Did Michael Schumacher’s Spa stunt set a new low? Nico Rosberg thinks so

He'll be back next year - but will the controversies return too?

He'll be back next year - but will the controversies retiurn too?

Who does Nico Rosberg blame for poor driving standards in F1? His new team mate:

It is Michael Schumacher who started this, like at Spa, when Mika Hakkinen tried to overtake him and he ran him off the track. When the guy behind has made a decision [to pass] and the guy in front then moves over, it is very dangerous. You cannot do that. That was the first time I remember it being a dangerous issue.
Nico Rosberg

Schumacher’s return to F1 is undoubtedly good news for the sport’s profile but, as Rosberg clearly knows, he tends to bring controversy along with him.

Hakkinen and Schumacher were both doing around 200mph when the McLaren driver tried to pass the Ferrari.

The onboard video above graphically illustrates the speed difference between the two cars as Hakkinen pulled out of Schumacher’s slipstream to pass. But the Ferrari driver squeezed Hakkinen to the far side of the track, forcing him to back off to avoid a huge crash.

Schumacher often stood accused of getting away with dangerous driving. This infamous move drew criticism at the time (in spite of Hakkinen’s successful pass on the next lap). Almost ten years on, do we now view this as a new low in driving standards that other drivers are now mimicking because they know they will get away with it?

Rosberg was talking to reporters in Abu Dhabi at the race earlier this year when he compared recent controversial incidents at Interlagos with Schumacher’s Spa move. Here’s more of what he said:

Barrichello, Webber and Kobayashi did exactly the same thing [at Interlagos]. With Webber, Raikkonen lost his front wing, with Kobayashi, Nakajima had a massive off, which could have been much worse – you can really hurt yourself, marshals and others in that sort of accident. With Barrichello, Lewis ran into the back of his tyre. That was the third time ?ǣ and it is not allowed to happen.
Nico Rosberg

Rosberg’s comment struck me as surprising at the time because drivers are rarely so candid about this sort of thing. It came on the same weekend that Jarno Trulli vehemently criticised Adrian Sutil over their crash at Interlagos.

While Trulli spent ten years racing against Schumacher, drivers like Sutil are part of the post-Schumacher generation – who watched him at work, seen what he could get away with, and copied it.

It’s true that other drivers before Schumacher were accused of using unacceptable tactics on the race track – Ayrton Senna and Rene Arnoux to name just two. But it seems to me that Schumacher pushed the limits even further – into dangerous territory.

Another dimension to Schumacher’s return is how Mercedes will handle it. We saw at Monaco in 2006 that Ferrari would support Schumacher even when he was caught red-handed in a brazen act of cheating. Will Mercedes be as willing to indulge Schumacher’s ‘win at any cost’ mentality?

That was one of the rare occasions when Schumacher was handed a meaningful punishment for his transgression. More often than not the FIA turned a blind eye to his dubious moves. So should we blame them or Schumacher for some of the questionable driving which goes on in F1 today?

Whichever, I doubt we’ll get to the end of 2010 without this argument coming up again.

Driving standards in F1

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144 comments on Did Michael Schumacher’s Spa stunt set a new low? Nico Rosberg thinks so

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  1. nixon said on 31st December 2009, 7:15

    again great article Kieth! But this does bring an interesting point and i am sure that Shumacher will continue this reckless driving. although i think that when you are driving at speeds over 200mph you cant really think straight which might cause this type of driving.

    • Stanley said on 31st December 2009, 8:51

      i agree. Schumacher will continue with this kind of driving and since he will probably be a bit less competitive than he is still used to, he’ll do everything and anything to suceed, and that means moves like in Adelaide 94, Jerez 97, Spa 2000,
      Australia 2005 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBD8wOcVZNc – Something that could happen in Spa if Mika didn’t back off!), Monaco 2006 are nothing compared to what he’ll do next.

      But it might be fun…on one side, he’s not in Ferrari no more, so maybe he’ll get punished, but on the other side his buddy To(a)dt is president of the FIA now, plus he has Brawn(who seems to have some influence on the FIA – all controversial car parts back at his time at Ferrari and even last year at Brawn GP were legalised for some reason) as his boss so he might get away with a lot more than before.

      • Terry Fabulous said on 31st December 2009, 9:32

        Rosberg is right, Schumi used to drive like a jerk when someone tried to overtake him, and when it all fell apart from him, like in Stan’s video above, it used to crack me up!

        But he is a goose for saying it. It will just stoke a fire in the belly of the most doggedly competitive driver ever seen in our sport.

        Nico should quietly slink off for a month to tend to his hair and make no further public comments! Leave his talking to the track.

        • Monad said on 31st December 2009, 9:56

          Does anyone remember this? I think we should bring Montoya back now that Schumacher is back.

          BTW Rosberg said that before he had any idea about Schumacher and Mercedes. He said it after Brazil when he was asked in an interview.

          • Eddie Irvine said on 31st December 2009, 12:40

            I didn’t remember this one. Shumi is not that great….

          • David A said on 1st January 2010, 23:15

            I didn’t remember this one. Shumi is not that great….

            No one will take that seriously “Eddie Irvine”.

        • nowheelspin said on 31st December 2009, 16:43

          Nico and all other f1 drivers if u can call them that, should know when to keep quite. He fails to realize that the sleeping giant is now awake.

        • Dianna said on 1st August 2010, 22:03

          His father din’t like Schumacher at all.

      • Adrian said on 31st December 2009, 9:51

        Perhaps the reason that any controversial new car parts on a car Ross Brawn has been involved with are found to be legal is that he is just very good at interpreting the rules…

    • LewisC said on 31st December 2009, 12:03

      i think that when you are driving at speeds over 200mph you cant really think straight which might cause this type of driving.

      Quite the opposite. Racing drivers are thinking very clearly at that sort of speed…

    • I, too, agree with president Nixon. I think the drivers rely on their instinct when they are racing at such high speeds. I also think it’s the job of the FIA race stewards to comment on the driver’s driving style and, if necessary, punish him.

    • storchmark said on 1st January 2010, 13:16

      not to worry. those days are gone. the best he will do is the occasional podium. best of luck to his new teammate. ( but it will be interesting when Alonso puts a pass on him )

  2. Big-El said on 31st December 2009, 7:46

    He’ll be back next year – but will the controversies retiurn too?

    I reckon they will for sure. He’s only on a 1 year contract with Mercedes, I think he’ll go all out.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys said on 31st December 2009, 7:55

    Well, I suppose the Rosberg-Schumacher partnership can only get better from here …

    • Ned Flanders said on 31st December 2009, 11:32

      Hmm… this immeadiately reminded me of something I read in F1 Racing last year, an article on the drivers football match they have at Monaco every year:

      ‘There’s a bustle of activity near the tunnel… (out) comes Michael Schumacher… intriguingly, he blanks Nico (Rosberg), then runs straight towards Felipe (Massa). They embrace and exchange high fives.’

      Not sure how significant this is, but my initial feeling is that they ain’t the best of buds

  4. pitt layne said on 31st December 2009, 8:00

    After all the crap Schu pulled in his career, the lowest was Monaco. How could the 7x WDC, blatantly do what he did at La Rascasse? He stops his Ferrari at the La Rascasse corner to block the progress of other cars. Then on camera in front of the whole world makes more than one attempt to finally shut down the engine on his Ferrari. He tops it off with cockpit acting gestures. How does this athlete sit atop your F1 pedestal?

    • John H said on 31st December 2009, 10:20

      Monaco was an absolute disgrace, but I think what Rosberg is voicing has more to do about safety than cheating per se.

      The worst part about that incident was Schmacher not admitting he was being a tit.

    • bernification said on 3rd January 2010, 23:01

      You think cheating to gain pole competes with ramming your opponents to attempt to win a world championship? And not once, but twice even if he was aquitted in ’94. It’s still dubious.

  5. its okay no need to worry mark webber is here to blitz the 2010 season .. BRING IT ON.

  6. wasiF1 said on 31st December 2009, 9:07

    I want to see more of that in 2010.

  7. sw6569 said on 31st December 2009, 9:18

    I thought it was Schumacher and Hill at Spa (I think in 95 but it may have been 94) that started this rather than against Hakkinen. Hill was always vocal in a very English and understated way that Schumachers driving standards were below par.

    I suppose though, on the other hand that if you’ll do anything to win then its only natural. There’s a reason Schumacher has all the records

  8. steph90 said on 31st December 2009, 9:20

    There have been a few pondering whether it was known for a while that Schumi would be heading to Merc and Button was on his way out. Personally I always thought things only got moving afer Abu Dhabi and still do. Some mightb question whether Nico knew about Merc’s intentions and this was an little jab for his future teammate, whether he seems completely unaware or that hiring Schumi wasn’t decided until much later.
    I think Merc will dop the usual policy and give the drivers equal status for as long as it suits them. If Schuey is his usual self and Nico is behind but they take points from each other then that waouldn’t get them anywhere. That said Nico is a highly rated driver and very young; a good long term bet so they won’t want to fall out with him. Unless they are looking to drivers like Seb and Lewis for the future and if Nico doesn’t pass the test…but I’mn getting wellm ahead of myself there :P

  9. This acticle perfectly sums up what I’ve been thinking about Shumi’s return, and, as far as I can tell, a pretty common thought among fans who followed F1 before Schumi got in.

    However I am also surprised that Rosberg would actually go out and say it. My respect for him has just shot through the roof.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st December 2009, 11:32

      Worth remembering Rosberg said this two months before Schumacher was announced as his team mate. I wonder if he had had any idea in October that he might be team mate to Schumacher next year?

  10. I’m not sure this one incident makes young drivers think they can get away with similar moves. My overwhelming memory of that race is Hakkinen being celebrated for a brave overtake, a fine victory and then admonishing Schumacher while the German sat meekly in his Ferrari in Parc Ferme. I think the message to aspiring young F1 drivers was fairly clear – who would you prefer to emulate?

    It is true, however, that the younger generation of drivers has grown up watching Schumacher and perhaps inferring that it must be acceptable if he gets away with it. But Spa 2000 wasn’t a one off and it merely reflected Schumacher’s general approach to defending his position on track. It was this, coming race after race, that will have sown the seed that this sort of thing is ok rather than any one incident. But examples of poor driving standards were around before Schumacher and they’re still around after Schumacher.

    It may be convenient to point out Schumacher for the lowering of driving standards, but other drivers and the governing body must also shoulder their share of the blame. This is a problem, but it isn’t one that began with Schumacher and it won’t be one that ends with him.

    • Totally agree with you Tim. I’m sure there’s quite a list of driver’s who’ve been “driven off the track” by Schumacher, but we shouldn’t forget that when he was young he was a product of his time, where Senna was setting the standards of behaviour.

      Schumacher pushed the limits in every respect, and the sport kept having to change because of him. No-one ever exerted such influence, but there’s a price for greatness.

      Rosberg’s a bit young to authoritatively state where it began – I think if you’re gonna say who really started it all, you’ve got to say Senna. When you have a standard of behaviour that’s being set, “escalation” is inevitable, especially in a hard-fought competitive sport like F1.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st December 2009, 11:38

        Rosberg’s a bit young to authoritatively state where it began – I think if you’re gonna say who really started it all, you’ve got to say Senna.

        Looking at specific examples, I think it’s fair to say Schumacher knew he’d get away with Jerez ’94 because of how the titles were decided between Senna and Prost in 1989 and 1990.

        But while Senna undoubtedly took the tactic of swerving across on your rival to a new extreme – pushing Prost up against the pit wall at Estoril in 1988, for example – he didn’t go so far as to force his rival to back off to avoid a crash. He left Prost just enough room to get through. Schumacher took it further – he moved all the way across on Hakkinen at Spa and he put Alonso on the grass at Silverstone in 2003.

        • sumedh said on 31st December 2009, 14:09

          As pointed out by many, Schumacher was not the first to employ such tactics, and he won’t be the last. Regarding the “fatal danger”, yes I tend to agree with Keith on this one. Schumacher did the same what Senna did, but at higher speeds, and at higher risks.

          And talking about putting your opponents on the grass, Alonso (Spa ’07) and Hamilton (Monza ’08) have quite a reputation for the same.

          The Monaco ’06 incident was indeed a shocking one. But I fail to understand, a driver, who committed Adelaide ’94 and Jerez ’97, would come up with such a lame tactic. Surely, he could have crashed into the wall at low speed, it would have concealed his blocking move much better.

    • Icthyes said on 31st December 2009, 10:41

      Top post Tim.

      No-one can deny Schumacher did dodgy things and even broke the rules on occassion but as usual the anti-Schumacher brigade have to go into hysterics. Perhaps they forget that Senna drove into Prost at high speed in an era when safety wasn’t nearly as good as today, or just choose to.

      • Senna and Prost took rivalries in F1 to a new high and well, as a consequence some things happened on the track and off the track. Senna said that he will ram off Prost at the first corner and he did and won the championship as a result.

        I guess i do not know what some people have against Schumacher, who i know is not the fairest of them all, but are current drivers as Tim said, any better? Lewis comes to mind immediately, he did LIE and there are other questionable incidents involving him. These are racing drivers and when they are pyscho-evaluating them, they check whether these guys have huge enough an ego, which is a must. Most of these guys couldn’t tolerate the thought of being overtaken… in any sense, leave alone on-road.

        Jeremy Clarkson in his interview with Schumacher summed up ’94 Adelaide nicely, “i won’t let you win cos i’m simply better than you…” But it’s not just Schumacher, Senna drove many people off the track in days when people were maimed or died in an accident and i will have hundreds and thousands proclaiming him to be the greatest grand prix driver ever. Infact, he recently WAS voted the greatest grand prix driving ever. Senna had no love for backmarkers… and for opponents. He just wanted to be left alone, to do fast laps after another and another. Schumacher should be seen in the same vain… You could say that Senna didn’t cheat or lie, but Senna didn’t always win fairly.

        Racing drivers want to win.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st December 2009, 11:34

      My overwhelming memory of that race is Hakkinen being celebrated for a brave overtake, a fine victory and then admonishing Schumacher while the German sat meekly in his Ferrari in Parc Ferme. I think the message to aspiring young F1 drivers was fairly clear – who would you prefer to emulate?

      I can think of lots of drivers who’ve named Michael Schumacher as a role model.

      I can’t think of any that have said the same about Mika Hakkinen.

      • I meant “who would you prefer to emulate at Spa 2000?” – I don’t think the drivers who see Schumacher as a role model would pick that race as his finest hour and an individual performance they would wish to repeat.

        My point was that singling out Spa 2000 (where Schumacher was and still is widely criticised for his actions) as the start of poor driving standards is wrong. If anything, the blame that should be attached to Schumacher is that he drove like that routinely (not just at Spa 2000) and generally escaped punishment for it. In my view that had a stronger, albeit more insidious, influence on young drivers than a single incident.

        Driving standards have been in decline from well before the Schumacher era. You’re right about Senna leaving just enough room at Estoril ’88, but it was highly controversial at the time and a big step towards where we are today.

  11. Does nobody remember Canada ’98 when he drove off Frentzen?

  12. John H said on 31st December 2009, 10:17

    Hear hear Rosberg.

    He’s totally right, especially about the Interlagos incidents. Kubica spoke out in 2008 and I’m pleased someone else is not afraid to do so because before long we will have a very big shunt.

    While everyone has been praising Kobayashi, he could of killed Nakajima (no exaggeration) in my opinion and people seem quick to forget that fact.

  13. does nobody remember Suzuka ’90? I don’t see any vehement bashing about that over here..or Hamilton at Monza 2008

  14. That infamous move by Schuey at Monaco in 2006 was bloody hilarious. How both he and his team could say that it was an error is beyond me. It was a blatently intended incident (and the worst parking i have ever seen) :-P fair enough, schuey has 7 world titles, but c’mon, yes he might have a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, but i drive competitive karts, and i wouldn’t ‘win at all costs’ by parking my kart in the middle of the track?

    • Ned Flanders said on 31st December 2009, 11:37

      What really was hilarious was Raikkonen doing exactly the same thing in the same place in qualifying the following season, except he did by accident. Especially when Massa got stuck behind him!

      • DASMAN said on 4th January 2010, 13:32

        Yeah, funny people don’t mention that now do they?

        Still think Schumi gets stick in that incident for keeping it out of the wall. He may have been going too fast but if he’d pulled it off he would set the pole time for that lap.

        Can’t wait to see the ‘meister’ in action again – even if he’s not in a ferrari.

  15. Vincent said on 31st December 2009, 10:25

    Surely, these moves are a tad dangerous, but doesn’t that make them rightly part of a tadly dangerous sport?

    If I read the article and most comments I begin to think everyone wants F1 to be a “gentleman’s” sport, with unwritten rules dictating when you can or cannot defend or overtake someone. Yet everyone is complaining about the lack of overtaking. For me, things can get a bit rougher out there on the track.

    F1 drivers in my eyes should have balls beside their ability to drive. They get paid millions for driving a potentially dangerous weapon. They should know this is a part of the game. More often than not the most acclaimed overtaking maneuvres were the ones that were also rigorously defended. So apparently it is what we want to see, yet people still condemn them.

    The official rules however state that you may change your driving line once to defend, which Schumacher does in the above video.

    So yay to Schumacher for defending rigorously, and a lot of yay to Mika for trying to overtake the way he did, and eventually succeeding in a brilliant manner.

    • Icthyes said on 31st December 2009, 10:32

      Hear, hear.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st December 2009, 11:43

      For me, things can get a bit rougher out there on the track.

      If drivers are allowed to swerve into each other at 200mph – and, as we’ve seen, are increasingly willing to do so – then how long will it be before we’re pulling burning cars and mangled corpses out of grandstands?

      • NomadIndian said on 1st January 2010, 8:20

        Although F1 has seen much loss of life, I don’t remember any were because of condemnable drivng tactics. Not even during the Schumacher years were there any serious incident injuring anyone because of this. F1 drivers are F1 drivers for a reason and part of that is they can fight aggressively, make the odd dangerous move and anticipate others. So even though drivers like DC, Trulli, etc have come out swearing at such dangerous moves no one is hurt cause they are concentrating full on. But the occasional gamesmanship adds character and if someone goes really off the line its the FIA who need to make an example by handing out a penalty.

      • Wayne said on 1st January 2010, 14:07

        r u joking, tell you what, why don’t we surround the cars in a bumper car style rubber ring & let them drive at low speeds round a single oval with lots of run off at a top speed of 30mph. would that suit you ? tell you what, also make sure they wear a hi vis jacket & have done a risk assement prior to every move they make. get real. burning cars in grandstands ! have you ever been to a race & noticed the MOTORSPORT IS DANGEROUS writing on the ticket ? did you think they put that there for “the others” and not you ! go and watch netball at the local council fun day & take your hard hat for your thrills & by the way, leave F1 alone, its obviously not for you sweet pea.

        • Myles Woerner said on 1st January 2010, 20:15

          Wayne, you’re talking to the founder of F1fanatic. Of course Keith has been to an F1 race. Show some respect. Also, please improve you’re grammar and spelling. You sound like an 8 year old.

        • David A said on 3rd January 2010, 23:17

          Wayne, you started off with good points in this thread but you’re losing the plot now.

        • I really wet myself laughing… good ‘un mate!

    • bernification said on 3rd January 2010, 23:11

      Well Vincent, when someone makes wheel contact at 200 mph and a car somersaults into the crowd, you’ll get your entertainment.

      Until then, isn’t celebrity big brother on.

      • @bernification
        Ah you’re missing the point here…

        – Most people didn’t write Senna off, when he said that he would crash into Prost, to the world’s press.

        – Most didn’t cry their heart out for Prost when Senna rammed into him, first corner of the first lap. There was really no excuse for that.

        Also, i think Vincent was pointing out to the primeval streak of that animalistic part of our dna, where people gathered in their hundreds and thousands to watch gladiators slug it out… or something of that sort.

        Vincent’s not asking for some fried drivers or/ and viewers, he was just stating that F1 is a dangerous sport and has been since its inception. Touring car drivers also make quite some body contact and boy do they have some crashing and banging going on. You don’t see much made out of that, now do you? Also, a bucket-load of fans go watch touring cars acing action, don’t they?

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