If only Michael Schumacher had said this

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes MP4/23 launch, 2008 | DaimlerLewis Hamilton has given some interesting quotes to the press. What would I have given to hear Michael Schumacher say something like this a few years ago:

I just like fairness and I want Heikki Kovalainen to have the exact same opportunities and if he does and I beat him, there’s the reward. I beat him on same tyres, same engine and knowing all that, you just know you’re a better driver. I don’t want any advantage, any head start.

Imagine if this had been Schumacher’s attitude at Ferrari. I doubt Rubens Barrichello would have taken the fight to him that often, but we might have had a few more interesting races during the turgidly awful seasons of 2001, 2002 and 2004.

There will inevitably be people who claim that Hamilton isn’t being sincere and I probably can’t convince them they’re wrong. Others might call it a classic example of the ‘British sense of fair play’ – but I think that’s a load of nationalistic hogwash.

This is a simple statement made by a confident driver who is genuinely convinced of his superiority. For all of Michael Schumacher’s daunting and awesome achievements in Formula 1, during the majority of his career he was partnered by drivers who were number two in terms of both status within the team and ability.

It’s also a remark Hamilton has aimed squarely at his former team mate Fernando Alonso, who clearly does not share the same philosophy.

This criticism of Schumacher’s career is surely not lost on Hamilton. He doesn’t want to be world champion just by having the best car – he wants to beat the best drivers in the same cars as well. Like Alain Prost did. Like Niki Lauda did. And like his hero Ayrton Senna did.

And I think that’s admirable.

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37 comments on If only Michael Schumacher had said this

  1. Lewis is great with the team platitudes, as long as he is the faster driver. Once Heikki beats him to a pole watch the facade drop and the nasty side reemerge. And we’ll hear loads more from Anthony, I’m sure. Can Ron now ban him from the paddock on race weekends?

    As for equal treatment of his drivers, Ron earned exactly what he desired last year, both drivers tied in points, behind a Ferrari! What a dope. He’s crushed my team and I despise him for it.

  2. verasaki said on 25th January 2008, 23:44

    RE: Comment #14- re equal status. Kovi needs to talk to Rubens. That’s exactly the same stance Rubens took when he joined Ferrari and we all fell out laughing then, too. But, what else can they say, right?

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th January 2008, 0:11

    I remember Barrichello saying after Austria ’01 (when he’d let Schumacher through for second) that he’d never be asked to hand over a win, which of course he did the following year. I don’t remember them saying he’d have equal status with Schumacher – there was the famous comment that they had a number 1 and a ‘number 1A’ driver. I am, however, about to delve into a biography of Barrichello, which may have something to say about this!

    I think we’re looking at opposite ends of the spectrum here. With Ferrari you had a situation where (to borrow a phrase off Clive James) even the Portaloo was set up for Michael Schumacher. McLaren under Ron Dennis have historically always tried to have the best two drivers available to them and given them equal equipment – whether it’s Prost and Lauda, Prost and Senna etc…

    I wonder if part of the reason Schumacher never drove for McLaren was that he knew he wouldn’t be able to dictate terms to the second driver?

  4. Are you trying to suggest Barrichello was genuinely a threat to Schumacher’s pace save for a few occassions? I think it’s ridiculous to say Schumacher didn’t allow his team-mates to have equal status within the team. When one of your drivers is almost always better than the other, the human inside every team will start accepting that driver as their star driver. You can’t question. Schumacher had a massive advantage in terms of race craft and he made use of it. And, Schumacher’s job was to race and not to go in search of his equals and put him beside his car. Schumacher’s era was noticebaly different from Lauda’s, Senna’s era. There were a group of drivers who were always, consistently a match for each other. And this wasn’t a case in Schumacher’s era.

  5. Michael K said on 26th January 2008, 12:20

    A very easy explanation why Ferrari would always prefer Schumi and Hamilton will always get preferential treatment if there is a choice between him and Kovalainen: Money
    What happens if Kovalainen beats Hamilton or would even become World Champion? Do you think he will be happy with earning considerably less than “nice boy” Lewis? The same would’ve been true for Rubens even though I think he would never have beaten Schumi over a whole season even if they would’ve been equal.
    Now that Lewis is signed on to a massive deal that is running for years I don’t think McLaren could afford to have another driver with a similar wage for as long as that deal runs. The same obviously was true for Schumi’s rather “extravagant” salary.
    Of course McLaren would rather have Kovalainen win than a competitor, but as long as there is a choice that McLaren can make they will always go for Hamilton.
    And for Kovalainen going on about equality etc., he knows, Hamilton knows, McLaren knows, what is he supposed to say? He will try and make the best out of this situation so he can go for it if Lewis fails or move onto another team at some point and become the #1 there.

  6. Steven Roy said on 26th January 2008, 14:36

    I think a lot of people here have short memories. McLaren will give Kovalainen equal treatment. No-one will be happier than Ron Dennis if Heikki turns out to be quicker than Lewis.

    Think back about 20 years. McLaren was a Prost team. The whole team was wrapped round him and a lot of people though Ron was in Prost’s pocket. Prost like Lewis was afraid of no-one and agreed to Senna being signed. There were people then saying that Senna wouldn’t be allowed to go faster because Prost was the highest earning driver in the sport and McLaren was really team Prost. Senna turned up and turned the whole situation around. I can’t see Heikki beating Lewis over a season but I think they will be very close.

    Ron Dennis like Frank Williams is interested in his team winning and really doesn’t care who is driving. Yes he has been very close to some of his drivers but if someone faster like Senna turns up the allegiance will switch.

    I can’t believe people are suggesting that Ron/McLaren are going to indulge in a Lewis Hamilton personality cult similar to the Schumacher/Ferrari situation. Ron’s entire history suggests the opposite.

    Stop believing the gossip and look at the reality.

  7. Journeyer said on 26th January 2008, 16:32

    Here’s what I think: Heikki is like DC. He’s quick most of the time, but he lacks the title instinct. Lewis is like Hakkinen. He will have off-days, but when the win is there for the taking, he’ll be taking it more often than Heikki. He is developing that very title instinct after being involved in the title battle last year. He won’t make the same mistakes twice.

    Ron will provide them equal equipment, no doubt. But something just tells me that Lewis will beat Heikki nonetheless. Heikki NEEDS to make a good impression in his first Macca drives/tests, but Lewis doesn’t need to anymore. He knows how good he is (WE know how good he is) and he doesn’t need to tell the world about it by trying to beat Heikki (esp. if they’re on different test programs).

    As for Michael, his job was to win titles. It would have been better if he had better teammates in his car, but we should NEVER take anything away from what Michael has done. A look at McLaren circa 2007 may prove Ferrari took the safer route.

  8. “Stop believing the gossip and look at the reality.”

    I base my comments on the reaction of Hamilton last year. Granted, he was against a self centered 2 time world champ, so some of his comments/actions may have been justified. And we have other former McLaren driver’s comments about Ron’s subtle favoring of drivers.

    No doubt both cars will be equally prepared, but there are other ways to bestow advantages during qualifying and the race.

    He needs to drop the facade of equal treatment and give Lewis a clear shot at winning the title, regardless of personality conflicts.

  9. Michael K said on 28th January 2008, 9:29

    “Stop believing the gossip and look at the reality”

    That’s exactly what I’m doing, have a look what the guys earned back in the days, overall team costs etc. and what it costs now.

    “I can’t believe people are suggesting that Ron/McLaren are going to indulge in a Lewis Hamilton personality cult similar to the Schumacher/Ferrari situation”

    I can’t believe you missed Ron signing Senor Hamilton’s new contract, effectively signing on to exactly the same personality cult. He certainly put his money where his mouth is…

  10. Steven Roy said on 28th January 2008, 13:05

    If I understand what Michael K is saying correctly because there is a lot more money around now if Heikki is faster than Lewis they will hold him back. Where is the logic in that? If it was logical for McLaren to have a number one and number two driver would it not have been equally sensible last season or has something changed fundamentally in two months? Ron has always given drivers equal equipment. The only reason for marginal advantage to one driver is because we have Max’s chess version of F1 where pit stops and strategy have replaced racing.

    Ron signed Lewis’s new contract to hang on to the best driver available to him. It’s not because he is going to let Lewis run the team the way Michael run Ferrari. Top drivers have always had contracts renewed early to stop them signing for other teams. Same happens in football and every other sport. Bear in mind we have no idea what Lewis’s bonus payments were last season so there may not be that much of an increase. I don’t believe for a second that Ron thought he would score over a 100 points and $100,000 a point is not out of the question because that was what Nelson Piquet was paid by Benetton in the early 90s. It cost them a lot more than they expected to pay as well.

  11. Michael K said on 28th January 2008, 14:31

    You didn’t understand correctly, or didn’t read this:

    “Of course McLaren would rather have Kovalainen win than a competitor, but as long as there is a choice that McLaren can make they will always go for Hamilton.”

    And to spell it out to the last detail:
    If there is a decision to be made when Heikki and Lewis have exactly the same chances, which results in one of them being in a better position due to this decision, then this decision will go Hamilton’s way.
    This for me is the definition of the “#1/#2-driver system”.

    Hmm, not much of an increase for Lewis? So a guy who finished his rookie season almost as the champion is not going to get a hefty payrise? At the beginning of last season he would’ve been driving almost for free, which is already a lot better than 90% of the rookies as they have to cough up the dollares themselves just to get a chance.
    Of course Lewis won’t be allowed to run the team like Schumi did, the simple reason is because he most probably can’t do it!
    If Ron would’ve had the chance to sign Schumi, he would’ve done it and let Schumi dictate what he had to eat for breakfast every morning, let alone running the team.
    As you mention last season, how was Alonso treated in the last races, when Ron himself said that they were racing AGAINST their own driver…?

  12. “As you mention last season, how was Alonso treated in the last races, when Ron himself said that they were racing AGAINST their own driver…?”

    By the last race of the season Ron was justified in summarily executing the fickle Spaniard right in the garage. But there can be little doubt of Ron’s favoritism to the “The Natural” this year, McLaren’s home grown superstar. They would be stupid not to. But then again it was their stupidity that resulted in a second place tie behind Ferrari, wasn’t it????

  13. Steven Roy said on 28th January 2008, 17:55

    How was Alonso treated in the last races? He was given equal equipment and equal opportunity. If he had hit the same problems Lewis had with tyres and electronics or whatever in Brazil the Alonso fans would be screaming that McLaren did it deliberately to make sure Lewis won. Alonso spent most of the season complaining that he was ‘only’ getting equal treatment. It was only when it looked like Lewis would beat him to the title he started saying that Lewis was getting better treatment.

    So you are going to ignore all the evidence of the last almost 30 years and base your judgement on one sentence spoken immediately after a race.

    Motor racing people are programmed to say we at all times. Mansell is the prime example. He does not say I did anything ever always we.

    Ron was asked about Hamilton’s strategy at the end of the Chinese GP and the reply he gave related to things from Hamilton’s perspective. At that time Raikkonen was 17 points behind in the championship so of course Hamilton was racing Fernando and his strategy reflected that. Equally Fernando’s strategy was set to give him the best chance to beat Lewis.

    Since Max introduced this chess version of F1 until one McLaren driver has a significant lead in the championship they get equal everything. One race one of them gets the strategy advantage the next race the other one does. Coulthard recently said when he was at McLaren and Mercedes delivered the engines the two race engineers drew lots to see what engine went in what car. Hakkinen was Ron’s favoourite but he didn’t even get a 1bhp advantage on engine unless his engineer managed to ‘win’ it.

    By the last 2 or 3 races most people in Ron Dennis’s position would have decided that Lewis had a big enough championship lead to be given number one status. The reason Raikkonen is champion is because he wouldn’t do that. If he wasn’t going to do it then, if he wasn’t going to give Hakkinen an advantage when he nearly died in a McLaren, if he wasn’t going to try and control Prost and Senna he is not going to give Lewis any advantage.

    There is not a shred of evidence he favoured Lewis last year. There is no reason whatever to believe he will give him any advantage this year. 30 years of history say exactly the opposite.

    Ron Dennis and Frank Williams are interested in their teams more than there drivers. That is not going to change. All sorts of people for years have told Ron he should have a number one and number two driver but he has always refused to do it. If he wanted to do it he could have signed up any slow driver and put him in the other car. Instead he has signed someone who is genuinely fast.

    Of course you may have factual evidence that disproves what I have said.

  14. Michael K said on 28th January 2008, 19:59

    Well, I think there has been enough factual evidence that the #1/#2-system has been working very well, especially during Senna’s years at McLaren when Berger was a clear #2. Dennis even said that he didn’t like the system of a #1 driver which Senna was at McLaren and that he would like to avoid it in the future. Häkkinen was also a clear #1. So there’s some factual evidence that you seem to ignore. And this is only McLaren I’m talking about.

    This sentence makes me question in what ways your mind works though:

    “The reason Raikkonen is champion is because he wouldn’t do that.”

    Oh no, the reason why Räikkönen is champion is because Lewis lost his marbles in an unbelievable fashion, there wasn’t a chance in hell that Kimi would win it unless Lewis cocked up. The history shows what happened.

    Anyhow, I think there are several different options to why what I say doesn’t seem to sink in:

    a)you haven’t read what I wrote
    b)you don’t want to understand it
    c)you can’t understand it

    I don’t think it’s c) and would go for a strong b) in this, but you’re the only one who knows. Just to be EVEN clearer, I never said the #2 driver had necessarily worse or slower equipment or that the team would try to slow the other driver down. In the case of Alonso last year I do question whether they didn’t slow him down at least a little with their strategies, but that can’t be proven I guess.

  15. Abhijeet said on 1st February 2008, 3:09

    well…, for all that said and done, i agree with the guy who says hamilton was raised for that seat at mclaren. One simple reason tht he’s everyone’s darling as a rookie and has done so well is coz he kicked his career off with mclaren! now, how many drivers get to do that??? most guys i rem watching since 1995, have started off with a back-of-the-grid machine … including michael schumacher! and for someone to compare the words of a 7 time world champion and a guy who’s been in F1 for a lil over 12 months isnt the smartest thing to do, is it?

  16. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 1st February 2008, 7:43

    Why not? They’re both F1 drivers. If you’re only going to compare Michael Schumacher’s words and actions with those of other seven times world champions then we’re not going to have any frame of reference.

  17. theRoswellite said on 3rd February 2008, 21:13

    Based on the comments so far submitted, I would say many contributors don’t seem to believe Mr. Hamilton’s fairly straight forward statement. He is confident, he is competitive, and he also seems to have a fairly sophisticated sense of “fair play”. It would be better to take him at his word than to project our own ideas, and especially feelings, on him.

    If you examine the career of Mr. Schumacher, in depth, you will find repeated instances in which his driving decisions were outside the popularly accepted range of “sporting”, or “fair”. Not one case, but a number. I believe they reflected his own feelings about these issues. He seemed to feel that winning was the object, and how it was obtained was less important. A point of view shared by many, who often see themselves as pragmatic or realistic. However, for myself, he seemed to be a poor sport. And, as I was taught, a poor sport is in the truest sense of the word……a loser.

    Perhaps, the reason so many people have trouble with Mr. Hamilton’s statements concerning “fair play”, is that they simply don’t share that value.

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