The documentary on the life of Michael Schumacher looked back on the sport and everything it once was. Shining the spotlight on his incredible career, ‘Schumacher’ also reminded the world of his relentless battles on the track. With commentaries from his competitors as well, the German stands as a respected rival to all he’s competed against.
The greatest rival – Mika Hakkinen
The Flying Finn and the Red Baron promised the most competitive races on the tracks. Embroiled in fierce on-track battles, the pair made for memorable edge-of-the-seat entertainment. However, despite being iconic rivals, the two drivers were friends; their respect for each other lay the foundations of their competition.
Fighting for the championship title, the two never let their relationship get acrimonious. They respected each other and stayed away from a war of words; a rarity in the world of Formula 1. Hakkinen once explained this dynamic between the two champions.
“We were so fast, both of us on the racetrack, we knew that one day Michael will win, one day I will win. It doesn’t matter what we’re going to say in public, we’re still going to be very strong, we’re always going to fight and it’s not going to affect our work.”
26 JULY, 1998:
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 26, 2017
The Finn added, “It’s so easy to show your frustration in public, to say something about your competitor. We didn’t start this kind of game in the media.”
Hakkinen easily makes his place as Schumacher’s greatest rival. Not only because of the great sportsmanship the two drivers shared, but also because of their exemplary racing on the track.
Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher
Damon Hill and Schumacher’s rivalry almost stands as a mirror to the battle we’re witnessing in 2021. The championship fight between Hill and Schumacher saw the same unpredictability in results as we see in Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The battle was intense, and the races could swing either way.
Iconic 1994 championship showdown in Adelaide saw a point dividing the two drivers. With Schumacher crashing out of the race, Hill looked to take the title. However, after an issue with his car, Hill too was out of the race, making Schumacher the world champion.
The first of his seven #F1 titles was perhaps one of the hardest-fought
— Formula 1 (@F1) January 3, 2019
Hill once reflected on the battle, saying, “Michael pushed me to the maximum and I gave the maximum I’d ever given in a car in Suzuka to keep the Championship alive, and after that, we went to Adelaide and carried on.”
Competing with the new guy, Hill gave Schumacher the perfect championship battle that set the tone for six yet to come.
The controversial rival
Schumacher added another rival to his list in Canadian driver Jacques Villeneuve. The race at Jerez is well known; the long and heated rivalry culminated into a collision as the Canadian and the German collided while fighting for the championship. Schumacher was removed from the run from the title, and Villeneuve returned home in glory.
However, the two never resolved their conflict. Villeneuve once commented on Shumacher’s rivalry. “He had a total lack of respect for other drivers and what racing is all about.”
Dethroning Michael Schumacher
After a ridiculously long run of titles, a Spanish lion impeded Schumacher’s reign. In 2005, Fernando Alonso swept in and took the championship. The then-Renault driver gave tough competition to the German’s Ferrari.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 25, 2018
Having immense respect for the German, Alonso credited him for his two titles. “Michael is a legend of the sport. I learned a lot from him in 2001 through to 2004 and then in 2005 and 2006 I was fighting side by side and wheel to wheel with Michael.”
An honorable mention
Before Schumacher became a legend of the sport, Ayrton Senna‘s name resounded in Formula 1. Schumacher and Senna set the blueprints for today’s drivers and are undoubtedly the greatest names in the sport.
However, as Schumacher made his way into F1, he threatened Senna’s comfortable reign. In 1994, Senna famously protested Schumacher’s Benetton machine, claiming it to be illegal. With Prost’s retirement, Schumacher stepped up to be the only driver on the grid capable of challenging Senna, and the Brazilian knew it too.
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM – AUGUST 30: GP VON BELGIEN 1992, Spa; Ayrton SENNA, SIEGER Michael SCHUMACHER/GER – BENETTON FORD – (Photo by Bongarts/Getty Images)
Having spent only two years together on the grid, the Senna- Schumacher rivalry remains a case of ‘what could have been’; Senna’s catastrophic death in Imola robbing us of what could have been a battle between two of the greats.
As rivalries come and go, we have one unfolding in front of us today. The Hamilton-Verstappen battle is surely one for the history books; one which is rightly compared to the greats.
Watch this story: Inside Michael Schumacher’s Car Collection
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