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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