Will any of today’s F1 drivers beat Michael Schumacher’s records?

Michael Schumacher won seven world titles and 91 Grands Prix

Michael Schumacher won seven world titles and 91 Grands Prix

Michael Schumacher’s colossal achievements means he dominates the F1 record books.

Will anyone ever rake his place at the top of the lists of race winners, pole sitters, and pretty much everything else? Could it be one of the drivers on the grid today? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Most F1 race wins

Most F1 race wins (click the enlarge)

Most F1 race wins (click the enlarge)

With 91 wins, Schumacher has almost as many as the next two most winning drivers combined: Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (41).

In order to stand any chance of matching Schumacher’s record, today’s top drivers will need to spend at least as much time in race-winning cars. Schumacher had a car capable of regularly winning races for 11 years (1994-5, 1997-2004, 2006). On top of that, like Fernando Alonso this year, he still won races in years when his car wasn’t a front-runner.

Given the length of his career, Schumacher’s victory hit-rate is an extremely impressive 36% (below). The driver most likely to match that – if McLaren remain competitive – is Lewis Hamilton, currently on 25%. Even then it’ll take him a decade or longer to reach 91 wins at his current rate.

But with increasing standardisation of F1 car parts the days of one team winning almost all the races in a season – as Ferrari did in 2002 and 2004 – may be over. That will make it even harder for anyone to surpass Schumacher’s record.

Most F1 race wins (percentage) (click to enlarge)

Most F1 race wins (percentage) (click to enlarge)

Most F1 pole positions

Most F1 pole positions (click to enlarge)

Most F1 pole positions (click to enlarge)

Schumacher narrowly surpassed Ayrton Sen’a tally of pole positions – but Senna’s 40% hit-rate is far better. Other drivers with shorter career lengths managed even better hit rates.

But a pole position in 2008 isn’t what is was in the time of Senna, or Clark or Fangio for that matter. Today it’s about fuel load; before it was a question of who could set the fastest single lap. With the prospect of refuelling being banned in 2010, hopefully qualifying will soon become more meaningful again and comparisons like this will be possible.

Most F1 pole positions (percentage) (cick to enlarge)

Most F1 pole positions (percentage) (cick to enlarge)

Most F1 fastest laps

Most F1 fastest laps (click to enlarge)

Most F1 fastest laps (click to enlarge)

Kimi Raikkonen is well on the way to catching Schumacher’s record for most fastest laps. He has 35 to his name – ten of which he set this year, despite only winning twice.

Hamilton isn’t getting as many fastest laps though – only three so far.

In percentage terms, Masahiro Hasemi is untouchable – he only did one race and he set the fastest lap. Well, he’s credited with the fastest lap at Fuji in 1976, but as he was overtaken by several cars on the lap it happened there’s some dispute over whether he actually did it. Timing then wasn’t what it is today…

Most F1 fastest laps (percentage) (click to enlarge)

Most F1 fastest laps (percentage) (click to enlarge)

Most F1 laps led

Most F1 laps led (click to enlarge)

Most F1 laps led (click to enlarge)

Over 5,000 laps led is a measure of Schumacher’s abilities – and how dull F1 races were in the early 2000s. Frankly I hope no-one gets anywhere near this record.

Most F1 points scored

Most F1 points scored (click to enlarge)

Most F1 points scored (click to enlarge)

Schumacher is the only driver to rack up more than 1,000 points, although when Alain Prost started his F1 career drivers only got nine for a win – today they get eight for second.

Will any of today’s F1 drivers beat Schumacher’s career totals? Could any of them match his seven world championships?

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47 comments on Will any of today’s F1 drivers beat Michael Schumacher’s records?

  1. beneboy said on 26th December 2008, 22:49

    I’m a big Schumi fan and his statistics are very impressive.

    What made him great for me though was that after winning 2 WDC titles with Benetton he could have gone to Williams or McLaren for an almost guaranteed championship winning car.
    Instead he chose to go to Ferrari, a team that hadn’t won anything since 1979, and help build a team that would dominate the sport for the next decade.

    He may have been offered a very big pay cheque & a guarantee of serious financial backing from the owners but, as we’ve seen with Honda & Toyota, this is no guarantee of success.

    He only agreed to go to Ferrari if they hired all of the engineers & mechanics that he wanted to work with as well as allowing him to be deeply involved with the design & testing of the cars.

    This gave him a connection with the team that most drivers can only dream of, add in his very clear status as the No 1 driver, his physical & mental preparation & his willingness to push the rules to their absolute limit and you can see why he was so successful in his career.

    I think it will be hard for any of the current drivers to beat his records but it’s not impossible, either way it’ll take them at least another 6 years to do so so who knows ?

  2. I think to be able to match or beat Schummacher is to be on the same team as Michael’s. If Alonzo will be at Ferrari few years from now, maybe he can. Lewis surely can’t and won’t. Kimi may also have the edge if he stays at Ferrari for a longer time, same as Massa. Lewis can only match Schummi’s popularity, and nothing else… trust me.

  3. Juhhi said on 27th December 2008, 1:55

    Hamilton has chance to get more WDC maybe(or Vettel, but He need to get better team quick), but I think that only one is actually possible to break and it is most fastest laps. Kimi can do it…these two gategories are only possible…

  4. Nowadays is almost impossible to beat any of his records but i believe Hamilton has a chance in beating few of them.

  5. AussieLeb said on 27th December 2008, 13:33

    Hi Keith and Co.

    Been a while I know. But between forced redundancy (ten days before Xmas holidays), the holidays themselves and getting a new job, I haven’t had much time to leave a post on here. However I couldn’t leave this thread without my trademark long winded post!

    Anyway, if you didn’t already know let me make it clear. I’m a huge Schumi fan and Ferrari for that matter. To suggest his records may be broken by this crop of drivers is a moot point IMHO. I agree competition is tougher nowadays. Yet no one has realised one of the biggest reasons why. I believe it’s due to Michael’s brilliance and the records he’s set. Many drivers today will have there idols other than “Zeh German” yet I’m sure many were/are motivated to succeed due to Schumi’s achievements. If not to beat, at least taste some of this success.

    I don’t think Lewis can break Michael’s records but he will no doubt be one of the greats. One of the main reasons Lewis won’t do it is because of drivers like Vettel and even Felipe or Kimi. I also believe McLaren will always be handicapped by the fact that Mercedes could pull the pin at any time, as they have suggested recently. Placing a huge question mark over the longevity of Lewis behind the wheel of a competitive car.

    At the end of the day I put the question of will anyone break Schumi’s records, in the same category as the GOAT question.

    Slightly off topic – Does anyone have a link to any articles discussing a test conducted, where Schumacher went head to head with other elite athletes to test their reaction time etc etc. I believe it was determined that Michael was, at best, above average in most of the tests conducted. However the result that seperated him from the rest and explained his briliance as an F1 driver, was the mutli tasking test. I seem to remember the figure of 9 tasks at once. I really hope someone can enlighten me. With concrete evidence please. No abuse necessary!

  6. AussieLeb,

    here’s the Top Gear version of the test.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmolQryHxkM

    I would like to see the full article too.

  7. the limit said on 28th December 2008, 15:15

    I don’t think any of the current crop of drivers will beat Michael Schumachers record seven championships, for many different reasons.
    As earlier mentioned on this site, Schumacher enjoyed many years with competitive machinery capable of winning championships. From 1997 until his retirement in 2006, on only two occasions was Schumacher unable to fight for the championship, in 1999 and 2005. It can be fair to assume that if Schumacher had not broken his leg in the now infamous Stowe crash, he may well have become an eight times world champion.
    This nine year stint of Schumacher’s career is without doubt the most dominant any driver has witnessed in modern motorsports. By comparison, other F1 legends faired differently.
    Aryton Senna’s reign at the top lasted between 1988 and 1991, inwhich every year he had a car capable of winning the championship. Alain Prost’s long career is all the more remarkable for winning championships spread out over more seasons, and with two different teams, much like Schumacher.
    However, inlike Schumacher, Prost and Senna both had team mates who at times, proved their biggest rivals, and who were destined to take titles away from them.
    Michael Schumacher never had that problem. As early as 2001, it was written in Rubens Barrichello’s contract at Ferrari that he would never criticise Schumacher or the team in public. Barrichello was sworn to adhere to team orders when the occasion arose, and that almost certainly meant giving way to Schumacher.
    Austria 2002 highlighted this better than any other occasion.
    This was a far cry from the Senna/Prost years at McLaren, or the more recent Alonso/Hamilton debacle. Everything was in place at Ferrari to avoid such skirmishes, that would only damage the teams morale, and lessen their chances to become champions.
    Marry this political stranglehold at Ferrari to superb reliability, a firm understanding of the FIA rulebook, and you have a very potent outfit indeed.
    From 2001 until 2005, Michael Schumacher also enjoyed the lack of mechanical strength from his rivals. McLaren’s engines by 2001, aswell as Mika Hakkinen, were getting used to the idea of retiring. Williams had great horsepower and Juan Pablo Montoya, but not the legs to compete with Schumacher.
    As with McLaren, the Grove built cars kept blowing up, often with either Montoya or Ralf Schumacher were leading races. Kimi Raikkonen, on a good day, could match Michael for pace, but like Hakkinen in 2001, often had to park the car early and walk home.
    Renault and Fernando Alonso changed this trend. Marry a fast, naturally gifted driver to a fast, reliable v10 and chassis, and Schumacher and Ferrari faced the enevitable. Their reign was over!
    The Ferrari team today are a different animal. This year, their second driver fought for the championship in the guise of Felipe Massa, not world champion Raikkonen. This would have been unthinkable during Schumacher’s reign.
    Renault, despite two wins, were far from dominant, a concern if Alonso stands any hope of unseating Schumacher.
    McLaren, to me atleast, look more like the Ferrari team of Schumacher’s time. The team is so obviously putting its efforts behind Lewis Hamilton, that you cannot help but feel sorry for Kovalainen as we did Barrichello and Irvine years ago. For this, Hamilton and his father Anthony can take credit. The relationship they have formed with Ron Dennis is without doubt the most potent at McLaren since the Hakkinen era, and without doubt, will aid them in their efforts to become multiple champions.
    The key for any driver wanting to set new records is to remain in a competitive car, for as long as possible.
    Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Lauda, Mansell, Piquet, Jones, Fangio, all started with lesser teams and worked their way up. Hamilton started his career in one of the best cars on any racetrack, any where.
    He has yet to experience a season in F1 in a less than competitive car. If he can avoid such experiences, then he can become a very potent challenger indeed to Schumacher’s legacy.

  8. Bernie and Max will keep changing the rules around to make sure that no driver can ever be as dominant as Schumacher. Lewis is great but he isnt going to win over half the races in any year. The competition is too strong now. Even if a driver won 12 races a year for the next five years that would still only be 60 wins which isnt even close to Schumi.

  9. I doubt any of Schumacher’s records will be broken, as I don’t think the circumstances that Schumacher set those records in will be replicated.

    I can’t see a team dominating the sport as much as Ferrari did in the first half of this decade. Even if a team did manage it a driver has to be at that team for all those years and make sure he has a weak team mate. You could argue that if Hamilton stayed at McLaren all his career he would be the number one driver in the team even if it wasn’t in any contracts, but I don’t see McLaren enjoying the dominance needed.

    When people said the sport was becoming boring when Ferrari were winning everything, others said it was no different to when Williams and McLaren dominated the sport in the 1980s and 1990s. However, because Williams and McLaren usually didn’t have an outright number one driver or drivers didn’t stay with the teams that long, no one driver was able to dominate like Schumacher did.

    As Keith mentioned in the article because of rule changes some of the records aren’t consistent. The poles earned during the race fuel qualifying period don’t compare to the poles set by the likes of Senna when it was a measure of the fastest driver on the day, not who had the lightest car and was fast.

    The record most likely to be broken is the most points scored, because just as the points system has been changed in the past I think it will be changed again meaning more points will be on offer at each race.

  10. Lewis already has 1 record Schumacher never had. Youngest WDC. And he did it in only his second year in F1. in his rookie year LH also has allot of records. But beating all Shumis records will be difficult because of all the rule changes Every year to get the cars even. In Shumis years Ferrari had a better car and was alowed to continue development on it and make it better. these days its not the same. So it will be difficult to break ALL the records but he is a great driver and will only get better and break some of Schumacher records without a doubt.

  11. Michael said on 2nd January 2009, 8:07

    I think Alonso has a chance of getting 1 or 2 of the records. Kimmi certainly has a shot at the fastest lap record if he doesn’t get bored of F1, and Lewis has the potential (looking at the time he has left in his career), but Lewis has proven to be inconsistent and there are other hot shots like Vettel who have raw talent and maturity. Lewis would have my vote if he didn’t throw away points in 2007 and 2008. He won the championship and I’m happy about that, but he must look at how many points he lost to Massa/Alonso/Kimmi in the last part of the season. It really shouldn’t have happened with the equipment he had. If Mclaren don’t have the same equipment in the years to come, then Lewis will have a lot of work to do to get the records, and I’m not convinced yet.

  12. i have no idea

  13. Does Jackie Stewart not have 27 wins in 99 starts?

  14. Oh and Jim Clark? 25/73?

  15. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th February 2009, 19:39

    Yes and yes – but Schumacher, Prost and Senna have more wins. Hit rate is not the focus here – see here for more on that: Michael Schumacher stats

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