 to 2004, while Hamilton won six titles in seven years at Mercedes.
While their respective runs of success were similar, they were very different personalities, meaning there were some notable differences.
Schumacher’s ruthlessness and doing anything to win-at-all-costs mentality was something that set him apart from many, including Hamilton.
You only have to cite the various controversial moments involving Schumacher in various title deciders to highlight this.
Schumacher sealed the 1994 title in dramatic circumstances, colliding with rival Damon Hill in Adelaide.
Fast forward to 1997, Schumacher once again was involved in a crash with his main title rival, Jacques Villeneueve.
Schumacher was on the wrong end of the contact, putting him out of the race and thus losing the title to the Canadian, but his actions didn’t go unpunished as the FIA disqualified him from the season as a whole, marking a change in their approach to dealing with incidents at the end of the season following a decade of controversy stretching back to Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
Ironically, Schumacher’s win-at-all-costs attitude is akin to Hamilton’s main rival in recent years, Max Verstappen.
While Hamilton is a hungry winning machine, he’s never been one to push the rules to gain an advantage.
While the landscape of F1 has changed considerably since the days of Senna, Prost and Schumacher, Hamilton has a pristine track record in F1.
Besides the ‘lie-gate’ scandal with McLaren in 2009, which was mostly the team’s fault, Hamilton has escaped any major controversies.
There’s no doubt that Hamilton is ruthless – ask Nico Rosberg about their on-track tussles – but his winning mentality never boiled over like it did with Schumacher.
There are certainly clear advantages to this, with Hamilton’s track record mostly clean, although his lack of ruthlessness might have cost him against Verstappen in 2021 and may do so again in the future.
Another interesting distinction between the pair is their relationship with their teammates.
Another parallel from their respective era of dominance was Schumacher and Hamilton having trusty ‘number two’ drivers in the form of Rubens Barrichello and Valtteri Bottas.
Quick enough to win on their day, both Barrichello and Bottas were unfortunate to have championship-winning machinery alongside an F1 great.
Granted, had they put up more of a fight – or were allowed to – they probably would not have lasted as long as they did with their respective teams.
In the case of Bottas, he had every opportunity to beat Hamilton – given the same equipment and strategy options to win.
Barrichello wasn’t afforded the same opportunity, as he recalled on F1’s ‘Beyond the Grid Podcast’.
“If it was run straight, just the same strategy for everyone I might have won at least one championship … at least one. It doesn’t make a difference now, it’s part of the past. I didn’t and I’m happy with that because I tried,” the Brazilian explained.
“Eventually I felt that [it was Schumacher’s team], eventually I felt that the team was his. But it never dropped my emotions, seeing as I had to overcome my emotions to get better and to race against the best it wasn’t that: oh ok this engine was for him and this engine is for Rubens.
“I think they’d done such a good job on the year 2000 already that the engines had the same amount of power, but one is special and would have a choice to go to Michael but I think at the end of the day it was not a problem for me to race the same car as him.”
Regardless of who has been Hamilton’s teammate, they’ve always been given equal opportunity to perform.
Yes, Bottas was subject to team orders on occasions, but that was only when Hamilton was in a crucial fight against either Sebastian Vettel or Verstappen.
While it is commendable in Hamilton’s case, his failure to push for Schumacher-like status at Mercedes arguably cost him against Nico Rosberg.
Clearly both Hamilton and Schumacher galvanised their respective teams around them, but the latter did it to a point where it benefitted his chances significantly.
Ultimately Schumacher and Hamilton have their differences and distinctions that make them who they were as drivers.
Although, their ability to bring a team together, perform at a world class level for many, many years while being the face of F1 makes them very similar.