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

  1. 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.

  2. Peter Rippon said on 31st December 2009, 15:02

    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!

  3. 02CH36 said on 31st December 2009, 15:25

    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.

  4. 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…

  5. simone said on 31st December 2009, 16:17

    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?

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

  7. 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 :)

    • 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…

  8. Oy-Vey said on 31st December 2009, 20:12

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

  9. 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.

  10. Toby Bushby said on 1st January 2010, 2:15

    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.

    • 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…

    • @ 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!”

  11. Net Sticks said on 1st January 2010, 5:23

    Happy New Year to all F1 fans!

    This man’s return is only goog for his pocket and Bernie’s… About competition, fair play, good relations between the drivers like we saw this year (because Alonso was doen and didn’t make many waves) – next year, forget it – this guys is like that – the example you show of Niko’s alert is the firt of so many time he did go too far… we saw he could go because nobody punished hiom, so he continue – and he’s going to continue nest season, I have no doubt!… To bad… we so many bad things happening to F1… this is another, in my point of view….

  12. why did massa retire ?

  13. Split speed decisions are easy to critise after the event. Schumacher, Prost, Senna, Mansell, Piquet all did similar things, thats F1, it is dangerous. The one guy that did not moan is Mika himself so who are we to judge?

  14. Wayne said on 1st January 2010, 13:53

    Look, enough, F1 is dangerous, is exciting & thats why we watch it. As much as some hated Schuey & loved it when he lost his desire to win at all costs was always immense & no other driver could cope. In this crazy crazy PC world we live in its bad to want to win. Shove the nanny state up your **** & start getting some ruthlessness back in the world.

    Its a mans sport, its not for girls & the whole world has gone far too soft. 69 days to the season starts & i can’t wait, lets hope it lives up to what it promises.

    • David A said on 1st January 2010, 14:51

      This comment gets the thumbs up from me.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 1st January 2010, 15:26

      On the contrary, I think it’d be great to have a woman in F1 again, it’s long overdue. Don’t really see how it’s relevant to this, though.

      • Wayne said on 1st January 2010, 15:47

        Keith, after reading most of your comments on here i’m beginning to wonder if you have a love & passion for F1 or your a fully paid up member of the PC brigade. Women in F1…why ? the fact is their no good, end of. Overtaking, why is it getting to you that “RACING” drivers are racing ? like i sad earlier, i think you need to find a sport more suitable for yourself, like green bowls, far less danger & even OAP’s can play. When i started watching F1 the most appealing aspect of it was the sheer danger, man against machine, balls out moves, one misssion, people driven to win, Giles Villeneuve in Portugal, Mansell at Mexico, Senna at Suzuka, the list goes on, are your favourite races the processional sunday strolls around a middle eastern deserted desert. i think so. Get real or get out of F1, you’ve lost the whole point of what “racing” is. Its dangerous, is says so on the ticket. shocking, shocking commenys from a so called “F1 Fan”

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 1st January 2010, 17:08

          If a person’s a good enough driver to be in F1 it doesn’t matter what gender they are. And it’s not even slightly relevant to an article about Michael Schumacher.

        • steph90 said on 1st January 2010, 17:47

          Am I and all the other females on this site allowed to watch it then? Or is it just cars women are banned from?:S
          I don’t find it PC, I just think saying that I think the attitude of ‘women shoulod stay away from the cars’ just locks out potential talent.

          • Wayne said on 1st January 2010, 19:18

            If a woman driver was capable of being as competitive in a Formula One car as any of the current F1 drivers she would be in the seat, it would be a marketing dream. The fact is there are none so thats why no women drive in F1. FACT. (plus they can’t get the lipstick applied just so with a crash helmet on)

          • Maciek said on 1st January 2010, 20:31

            Wayne, you threatened by women much? The reason there are no women drivers in F1 is that for generations women were not made welcome in motorsports, so they had no chance to make their place in it. I know a few women who can kick any guy’s ass behind the wheel. Why don’t crawl back under the dark rock you came from and stay there. Men like you don’t deserve to be called men.

          • David A said on 1st January 2010, 21:11

            Hey, hey, hey Wayne! I liked your first post about the attitudes towards wanting to win, but don’t go too far! Tone it down :)

          • W154 said on 2nd January 2010, 5:48

            ‘Women will never be Grand Prix drivers because they’ve got no balls”-Denny Hulme 1968. Nothing more needs to be said!

          • James_mc said on 2nd January 2010, 17:18

            Although her ability on non-ovals is questionable, I’ll bet that Danica Patrick is much better than some of the “men” we’ve had driving, such as Yoong, Deletraz, Rosset etc etc etc.

            Anyway, back on topic, I think that Schumacher and Senna were as “bad as each other”, but Schumacher suffers from the anti-Ferrari backlash following the seemingly protective FIA attitude towards them in the early 00’s

          • Maciek said on 3rd January 2010, 2:54

            @W154 You’re so right, anything said in 1968 must be right – I don’t know why anyone’s bothered to come up with anything new since then.

  15. F1 drivers should be some of the bravest people on the planet.

    I’m sick of moaning drivers like Rosberg and Kubica complaining that Hamilton or Webber are driving dangerously because they defend their position or make a lunge overtaking move. This is what racing is and this is what I personally want to watch, not sissys complaining and people letting eachother through cleanly

    • Wayne said on 1st January 2010, 19:26

      Good man Tommy, there are people on here who plainly just do not get the point of what “RACING” is. Its really shocking & to be honest quite sad really. “F1 Fanatic !” Fanatical about what exactly ? Health & Safety ?????

    • David A said on 1st January 2010, 21:16

      In F1, we do need health and safety to prevent any more driver deaths. But thank you Tommy and Wayne for raising the point, the whingers and excuse makers need to stop and let the best drivers RACE! :)

      • Kovy said on 6th January 2010, 7:07

        I think they should accept death as a risk of competing. If they don’t like it they can go race in giant bubbles.

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