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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

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

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  1. Keith, great article!

    Completely hits it on the head for me as to what my problems with schumacher was/is.

    He’s one of those guys I love to hate, in spite of that the fact I’m the first to acknowledge he’s a seriously talented driver.

    But to me there’s a certain responsibility that comes with being so good, a responsibility to do your talking with your skill behind the wheel and not cheat/pull dangerous moves at 200mph+

    I lost all respect for him because of it.

    Alonso is in the same boat, he’s one of the most complete drivers in the sport in the moment, he can wring the neck of a mediocre car and launch it further up the points than it deserves to be!

    But I seen a schu-esque side to his mentality when he moved to McLaren, the whole need to be the top dog in the team. You are top dog based on your performance in the car, nothing more!

    If any of the schu fanbois/gloryhunters think I’m biased against Ferrari (I’ll admit my team is McLaren, always was and always will be), I like lots of drivers, not just those driving for McLaren. I was a huge fan of Alonso pre-mclaren, and I love to see Vettel, Webber, Rosberg and other drivers do well, tho not at the expense of Lewis obviously!

    But first and foremost I want to see good racing, not cheating!

  2. Most competetive drivers of the new era will push the limits of bad behaviour on the track. There used to be a limit to what you could do before F1 bacame so much safer at the beginning of the eighties with carbon tubes.
    The first driver to take advantage of the new circumstances then was Senna and since he was not punished for it by the FIA this sort of driving was more or less accepted. Schumacher has had some high profile cases of bad driving which I think is the result of reflex actions rather than calculated moves.
    Alain Prost is often overlooked as being a truly great driver, but was he not the greatest? He won all his races and Chapionships against the best competitors and team mates and never compromised his dignity by unfair driving.

  3. Nico is just a spoiled brat repeating Daddy’s views :-(

    We all saw his Keke’s comments on the La Rascasse 2006 …. He was so unprofessional in his commentary :-(

  4. Spa ’00 was not as dangerous as Hill’s triple weave at Canada ’98.

    1. Thats probably true, but then again Hill wouldn’t have done it to anyone else.

      1. That doesn’t make it ok.

  5. I think Schumi is a hard one. But not more than many others (Senna, Prost did similar moves in 88-90 period).
    He’s not the most correct of hystory, but I don’t think he set a bad standard.

  6. I know that the safety of others in the sport (marshals, spectators, the drivers, and the mechanics) is the most important aspect of the sport. But I think that a little aggressive driving is not bad, what Schumacher has done in the past is not that bad. That video at the top shows that when Schumacher blocked Mika, that was just pure racing, and that is what F1 should be all about: pure racing. I’m sure Michael will not endanger the lives of others.

  7. Want to stop dangerous on track moves by your fellow drivers? Senna taught us that as well: Meet them in pit lane after the race and punch their lights out! I assure you they will remember the color of your car in their mirrors at the next race.

    Personally I see nothing wrong with defending a position regardless of car performance discounting of course lapped cars, which is why they have blue flags. If you want to advance a place you have to take it, it shouldn’t be given.

  8. Even knowing that i´ve been a Shumacher fan, i have to agree that sometimes he doesn´t think so much on the other drivers.
    Rosberg waited his chance to prove himself in a better car and now that he finaly got it, all his triumph is being spoiled by Shumacher return.
    Do some guys remember to post a comment here saying how will the Button-Hamilton and Massa-Alonso respect each other inside the team!
    Well, i think Mercedes has much more to do in the garage now to keep both drivers happy!
    I think Shumacher will not be in perfect condition to drive in F1 and he´ll see his face after 3-4 races.

  9. I’d say this is Rosberg trying to stir things up a little. As a kart racer myself, that sort of move seems fair. Schumacher was defending his position by using all of the track. It might have been dangerous, but that was in part Hakkinen’s doing for staying so committed.

    All Hakkinen had to do was bide his time and choose another moment to strike.

    Rosberg is too much of a moaner. Shut up and let your driving do the talking.

  10. I think the Marshalls are very strict at manoevres like that nowadays – as long as it’s not a Ferrari or Schumacher who does it.. It’s a dangerous sport anyway and moves like that one Schumey did to hakkinen are unnecessary. If you’r beaten, you’re beaten, don’t start acting like a madman. Senna once admitted to pushing Prost of the track but that was because of the politics in F1. I think Hamilton is quite a dangerous driver as well. But there’s a difference between taking huge risks and plainly cheating. Everyone driving an F1 race puts his life at risk, so at least some rules are necessary to prevent the kind of actions Schumacher did there. This is however the most brilliant pass I’ve ever see in F1 (the lap after the controversial move), so I’m actually quite gratefull he did it.

  11. If unacceptable behaviour is not dealt with by the relevant authorities in any walk of life it is a signal to others of what they too can get away with.

    We can debate which driver was the first to make such moves on rivals but if they had been handed a meaningful punishment at the time there probably wouldn’t have been as many incidents as there has been.

    I think the FIA should clearly write down the rules defining as well as possible what is not acceptable and say it doesn’t matter what precedents have already been set in the future if you do this you will be punished.

    I wouldn’t like to have the situation where it what was okay at one race is suddenly frowned upon at the next without any announcement.

  12. One comment above being missed (LewisC) is that racing drivers do not have time to think at the speeds they race at! Anyone who has sat next to a professional is always amazed at how MUCH time they make for themselves and thus how easy it looks, indeed it is JY Stewart I think who once said he breaks a corner down into a series of slow moves!

  13. Common Guys this guy(NICO) is getting tense.It is obvious someone gets tensed , nervous when they say u r the rising star and then the real star comes alongside u.He shud just shut up and drive and prove he is onpar with schumi which I suppose will not happen..

    Can u guys mention a real racing driver who will just let pass a faster car without a defense.May be KOVI who always let pass his team mate and got a medal “GREAT SPORTMANSHIP” nothing else..

    and for keith i beg u not to give these kind of stuff over and over again like FIA biased to ferrari and Schumi a conterversial driver.I suppose from next year it will be like FIA biased to Mercedes because Schumi is in it.

    We are all excited abt next year where we will be seeing four WDC competing each other.Let us all enjoy that instead of focussing on something that happened a decade back.

  14. I still get a tingle watching that move by Mika. Absolutely brilliant!

    As for Schumacher, lets hope Todt has the guts to ensure the rules are administered equally and justly to all with no exceptions…

  15. Just wondering – Autosport, the Guardian and forumula1.com have all reported that Michael Schumacher is on a three year deal – why are people here saying it’s one?

    1. Also Schumi said it :)

  16. Mika was brilliant, that pass will be history in F1 books.

  17. You can look at it in a few ways… Mika was still behind him, he just went to the middle so he can’t pass.. when the other car is next to the other, it’s a whole different story… still dangerous tough :)

    1. Yes, Michael’s move was totally ok to me…
      Alonso used a similar one in Brazil 2007. You have to expect the other driver to not let you simply take all that draft to slingshot past…

  18. I want to see PASSING in F!…. not blocking.

  19. I have to say, I’d say Senna was worse than Schumacher. I’d also say I see little wrong with what Schumacher did in moving across people, as long as it wasn’t in a braking zone. Didn’t really have much of a problem with thew Monaco trick either.

    Perhaps I share his “win whatever the cost” mentality. No, I definitely do.

  20. Since when can Schumacher ever dictate the standards of driving? Or Senna, Prost, whoever? The standards of driving are set by the FIA, and it seems to me that the FIA is the party that is lacking when it comes to Schumacher, at least. He got away with several dodgy moves that would have seen an agressive driver like Hamilton (for example) nearly kicked from the sport. Or should I say a McLaren driver.

    The FIA, throughout Schumacher’s most successful years and under Mosley, was to blame for protecting certain teams or drivers (Schumacher, Alonso, Renault, Ferrari, Bridgestone imo) while persecuting others blatantly (Honda, McLaren, Montoya, Michelin imo). Schumacher himself could not influence the driving morality of any young hotshoe if the governing body didn’t allow that morality to perpetuate.

    The buck stops at the top, and there’s only two blokes running things, effectively. So, who to blame?

    I hope Jean Todt brings some much-needed stability in both rules and stewarding. All driver behaviour will be altered accordingly, in my opinion.

    1. Great post ! I wish I shared your optimism that Le Toad will be the one to take the broom to several of the messes that are currently in F1…

    2. @ Toby Bushby
      I presume that you’re talking about the same McLaren who were spared the blushes by the FIA to use parts developed using Ferrari tech in their ’08 season. Yes, they were not allowed to develop them any further, but they were allowed to run the cars with those parts. If you’d bring the $100 million, then all i’ll have to say is that teams spend millions for gaining that sliver of a second… here they had a formula for a winning car.

      Secondly, Lewis was spared blushes by the FIA when he lied to the FIA about not slowing down to let Trulli past and the team McLaren seconded that. I remember that McLaren were let off lightly for that. Is McLaren the team in red colours, with an emblazoned prancing horse? I didn’t think so and yet they were let off by the FIA…

      As someone said so famously for Lewis, “Engage brain before opening mouth!”

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