I think Senna often gets off lightly in the press about his less than favourable actions because the press needs to sell. Over recent years, I’ve seen a lot of people, not necessarily Schumacher fans, who are critical of Senna’s actions against Prost and others. I think Schumacher simply became a hotter topic because he was an active driver and with Senna passed away, no clear one-on-one rivalries, he became the face of the sport.
I still have a Schumacher towel laying around somewhere, but even at 15, I really couldn’t defend his move at Rascasse in 2006. I actually missed both Austria 2002 and USA 2002 due to visiting races at Zandvoort, so I dodged that moral bullet somehow, but seeing the YouTube replays later really opened my eyes at just how disgusting those moves were. It wasn’t all Schumacher’s fault, but it’s easy to see why most of it was directed at him, going by Adelaide and Jerez.
It’s funny @krtekf1 mentions Vettel and Alonso, because I feel those two drivers have really inherited the anti-crowd from Schumacher (the YouTube comment section kind). Vettel has been bashed for his dominance; with people saying it’s just the car, he doesn’t have an equal teammate, he only drove the fastest cars, best designers, engines, etc. Alonso, on the other hand, has some of the blind hate Schumacher used to receive; he tweets? Hungry for attention. Samurai quotes? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Unfortunate quotes about luck in the press? He thinks he is the best and all the others are lucky. Team mate isn’t up to the job? He is blocking decent drivers from the second seat.
As people in the press commenting on Schumacher always compared him to Senna, today’s top drivers (minus Kimi) are compared to Schumacher. ‘Will he break Schumacher’s record?’ ‘Did he do better than Schumacher’ etc.
As far as Stewart’s and many others’ comment that he isn’t the greatest driver, I wonder the following; Senna was praised for his raw ability and passion, Prost for his calculating nature and intelligence. Schumacher seems to be less absolute, but very much possessive of those elements. I’d figure if anyone in the early 90s predicted a driver would come along that was nearly as quick as Senna, as smart as Prost and as fit as a marathon runner, what would they think?
As fas as his popularity goes; I think Schumacher also laid the groundwork for today’s ‘characterless’ drivers. If you rewind and watch some late 90s press conferences where he won; he thanks the team, the test crew, etc, he never really went up in arms about other drivers or did anything silly and was far more professional than most other drivers in the 90s. Now, that has become the basics of being an F1 driver. If you look at a 90s F1 magazine, guys like Irvine, Villeneuve and Hill weren’t considered huge characters, but now, any of them would shake up the F1 media.