Issue # 6

Monday October 19

Nicht so schnell Herr Hamilton ...

By Steve Atkinson

 

To the naked eye Hamilton matched Schumacher's 91 wins at the Nurburgring on October 11. But there is dispute. Unease at large. At Sports Annual we measure career win and point scoring per start. On that basis Lewis passed Michael nearly four years ago at Interlagos, 2016. But that's not the full story with these two juggernauts. There's not an undisputed champion. Not just yet anyway.  

Click here to understand the formula we use to rank race drivers

Here at Sports Annual a driver's final score is the score he takes into history. It's the one that counts. But it's not his only score. Every time a driver starts a race his score changes. He'll have as many individual scores as races.

There are four important results. Debut, peak, trough and final. It's that peak score we want to talk about today. Michael Schumacher's best result. And it's important because this "warrior" of the track got closer to Fangio than any driver since the 1950s. Closer than all of them. Closer than Senna or Stewart or Prost, closer than Lauda, Brabham or Stirling Moss. And THAT score is a little down the road from Lewis yet.

Michael's top career result took place at the Hungarian GP on August 15, 2004.

It was his 12th win of 13 races early that season. Here Michael peaked with

           2.512 rpw / 5.543 ppr

These are monumental numbers. Remember that ppr can be converted to track position. That's almost, on average, a second place in every race. Consider the dollar value of that average score or placings across a career today.

The following year, 2005, he won only one race in the season. He won seven races in 2006 and then retired for the first time closing out his stunning career at Ferrari with ...

           2.736 rpw / 5.253 ppr

 

The difference between his peak and that final '06 score doesn't look like much but it's significant. It looks like five tenths in total because ... well because it is. 

Then he returned to Mercedes in 2010. Over the next three season he started 58 races for no wins and only 27 points (10 - 1). Those three final years demolished his win rate.

 

He finally retired from F1 with a career average of ...

 

          3.373 rpw / 4.348 ppr.

It is that final figure Lewis cruised past at Interlagos in 2016. But there's more ... 

The rise and rise and rise of Lewis Hamilton

Lewis has had a very different career trajectory to Michael Schumacher.

Of his 260 plus starts only five of them, FIVE, saw him outside the Sports Annual top ten. In that context Hamilton's main career rival was not Schumacher it was Jim Clark. It's where his Sports Annual battle began and where it remains.

Lewis Hamilton is proof the 50s winners are not out of reach to the younger generation. He debuted 2007 in third behind (pre Mercedes) Michael before gradually settling back into a battle with Clark for fourth place.

The McLaren Years

Clark vs Hamilton was tight through 07 and 08. Clark led virtually all of it.  

Then in 2009 a run of poor results saw him fall three places behind Senna. He would spend two seasons on Senna's tail gradually falling back to Stirling Moss, at that stage in 10th. Moss overtook him at Brazil,  2013. It was at Suzuka 2013 where he fell out of the top ten for those five races. The driver that passed him?

Damon Hill. 5.227 rpw / 3.130 ppr 

Looking at Hamilton's Sports Annual results for that period his move to Mercedes was not the risk it appeared to be. Here his McLaren trajectory was plain from at least 2009. He wasn't winning enough races.

In 2014 the climb back began. He clawed his way past Moss (at Suzuka .. the race that claimed the life of Jules Bianchi) and then finally past Senna the following year at Silverstone on July 5, 2015.

For a full season he gradually reigned in Schumacher final score for fifth and the following year, at Monza on 3 September 2017, he passed Clark for third. He's been gradually pulling away race by race ever sinse. Up the road is Alberto Ascari in second place ... with only Fangio beyond. 

Right now Lewis Hamilton has 2.868 rpw / 5.260 ppr. 

Let's look again at Michael's final Ferrari score and compare. 

Schumacher. 2.725 rpw / 5.274 ppr.

Hamilton 2.868 rpw / 5.260 ppr. 

Almost identical points scoring as you can see. It's the win rate.

 

So Hamilton long ago passed Michael's final score. His final Ferrari score is well within reach. And as that score falls to Hamilton .. so falls Ascari's second place.

It could be this year. Beyond that ... well the road to Fangio is steep. I think too steep.

But the road to the man who got closest ... and that's Michael, well it's going to be tough to be the undisputed greatest race driver of the modern age but it's there. It's possible.

Let's look at the top five all time greatest winners and points scorers as it stands today.

1. JM Fangio (ARG) ... 2.125 rpw / 5.941 ppr

2. A. Ascari (ITA) ......  2.461 rpw / 4.906 ppr

3. L. Hamilton (GB) ...  2.868 rpw / 5.260 ppr

4. J. Clark (GB) ........  2.880 rpw / 4.153 ppr

5. M. Schumacher (D)  3.373 rpw / 4.348 ppr