Is Schumacher better than Senna? It’s not easy comparing two of the greatest F1 drivers of all time.
They say one was driven by his heart and the other was driven by his head. Together, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher make up two of the most famous, iconic, legendary and talented F1 drivers in history whose names are known across the globe. Some say Senna had a natural gift for racing and that he was a born talent whereas Schumacher is often considered to be more technically minded.
This debate is not an uncommon one and when Formula 1 fans are asked “who is the greatest of all time?” it’s usually Senna and Schumacher that is the focus of the debate. The problem with this is that they’re so closely matched that it’s hard to determine a clear winner. No matter the facts, the stories, the quotes, the controversies – there is no objective way to decide which one is truly better than the other.
That being said, it’s always good to debate it!
Let’s compare stats
Senna had 161 starts and Schumacher had a larger total of 308. Impressively, Schumacher’s win rate is slightly higher than Senna’s, standing at 29.39% compared to Senna’s 25.47%. On the other hand, Senna’s Pole percentage is about 10% higher but their podium finishes are roughly the same in percentage terms.
You could say that Schumi held the fastest lap time much more often, but you could also say Senna suffered a much higher proportion of technical failures. There seems to be no clear winner when looking at the stats as both of them had different strengths and weaknesses and faced different challenges during their careers, which is exactly why comparing stats is not enough to decide which is the better driver!
Michael Schumacher has the most wins in history, most wins in a season, most consecutive seasons with a Grand Prix win, the highest total of fastest laps, most podium finishes and the most championships.
Senna, on the other hand, holds the record for most consecutive pole positions and most races led on every lap. However, you must consider that Senna only competed in 161 races whereas Schumi competed in 306 which may justify the disparity. That being said, it is clear that Schumacher had many more records.
World records are impressive, but it is also important to consider the ways in which these records were obtained.
Two different eras
Although both of these F1 icons raced during similar times, we must remember that those few years make one hell of a difference. As Senna was climbing the ranks, he had to climb past two of the most formidable opponents that you could possibly end up with, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell.
Let us be the ones that remind you that Prost came close to the record for most consecutive pole positions, with a total of 7 in a row, coming just shy of Senna’s record of 8. Prost is also joint second with Senna when it comes to the highest percentage of pole positions in a season, both of them with 81.25% and let’s not forget that Prost is in the top 5 for total wins, total pole positions, fastest laps, podium finishes and most laps led.
Secondly, Senna also had Nigel Mansell to compete against who was also a very successful and renowned driver. Mansell has won the most races out of any British F1 driver and is also very famous for being the only driver in history to hold the F1 and CART world titles simultaneously. Many people will argue that Senna’s environment was much harsher than Schumi’s as he was surrounded by incredibly talented Formula 1 legend’s.
Lastly, Senna also had to run among the likes of Lauda, Rosberg and Piquet. Many will agree that Aryton was in the most competitive era of Formula 1 racing.
On the other hand, Senna fans will argue that Schumi had it easy. He was the teacher’s pet at Ferrari and was well looked after, not only by the big dogs at Ferrari who had (and still have) a huge influence over the world of F1, but also by his teammates. Teammates were not just there to race, but to also guard Schumacher and ensure that he could perform his best without unnecessary interruption.
The first example that comes to mind of this kind of behaviour would be the time where his fellow Ferrari driver, Barrichello, was ordered to let Schumacher pass him so that he could win the race and continue his winning streak. This happened in 2002 at the Austrian GP and is remembered as an uncelebrated and very controversial win.
For every good thing you can say about Schumacher, there exists an equally good thing you can say about Senna and vice versa. At the end of the day, they are each a different kind of driver with different achievements. Schumacher may be more successful in terms of records, but Senna was racing in a much more competitive environment and was still able to come out on top.
If Schumacher was born in Senna’s shoes and had to race in his period without the help of Ferrari, would he really achieve the same as Aryton did?
So is Senna your favourite or is it Schumacher? Let us know in the comments.
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