Which Schumacher title was the best?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2008 testing, 470150

Michael Schumacher was back at the wheel of an F1 car this week. But sadly it seems we will not see him return to the track to take on Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari, and square up against new talent like Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica.

He’s probably done enough winning in F1 and that gave me an idea for a nice Friday afternoon debate – which of his seven world championships was the best? Here’s what I think.

1994
Pro: Eight wins in what was not the best car in the field, won despite two disqualifications and two suspensions.
Con: Weakened opposition following death of Ayrton Senna, dubious move in final round on Damon Hill.

1995
Pro: Second driver to win nine races in a year, outstanding victories at Spa and Nurburgring.
Con: Some iffy defensive driving at Spa.

2000
Pro: First drivers’ championship for Ferrari since Jody Scheckter in 1979, beat Mika Hakkinen in closely-matched cars.
Con: What on earth were those first-lap crashes in the middle of the season about? Pulled a nasty move on Hakkinen at Spa and still lost the day.

2001
Pro: Another nine wins.
Con: Strange off day at Interlagos, had quite a performance advantage in the F2001.

2002
Pro: Utterly crushing display, on the podium at every round and only third once.
Con: Had the car to do it with. Farcical displays at Austria and Indianapolis left a sour taste.

2003
Pro: Six wins to runner-up Kimi Raikkonen’s one in a close season. Under-rated gem of a win at Montreal, and Imola for that matter.
Con: Would he have won the title without the FIA’s highly contentious change to the tyre rules late in the season?

2004
Pro: A staggering 13 wins made him untouchable.
Con: Mistakes crept in – brake-testing in the Monaco tunnel, bad strategy calls and spin at Monza, and just plain out of sorts at Shanghai and Interlagos.

My verdict
I’ve always held 1995 up as the ultimate Schumacher year. Hill didn’t really have any excuses and there were days when Schumacher was so good it was ridiculous – even at Estoril, when he only finished second, but passed Hill with a cruel and embarrassing ease.

Yes, he faced tough opposition later in his career, especially in 2000, but rarely in anything like the similarity of equipment he had in 1995. Schumacher’s greatest championship I reckon. What do you think?

Michael Schumacher career statistics
Michael Schumacher biography

36 comments on “Which Schumacher title was the best?”

  1. I think 2000 because of the tough competition with hakkinen + the enormous pressure of ferrari winning on him (esp with how close he’d come before and not managed it)

  2. Never rated Damon Hill as any real opposition to anyone, let alone Schumacher, that Williams drove itself I reckon. To me it’s 2004, just because of the sheer domination, albeit in a superior car. But keep up that level of commitment after so many titles and wins deserves a lot of credit and transformed me from a Schumacher-hater to a Schumacher-respecter.

  3. 1994.  i think he’d have won it that year anyway but,honestly we all needed something to cheer about that year and his boyish (he was back then, remember?) exuberance made the end of the season better than just the sigh of relief it could have been. 

  4. It´s hard to say, but anyone of the Michael´s titles had the same kind of Senna´s brightness (88) or even Fernando´s braveness… (2006)
    There’s always something that can make you think about it: the superiority of his cars, his unfair moves , his bureaucracy wins, his team mate helps or the classic IF SENNA HASN´T DIED?In Michaels´s case, we can rewrite the question and ask: which Michael title´s was the less worst?I liked 2003. In Japan he shows how emotional fragile he could be under intense pressure and how Rubens was important in his Ferrari´s times.

  5. I think 1994 it´s the best year nine wins, disqualifications, etc. and emotions until the last race.

  6. 2000. The first championship for Ferrari in 21 years. Since i started seeing F1 (and remembering) that my father always talked about Ferrari, Gilles Villeneuve, Lauda, those beautiful red cars he saw on track and in that glorious Ferrari past. Back then i just looked at him and thougth, "how can someone still loves such a utterly crap team?" (I’ve never saw them do anything till 1997, except, of course, 1990). So, and with Schumacher being close several times before to win the WDC for them, 2000 was such a tension year for many silent Ferrari fans (at least in my town in Portugal) that ended, finally, with such a blast of joy, that even i enjoyed that championship victory, despite not liking Ferrari that much and hating Schumacher because of those moves on Hill and JV.

  7. I think that his ruthless driving was his greatest strength. He was out to win, not collect a paycheck like JPM.  That being said, I think 94 was the greatest.Almost every other Championship he had a car that was at least close to the fastest.  I don’t think you can hold Senna’s death against him.

    Also, wasn’t 95 the year that Benetton was found to have the illegal TC? (not that other teams didn’t have something similar, but I’m sure Brawn’s was the best)

  8. For me 2000 was the best. It was the turning point for Ferrari. Was the biggest Schumacher´s challenge. The others tiltles sere easier. 

  9. Dan – no it was the ’94 car that was widely believed to be running with a traction control system hidden under the infamous ‘option 13’ on its menu. More on that here.

  10. Just wanted to add another thing: I think one of Schumacher’s greatest achievements was in getting Ferrari around him (and great group of people) and developing a poor car into a v competitive one, one that eventually became so good, it was so much superior to everyone else’s (most of the time). So in essence he created the foundations for many of the "uncompetitive and boring" titles he won.

  11. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    18th April 2008, 16:54

    i think either 95 or 2000 as keith said it was at times embarrassing how superior he was to the oppostion especially hill when williams had the faster car. 2000 was special obviously because it was frraris 1st wdc since 79 but i think one of his best achievements was how he moulded ferrari into the best team on the grid from a distinctly average and what seemed chaotic 1. he cams eos close in 9 and 98 when he didn have the best car and at some times not even 2nd fastest. Wins like spain 96, monaco and spa 97, hungary 98 were some of his best you could tell he was wringing everything out of his car to try and make up for the speed deficit.

  12. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    18th April 2008, 17:00

    also wanted to add its easy to say in the seasons like 02 04 he had the best car but so did barrichello and he didnt win every race in them seasons that michael didn did he. i always thought back in 97,98,99 that if schumacher had the best car he would walk it he was making tittles go down to the last race in inferior cars adn i was proved right.

  13. Keith, you should have made it a poll!

    Anyway, I think the best one was the 2000 title – it just about noses ahead of 1995.  It wasn’t the best car in the field – at the very least, it was on level terms with McLaren.  The pressure was on, the competition was tough (with Mika and David), and although he struggled mid-season, he came from behind in the end.  Also, let’s not forget that it was he who drove Ferrari from mediocrity back to excellence – and the titles.

  14. If Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher had swapped cars in 94/95 I think we would have been in for a complete whitewash like happened in 2004.I thought the 94 Williams car had handling problems without active suspension and the Benetton was a bit better.

    The 2000 title was the most meaningful title really as it as others have said marked a turning point and from there Ferrari dominated.He had to really fight hard in 2003 thanks to the points system and Michelin having better tyres  , and that’s probably my favourite title win as for a long time it was looking as if it would be a three way fight between him , Raikonnen and Montoya(?).

  15. 1995 was his best title for me.

  16. Keith, I was tempted to also take his 1995 win as his best considering he had the same engines as the Williams team, but the fact Benetton was running an illegal traction control system in 94 leaves me to conclude they probably also did the same in 95. Without doubt, M. Schumacher possess  inmense mental and physical capabilities that allowes him to stand way above his fellow competitors, however those allegations of cheating by the team, even with their refueling rig, somewhat tainted his years at Benetton. We should also remember that following the death of Senna, Micheal had no established opposition. Hill was not psychologically prepared to run for the championship in 1994. And in 1995, the Williams team was so in awe of Micheals ability that they failed to run their own program but instead, tried to anticipate the race strategy Benetton was adopting, Monaco 95 comes to mind with Hills 2 stop strategy as opposed to Micheal’s 1 stop.

    I am thus left with his 2000 championship for Ferrari as his best. Because it was his first win for them and also their first in over 20years, and he was also coming back from the disappointment of an almost certain win in 1999, but for his injury at silverstone.

  17. Program/Programme

  18. I would go for the year 2000, his first title with Ferrari after that close fight with Hakkinen

  19. 2000, why? Because it showed the true character of the man. Even though a lot of people hate him for trying taking out Hill and Villeneuve, the 2000 WDC showed the world that here was a man, who, on track might do anything it takes to win, but off the track spent five years trying to bring a truck of a car to the level where it could start winning again. You could say money was a motivator, but I don’t think money can be a motivator for 5 years of struggle. I mean look at Alonso, he is in a similar position, If he had the same determination as Schumi, he would stick to Renault, and improve that car until he starts winning championships again.

    Just think, if Michael had joined McLaren or Williams in 1996, you could have been talking about a 10 time WDC.

  20. Schumacher’s ’98 season was heartbreaking, but the final race turned me into a huge Schumacher fan, and ’99 was disappointing because of his injury. So for me, it would be his 2000 victory. I had just started watching F1 a couple of seasons ago, and was a huge fan of Ferrari and Schumacher.

  21. for me he is a legend, every title was best..
    If formula1 is religion for me or some1 else,he is the god

  22. All so majestic….my hero,….oh how I miss him…..
    No I thought 2000, was very emotional…although not as emotional as the Monza race in 2005.
    Down – Not on pole
    Up – Alonso penalised
    Down – Behind Kimi until the pit stops
    Up – Took the lead
    Up – Alonso blew up
    Up – He won
    Up – Celebrations on the podium I was right opposite
    Down – Announced retirement

  23. Lady Snowcat
    19th April 2008, 14:02

    You can’t use 2003 as that was the year that the changes Michelin had to make halfway through gifted the title to Michael…. and lost it for Kimi…..

    It has to be his first Ferrari year…2000…. the culmination of his whole approach to F1….

  24. all his title wins were brilliant and i enjoyed them all.

  25. What about 2005 when rule changes were made specifically to disadvantage Ferrari and him? Does that make Alonso any less deserving a champion? No. He kept his cool. Kimi messed some up and some McLaren did. Similarly, in 2003, Michael did what he should have had. Score maximum points by the end of the season.

  26. I think i would go for 2000,
    but I always found his best seasons, the ones he didn’t win it… (except 2005/6)… he drove the best he could i lesser cars, loved that

  27. Ron, what makes you think the 2005 rules changes were designed to disadvantage Ferrari?

  28. James Steventon
    20th April 2008, 17:50

    I am going to go with the majority and say 2000. I honestly believe that Schumacher would probably have been crowned champion in 1999, if not for his crash at Silverstone.
    The pressure was really on him to perform that year, you could feel it. Hakkinen had won back to back championships, and it was obvious that Mika would be Schumacher’s major rival for the upcoming season.
    Also, Eddie Irvine had proven in 1999 that Ferrari had a car capable of challenging McLaren. The 2000 car would, without question, be as good if not better. Also, Schumacher had a new team mate in the Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello.
    The ingrediants were all there, the pressure, a strong and talented double world champion as a rival, a new team mate who was highly rated, and ofcourse, the juggernaut of Ferrari behind him.
    The race in Belgium was one of the year’s highlights. Schumacher hunting Hakkinen down, Hakkinen spinning and losing the lead, Schumacher’s infamous chop defending from Hakkinen, and then, ofcourse, Hakkinen’s outrageous move a lap later by passing Schumacher and Zonta at the same time.
    Real, real racing from two men who respected each other.
    Michael Schumacher’s response in the car, after crossing the finishing line at Suzuka and becoming champion, proved just how much of a battle he had been through.
    To me, that was his finest moment, his first championship with Ferrari. He had beaten his old rival from pre F1 days, and had done it fair and square. In 2001, the Ferrari had a bigger edge on its rivals, and Hakkinen chose to retire.
    The challengers since then were not Schumacher’s generation.
    Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso.
    Yes, he wanted to beat them, but it was a different motivation.
    These were the young guns, the new breed, as Schumacher had once been to Senna, or Prost for that matter.
     No, 2000 without a doubt was his finest hour.

  29. Really good resume’ James – I agree entirely.

  30. I loved 2000 title(my 2nd year of F1 watching, no friends for company, no internet, no papers in India giving a good coverage, more than few words). I was literally running around the house when Mika ran out of fuel and Michael won (yes it is very sadistic, but Michael was the reason I started watching F1 in the first place). 
    Everyone loves to hate him, visible even in this comments section. But I like to put forward that many champions have been like that in the past. For example 1989’s Prost taking out Senna to clinch title, and Senna returning the help on 1991. Senna punching Eddie Irvine in Japan (when was that? 1993?). People have done ‘not so ethical’ things to win, but just Michael did some, combined with a world dominating F1 coverage and status, media, made him the most hated superstar. I would love if someone researches on this point about different drivers’ not so good moves in the past. Senna has even commented once that he’d do anything to clinch title, winning is the ingredient in his blood.

  31. I would say 2000 stands as the best Schumi title not only for the season properly, but for the whole saga of putting Ferrari back on top, and especially because it was his first full season after breaking his leg (as he was back only for the last couple of races of 1999, and already with a stunning pace)…

    Also, 2000 marks the transition from the suspicious Schumacher of the 1990s, someone unworthy of the "all-time great" designation, to the legendary Schumacher of the 2000s, certainly one of the"all-time greats"…

  32. I too would go with 1995. It is fair to say I did not like Schumacher then, but his talent was undeniable. That season was agony to watch; he crushed Damon psychologically and I could barely watch Suzuka after Hill spun out, it was a metaphor for his whole season. Schumacher also, to all intents, finished off Johnny Herbert as an aspiring WDC, despite the two wins.

    As a postscript, Ironically, I believe that Schumacher was the making of Hill. Rather than get despondant, he got immensely fit over the summer, knuckled down and came back punching in ’96. Competitively it was not the same arena – Ferrari were in poor shape – but he kept a tough, quick teammate in check and got the job done.

  33. As a Huge Schumi fan I would have to say that all of his titles were magnificent for me. The only downer is that those who dislike him always have to throw a shadow on his achievements by saying that his “number 2” drivers helped him get where he was. In my humble opinion I do not think that Irvine or Barricello had the tenacity to ever beat him. What makes a brilliant driver is the whole package, not just being quick and Schumi had the complete package. Yes, he did not always act sportingly but none of the drivers are saints. Kimi would certainly not have been champion today if Massa did not help him out by being delayed in the pits ( no matter how people try to deny it ).

  34. Never watched much in the early ’90’s (very unfortunately! – would love to know if anyone can tell me where to obtain DVD’s of ’93 to 95 at reasonable rates ?), started following F1 closely from 1996 when Schumacher joined Ferrari. To that end , I have to call 2000 his greatest win – if only just for the fact that it was the first win after the build up from ’96 and what would be the start of the strongest domination known in F1 to date.

  35. Jean – There’s links to where you can buy them on the reviews of those videos here:

    1993 F1 season review video – Senna fights back
    1995 F1 season review video – He did it his way

  36. sadly it seems we will not see him return to the track to take on Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari, and square up against new talent like Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica – i think not keith!

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