The Briton won at the Eifel Grand Prix and not only equaled the German’s record of victories on the track. He also took another step towards the seventh championship. From one legend to another.
Michael Schumacher was 23 when he won his first Formula 1 Grand Prix. He knew the category: he had the background of his first season at Benetton, the 1991 one that represented Ayrton Senna’s last title. He lifted 90 more trophies until October 1, 2006, when he won the Chinese GP, the last triumph of his career.
His record, the one that seemed as impossible to achieve as his seven titles, began to falter for a Lewis Hamilton who in his debut season and at 22 years old, on June 10, 2007, took his McLaren to first place on the podium in Canada. Thirteen years later and after a couple of postponements, he also achieved 91 F1 victories at the Nurburgring.
After winning the last Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello, the 35-year-old English driver reached Schumacher’s number of races won by climbing to the top of the podium at the Eifel Grand Prix. In a season in which he could also win his seventh title, he has already become the man with the most pole positions (96) and the man with the most podiums in his career (160).
Schumacher and Hamilton agree on something: their first triumphs were not with Ferrari or Mercedes, the teams in which they shone.
The German first saw the checkered flag in the first place on August 30, 1992 and the key was an oversight. With 14 laps to go, Schumi, who was running third, came off a wet track from the rain that had fallen and filled his grass tires, and was easily passed by his teammate, Martin Brundle.
Immediately, the Kaiser He went to the pits, where he left his rain tires for dry floor tires. Three laps later, with the asphalt getting drier, Nigel Mansell – the then leader – followed in his footsteps but came out behind the German, who kept the lead and even, five laps from the end, set the fastest lap. He climbed to the podium with the Williams who would later become champion and Riccardo Patrese.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was a rookie when he achieved his first victory. His start had been meteoric: five podiums, just one in third place, so his victory was only a matter of time. It arrived on June 10, 2007, at the Canadian Grand Prix, where the flashes -however- were taken by the spectacular accident of Robert Kubica.
Despite his enormous results, Hamilton knew he was up for more but shared a team with Fernando Alonso, the number 1 driver for McLaren. “I’m number 2,” he told reporters before that first victory in a surreal race, in which Kubica crashed into the wall at high speed and ended up with a broken leg.
While Hamilton was winning the race, he was positioned as the leader of the championship and showed that he was much more than “driver 2”, Alonso barely managed to add two points from seventh after a poor start and a penalty.
“Sooner or later it was going to happen. The team helped me by having a racing car in perfect condition and I had no problems. The next dream is to win the championship. But I do not forget that I am a rookie and I’m sure bad times will come,” he said the English, as a premonition of everything that would happen next.
Michael Schumacher was already 27 when he won his first Grand Prix with Ferrari. It was a rainy June 2, 1996, at the Spanish GP. After an irregular start, with three retirements and two podiums with the Prancing Horse, the Catalunya circuit presented itself as a challenge for the two-time world champion with Benetton.
Spain received Formula 1 after the crazy Monaco GP won by Olivier Panis and with Williams at the head of the constructors’ championship. The media even questioned Schumacher for having gone to Ferrari, which had only achieved two victories in the last 5 years.
Qualifying went to Damon Hill’s Williams, followed by his teammate Jacques Villeneuve. But Schumi (3rd) managed to overtake them in the race, after a poor start in which he fell to seventh place. Others had worse: the spray clouds on the damp ground as a result of the rain that had begun to fall on Saturday afternoon caused six drivers to drop out in the first two laps.