Motorhead: Can Vettel eclipse Schu's records?
Bernie Ecclestone had the interesting idea this week of giving Michael Schumacher the same car as Sebastian Vettel – but he should have made a different comparison.
Schumacher, given the best equipment or otherwise, is not the driver he was at his peak.
He is good – more than good enough to hold his own with the best 20-plus drivers the sport can offer today – but he is not the driver who won back-to-back world titles with Benetton, nor the one who helped drag Ferrari back to the front of the grid.
If you want to compare the legends, then do so when they were at the same points of their careers. The results are remarkably similar:
It is hard to resist the comparisons because so much about the two invites it. They are both German, coming from small towns and relatively humble backgrounds. They began their careers in the sport at middling teams (Schumacher at Jordan, Vettel at Toro Rosso) and made impressions immediately. By the end of their third full seasons in the sport they were world champions, winning their teams the first drivers’ crowns in their history. Then, they did it again.
Schumacher, naturally, was Vettel’s idol as he grew up, while the German press dubbed the youngster ‘Baby Schumi’. Despite the differences between the two in terms of personality and style, what linked them shone too brightly to ignore.
With youth on Vettel’s side, and a team with the resources and desire to stay at the top of the sport for some time to come, Schumacher’s records, which not so long ago seemed certain to last a generation, suddenly look vulnerable.
But the standard of drivers in Formula One has rarely been higher, and Vettel looks set for some ferocious battles over the course of his career if he wants to add more titles to his name. If Lewis Hamilton, still only 27 himself, gets a car the equal of Vettel’s, theirs could be a duel for the ages. Fernando Alonso, 30, has several seasons of racing left in him too.
And Alonso is the cautionary tale here for those who would assume Vettel will set new benchmarks. At the start of the 2007 season, Alonso, then 25, was the reigning double world champion, having just beaten Schumacher to the championship. His record then of 88 races, 15 wins, 15 poles, did not look dissimilar to those of the two Germans. But despite having come desperately close to a third crown – just a point behind eventual winner Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, held up by Vitaly Petrov in the final race of 2010 with the title at his mercy – the next success has eluded him.
Vettel looks destined for a career which places him amongst the greats of the sport. But will he have the records to his name to eclipse even Schumacher?
Michael Schumacher’s marks
Races: 288 (and counting)
Pole positions: 68
Do you think Vettel can eclipse Schumacher? Or are the 43-year-old’s achievements in the sport beyond the current world champion? Have your say in the comments section below!