Hamilton better than Schumacher? Villeneuve tells us

“Only won when they had the best car.” is the simplest way of putting it when former F1 driver and Champion Jaques Villeneuve gives his appraisal on the question, who is better? Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher.

On paper, “Schumi” continues to be the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time with seven World Championship titles, but Hamilton is getting closer and closer.

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F310B (right) turns into the passing Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Williams FW19 in a vain attempt to take his Championship rival out of the race. Villeneuve survived to finish third and take the Championship crown; Schumacher retired on the spot and was subsequently stripped of his second place in the Championship.
European Grand Prix, Jerez, Spain, 26 October 1997.


In 2019 the Briton will most likely clinch his sixth title. For ex-champion Jacques Villeneuve, however, the comparison question doesn’t arise at all.

“These two drivers only won when they had the best car,” he told Motorsport-Total.com. “They always had the best car in their entire career. If you put Lewis in a Williams now, he won’t win,” and explains: “He’s super good and always makes the right decision about which team to join.”

“There he builds up a team around himself. That’s all. He might not have won in a Ferrari,” he muses.

In any case, Villeneuve finds the comparison between drivers from different Formula 1 eras generally nonsensical. Gerhard Berger, for example, declared this year that Hamilton was the first driver to be on a par with Ayrton Senna.

“That’s the stupidest comment,” Villeneuve declares. “You could also say he’s the first on Fangios level. How do you compare that? It was a completely different time. Who knows?” he shrugs his shoulders and adds: “And Senna is also a winner in the best car. [Alain] Prost, too. That’s just the way it goes.”

Villeneuve himself won his only his Formula 1 title in 1997, when he drove for Williams – and thus in what was probably the best car in the field.


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6 responses to “Hamilton better than Schumacher? Villeneuve tells us

  1. With a season consisting of 20 or more races, it will be impossible to be successful in anything but the best car (unlike the old days of 9 races in a season where a driver could come second and still win the WDC).
    Much as I like JV for winning the world championship IN SPITE of the best efforts of Schumi, I think Lewis and Ayrton have won races when they did not have the best car and have both won races in awful circumstances (weather, missed qualis, etc). The fact that Hamilton has won races when his team mate has not (and not because of a clause in his contract) shows that winning in the best car is not applicable when racing an identical car.
    If Hamilton can overhaul the number of race wins and get a 7th WDC in 2020 he will have done this with a higher win ratio than Schumi and will, by definition, be the most successful driver. The only real comparison left will be with Jim Clark (who also won with the best cars) who was a better qualifier and, arguably, a better racer than Hamilton.

  2. Arguably, Schumacher’s Benetton-Ford was not the fastest car in 1994. However, the team and Schummy himself engaged in so much cheating that season that his 1994 title should not be something to be proud of.

    As for Villeneuve’s argument, it’s completely ridiculous. In the last 35 years or so, every champion drove that season’s fastest car, with the possible exception of 1994, which I already mentioned.

  3. I would argue that Schumacher was possibly not in the best car in 2000, I believe the Mclaren was possibly a tad faster. The same with Lewis in 2008, Over the entire season Massa probably had a faster car just. You could also make a case for 2018, with the Ferrari again arguably faster over the entire season.

    Both are the best of their eras and it’s so hard to compare drivers from different eras. I personally prefer Hamilton as he has never requested team orders or No.1 status in a team, and never been involved in dirty driving/cheating controversy as Schumi has.

    • in 2012 is a good case to mention the McLaren being overall the best car yet failed to best Vettel in the Red Bull

  4. It’s impossible to say who is the G.O.A.T. That is always going to be no more than just conjecture. It is a little easier to say who is the G.O.T.O.T. (greatest of their own time). Then you have the M.H.B.G.O.T.O.T. (may have been greatest of their own time), in which case, one begins to include people like “the best driver never to have won a WDC” (Chris Amon) and the only posthumous WDC (Jochen Rindt). The key characteristic is that all G.O.T.O.T’s work very hard and make the best of the cars they have at the time. Lewis has been (mostly) doing that all through his F1 career. The top of the G.O.T.O.T. pyramid is always very flat, so let’s enjoy each season, its surprises and the hope that a current driver (Lewis) will beat “the record” in two years time, leaving Max, Charles or A.N.Other to achieve that feat in 11 years time.

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