Alonso effusive in praise for Schumacher, Massa ducks a PR gaffe
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Aug 2011   |  5:58 pm GMT  |  67 comments

With this weekend being the 20th anniversary of Michael Schumacher’s debut in F1, there have been tributes aplenty from fellow drivers but none more effusive than from his great rival of the mid 2000s, Fernando Alonso.

“I have great respect for him, he’s one of the greatest or the greatest in our sport,” said Alonso. “The numbers are there and impossible to repeat for us. It’s been a great pleasure to drive with him all these years. I will always remember all the battles with him. It was a priviledge to drive against Michael Schumacher.

“He decided to stop and then come back and now the car is not competitive enough for him to win races, but I’m sure he is still enjoying. There are some criticisms about his results now but I don’t agree with them. Michael was watching the races at home three years ago, now he’s seventh or ninth, but I’m sure he is happy every morning because he is racing in F1. It’s what he wants to do; he’s a driver.

“Twenty years are a lot. If I think of myself it would be 2021 and I don’t think I can do that! I want to congratulate him for these 20 years and tell him it’s a pleasure to race against him.”

The Spaniard wasn’t always so gushing. In 2006 when Schumacher spun during qualifying in Monaco, preventing his rival from taking pole from him, Alonso told Mark Webber at dinner that if the stewards did not punish Schumacher he would lie down on the grid in front of Schumacher’s car to symbolise that the German “rides all over the other drivers”.

In the event this was not necessary as the stewards ruled that Schumacher had spun on purpose and put him at the back of the grid.

Perhaps thinking of this and other moments he wishes hadn’t happened, Schumacher was in philosophical mood this afternoon,

“Taking the 20 years, taking everything that I’ve been doing…. certainly, going backwards, I would do certain things differently, but then in life you have to make some mistakes in order to understand it is a mistake and to sort of set your guidelines..

“All in all, I guess the vest that I’m wearing, that I’m wearing inside me, is pretty white, and I’m pretty happy about this. I don’t have many regrets and overall, I certainly feel very excited and proud of what has happened.”

Earlier he had said, “The rulebook always leaves you certain grey zones and leaves you clear guidelines at some moments. You have always to adapt to those guidelines and to those changes and that’s obviously the limits that you search for and occasionally you may overstep (those limits) and you may take the penalty for it.”

There was a strong show of support and respect for Schumacher from his fellow drivers today. Sebastian Vettel called him his “childhood hero”. Realising he was getting too gushing, he changed tack and said, “I think he’s an OK driver!”

Schumacher’s former team mate Felipe Massa spoke about when he was a boy in Brazil and Schumacher seemed to him to be a phenomenon, taking on and beating the national hero Ayrton Senna in 1994.

“He was first in the championship and I remember Michael very strong and he became very famous in Brazil because he was a young guy who was already quicker than Ayrton,” said Massa.

I asked him to clarify this point; did he really mean to say that in his opinion Schumacher was quicker than Senna?

He took the opportunity to clarify; “I meant he was already breaking Senna’s balls,” laughed the Brazilian. “Senna had more pole positions but Michael was ahead in the championship. I don’t believe Michael was quicker than Senna, no. I think Senna was the most incredible qualifier ever, but I put both on the same level (in terms of speed).”

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i think schum was the best of all times. not taken anything away from senna the man was onreal but schum just has something about him when u see him race u just think he is going to win he put ferrari on top for years. lots of my friends stopped watching f1 cos the man just could not be stopped. so i say put Michael Schumacher back in a ferrari in 2013

we should vote on that


Combined quali + race record:

Senna: (65 + 41 )/ 161 = 33%

Schui (68 + 91 ) / 280 (end of 2011) = 28%


Maybe you did not know that back in the early 2000 FIA changed the qualifying rules in attempt to stop Msc running away from the front row especially after he wrapped up championship 2002 by French GP ie no qualifying engines or tyres ie unlimited tyres as Coulthard commented one time the interest in quali became meaningless so while it is true he had more starts you are not comparing eggs with eggs however in my opinion i do not think Michael was ever a quali ace it was his race pace that got him his results shades of Nicki Lauda i think who spent most of quali on his race pace


The closest that one could get to a direct comparison was 1993 when both were using ford v8 engines although sennas was around 30 bhp down on schumachers as it wasnt the latest spec ….yet senna managed 5 wins to schumachers 1 and was a close 2nd in the wdc to prost who was driving a overwhelminghly superior williams renault this superiority could be guaged from the fact that the williams got 15 out of 16 poles that year even though prost and hill were never outstanding qualifiers.

Moving on to 1994 the new fw16 without traction control and active suspension was initally a dog of a car with inherent handling problems and only sennas sublime skills put it on pole for the first 3 races in fact his teammate hill qualified 4th 3rd and 4th respectively pl note this was the same hill who pushed prost pretty hard the previous year. By comparison schumachers benetton was the class of the field.In Brazi the Benetton pitcrew made a very quick stop for Schumacher, getting him out in front of Senna to lead the race. Schumacher went on to win the Grand Prix after Senna spun out of the race. This sparked speculation that Benetton were using a system to make quicker pit stops than their rivals. In the Pacific gp Senna retired on the first lap of the race after a collision with McLaren driver Mika Häkkinen. Instead of going back to the Williams pit area, Senna opted to stand and watch the cars complete the race to see if he could hear any noises that suggested traction control was being used illegally in the other cars. Senna returned to the Williams pit area after the race suspicious that the Benetton car was illegal after his death all these suspicions were proved right. In Hungary it was discovered that benetton had indeed removed a filter from their refuelling rig therby enabling fuel to enter the car faster and getting faster pitstops.also after San marino illegal launch and traction control was found in the benetton but they claimed that they had not used it during races the governing body also announced that no evidence had been found to suggest Benetton were using illegal electronic systems, but did say that an illegal system did exist, which could be activated at any time. Finally schumacher hit the wall during the final gp in australia and when hill tried to overtake him rammed into hill with his crippled car and won the title by 1 point. That pretty much sums up his speed compared to senna and its pretty obvious who would have won in 1994 if fate had not interviened.


Look at qualifying for the first three races of 1994 – Senna was around 2-3 tenths quicker than Schumacher, and was 1.5s, 0.5s and 0.6s quicker than Damon Hill.

Later in the year, in the vastly-improved FW16B, Damon was able to bring the fight to Michael (especially after that traction control software was removed). The fact is that the FW16 was a very difficult car to drive, after two years of developing their design to be optimal for active suspension, returning to passive suspension became a nightmare. Even simply raising the front wing improved the car drastically.

Sadly, we never got to see what Senna could do in the FW16B. He might have trounced Schumacher for the rest of the year and taken the title… or it may have just made it easier for Damon to match Senna’s pace, and a three-way battle for the title would have ensued.

The most important part is that Senna was able to take a car that handled very poorly and put it on pole three times in a row, beating Schumacher.

It’s for that reason that I think Senna would have just had a bit of an edge over Schumacher both in qualifying and the race, if they were in equal cars.


as a schumacher fan (based on the evidence and his stunning race performances throughout his massive career) ….Senna was stunning. I think though this was helped by the fact that you could make the cars ‘dance’ due to the tyres and the mechanical grip they had relative to aero.

Ironically when they went to grooves, and the cars became much more nervous and twitchy, this really brought out some skill and schumacher was visibly quicker.

Back on slicks, and the cars now are so stable, that advantage has gone.

its a real shame. bring back the grooves i say. look how much more exciting the races are when theres lower grip levels, and you can visibly see the drivers using their skills.


Anyone have an idea/leak on what Ferrari’s “surprise” is for Schumi??


Astonishing how fate stepped in to mean the Schumacher/Senna comparison could never be settled. Such an incredible shame we never got to see that battle happen.

Regarding Schumacher’s current performance, I think the whole F1 world wants to see him have a competitive car next year to see where he really stands in the current era. It is all very well looking at his results over the last 18 months as a disappointment, but until he has machinery capable of regularly challenging for a podium we will never ever know how he stands currently.


A little bit behind Nico….


I think it is wrong to compare drivers or any two individuals in any discipline of life

Just like you can’t compare artists even from the same Genre it would be wrong to compare drivers or any athletes or individuals.

Speaking on Drivers one must note that all the drivers brought unique genres to racing:









Alain Prost

Nelson Piquet

Ayrton Senna

Michael Schumacher


All of these drivers brought unique packages in terms of approach, preparation and application.

To assert my point, the contemporary Mclaren driver line up reflects the independent packages each driver brings while Hamilton is Hung-ho, Button is calculatingly precise.

So, one must enjoy each drivers’ display rather than be caught up in comparisons.

On the subject of Schumacher:

Statistically he is the greatest and statistics are not formed by being slow in this sport. Probably our generation does not value that as much as future generations will.

Enjoy 🙂


So far everyone has alluded to Senna being at his prime in the Williams. I beg to differ, seeing as we could never know what results Ayrton would have achieved in the Williams due to his tragic death and had only scored DNF’s to that point. Therefore, for me, Senna was in his prime in the McLaren.

And I would have to say that Schumacher in his Benneton, against Senna in the MP4/7 (pick a model with a Honda engine to be honest here) would not have stood a chance. To back this up, there is a video on youtube of Senna in 89 in his Mclaren compared with Schumacher in his 99 Ferrari at Suzuka. They were almost identical in lap time.

We kind of have to remember that we are not comparing two different era’s. There was an overlap and there may well have been a series of years if Ayrton had not have been killed but this is purely hypothetical.

I prefer Ayrton over Michael purely because of Michaels expression of sheer delight when he won at Imola when Ayrton was taken from us. There was no element of regret or sincerity on that day and there has rarely been any since.

There is a comment that Senna wasnt as good a manager etc, but remember that back in those days there wasnt the army of helpers and physios and advisers etc, this became trendy in the later 90’s.

So for me, the more complete driver was Senna, the more complete man was Senna. Michael was more ruthless in a mean spirited way (Hungary 2010) than Ayrton and that has always rubbed me up the wrong way. I guess thats why the book was called the edge of greatness.


Interesting piece of trivia which I have not seen written anywhere yet: At the mid-point of his 20 year period (Spa 2001) Schumacher won and overtook Alain Prosts 51 victories record. Another interesting piece in the ‘symmetry story’!

(For the question debated, must go for Senna.)


Linux was announced to the world the same day Michael Schumacher competed in his first F1 race!


I think every Brazilian (race fans and no race fans) will be very very disappointed by Massa’s comments.

It is clear that he is a fan of MS. Greater than a fan of Senna. In fact I never remember hearing Massa expressing him being a fan of Senna. I believe he once mentioned Fittipaldi as a great hero.

But to say that Schumacher was popular in Brazil as he was young, upcoming and beating Senna? Then you can only come from the Piquet camp.. but not the Senna fan club.

Also looking back: Schumacher beat Senna at Interlagos partly due to the faster and illegal refueling technology that Benetton was using.

And then on top of it all: referring back to the year 1994, calling Schumacher (initially) greater and more popular than Senna… all in one breath?

I find that insulting to some degree. 1994 was not a year for Schumacher to be very proud of: -the lack of competition because of the passing away of Senna; – illegal refueling technology on the Benetton; – [mod] stuff with traction control; – black flagging and bans at Spa; and to cap it all: driving Damon Hill into the wall to clinch his first WDC.

Thank you James for headlining Massa’s remarks as a gaffe. I hope the Brazilian press picks it up big time and further presses Massa for clarifications.

I think MS is an amazing icon for F1, but in my opinion that limits to the incredible statistics he’s laid down..and the resurgence of Ferrari he’s brought about…but not for sporting achievements.



You realize it’s not fair for you to ask this question without weighing in yourself, right?

Thanks indeed for the memories Michael, and do supply us with a few more!


Well, as someone who has both a Senna tattoo and a dachshund named Schumi, and who saw them both win races in person …

They’re equally great drivers. Because of their backgrounds — Senna the emotional Brazilian, Schumacher the technocratic German — Senna was the more fun to watch, certainly on Saturdays!!

That said, if I was (say) Ron Dennis in a mid-1990s F1 world without Imola, and personalities didn’t factor into the equation, I might go for Schumi over Senna. Schumi had a driving style honed to the sprints of the refueling era in a way that I can’t imagine even Senna could have bettered. Statistics can mislead, but they don’t lie.

Of course, Ron adored Senna even despite their many disagreements, and rated Mika over Schumi anyway — so that says something too!


Tough one, Senna and Schumi both have their persona.

But I don’t think there will be another driver who can beat Schumi’s track records in F1 History.

Racing drivers are a bunch hot blooded folks and they never cease to fascinate me with their opinions which makes it even more colourful.

But respect goes to Schumi for coming back to F1, what else does he wants to do besides racing. Can you imagine how boring life would be for Schumi if he didn’t make a come back. I empathize with him though.

Happy 20th years of racing Schumi! and bring on Spa.


i think senna was better, but for some reason took him longer to get to his maximun, on the other hand schumacher was fast out of the box. May be the cars were easier to drive when schumi started i don’t know.


Poor Massa, even in the text after the header he is forgotten.. 🙂


I never had the pleasure to watch Senna trackside so I can’t compare, but why argue who the best was, just appreciate their skills. I watched Schumacher go around Pouhon on the first lap of a damp practice in 2005 I think, totally committed and on a different level to everybody else. A simple moment, but the finest single piece of driving i’ve ever seen. Thanks for the memories Michael.


Senna’s name is legend, no way for him not to have the sentimental vote.

Schumi is a living legend, one who has some haters, no way for him to not loose votes because of it.

This is one of those questions that will never be answered, unless these F1 engineers come up with a time machine and we put them both into the same team in 1993 for a test with 1 day of car set up, and then a lap shootout.


James this is an almost impossible vote, its like voting for your mother or father! Id say senna was quickest over one lap but on a race distance they would be equal .

Get ready for some angry posts ha!


I do understand that there is hardly any comparison as they both have their own pros and cons. The web is full of it.

But this may help – If I will be watching two movies based on both of personalities, I would find Senna to be not only a better driver but as a better entertainer and an interesting human. Senna dominance was interesting in a lot manner, like Prost rivalry, racing style etc. but Schumacher dominance made F1 almost boring and unfair to Barichello. 😀


A slight tangent….

Not sure quite how to put this, so some latitude please?

Anyway, I have always thought Schumacher’s reputation was never going to be as high as it could have been had he been able to beat Senna fair and square. He must have almost grown up dreaming of beating Senna to be the best driver in the world. But just as he had that change, he was cruelly robbed.

Not only that, we the fans were robbed. Imagine a few seasons of Schumacher v Senna? Would Schumacher’s reputation have been different? Senna could be hard and dirty when necessary, and importantly hated by as many as who adored him. So would we fans have looked on Schumacher more favourably had he pulled those moves on Senna rather than the “beloved” Damon Hill?

I always felt sort of sorry for Schumacher in that he could never ever proved himself by beating a driver like Senna. Essentially, there was no hand over.

Edward Valentine

Great piece again James.

If you look at the times when Schumacher was in trouble or had a problem he would somehow manage to get away with it by either foul or fair means. On raw pace I’d give it to Senna but in terms of all round game I just feel Schumacher shades it.


The mans an enigma for sure,goes from blocking the track at La Rascasse,rightfully heavily penalised but then goes on to come from last position to 5th place at flag fall,”at Monaco no less”,surely one of the great drives of F1.

I’m rapt the Schu’s still with us.It adds another dimension to the man to see him still head up & pushing for all he’s worth regardless of his midfield car.

Fingers crossed for an awesome Spa weekend.

“Can’t wait”.


it depends by what measure are you considering the term ‘faster’….over a single lap? in identical cars? over a race distance? to use those elements at your disposal to be faster than the competition?

it’s always the question everyone asks yet impossible to really quantify unless the two in question are teammates, driving identical cars, both physically and mentally in similar circumstances, and with equal pressure in terms of any championship. otherwise these factors get in the way.

the magic of the sport is in enjoying the different ways each driver approaches the whole of f1; the weekend, the cars, set-up, qualy, the race, their attitude. in this regard senna became globally heroic because of his pace in difficult conditions or on ‘driver’s tracks’, his untimely death and his mystique, whereas schumacher achieved his through dedication, a new approach to fitness and success and delivering on the team elements within the sport. both obviously were the pinnacle, what’s so wonderful is seeing their entirely different ways of going about the same thing!

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