-ZeroGravityToilet- wrote:Coming back to it. I kind of agree with Massa.
I remember seeing the emergence of Schumi in the early nineties and it was clear he was a special talent. No mistakin'it. And then, as another poster has already described, the entire star-studded eighties generation suddenly retired/died. It left MS out alone to battle the likes of Damon Hill, whom I really like, but is not a super-top driver, Irvine, Berger, Barrichello, Coulthard and Häkkinen. None of them can compare to the likes of Piquet, Mansell, Prost and Senna, whom had to battle one another for most of their careers.
Then, of course, there's the small issue of his antics while driving, which really diminish his figure.
I have said before that MS reminds me a little (or viceversa) of Valentino Rossi. A planet-size talent that one can not really place that high because of the lack of competition faced during most of his career (Biaggi and Gibernau having been the high points of his title winning gold era...) And then there's the small issue of his antics on road...
Both had it a little too was with their title sprees. Even Vettel whom I do not rate at MS level by a long stretch, had Alonso to contend with in his four years in a superdominant car. Schumi had to face Hill Irvine Hakkinen and Barrichello, mainly.
I have the impression I would rate MS higher with a few less titles and race wins, but better competition. But I can not be sure. In the end, little he could do there.
But it is true that both Schumi and Rossi had it much tougher (or so it seems) once a new outstanding generation appeared, got the equipment and the experience.
So, not taking anything away from anyone, and clear as it is that MS is legendary and optimised his circumstance, I tend to agree Alonso to be a better talent, a tougher rival. And also a much cleaner and fairer driver on the road.
It should probably be taken into consideration not only Massa's personal experience on the issue at hand, but two circumstances that would probably help sway his opinion in Schumi's favor once he has left the sport: first, it is well known that Massa appreciates MS personally, having regarded him frequently as a friend and mentor, someone of whom he'll tend to speak well naturally; and second, and please everybody take this in a good stride, Schumi's condition would probably weigh in any judgement, and I would assume in his favor. Both colouring circumstances, added to his personal experience, lead me to deduct (perhaps better, assume, or imagine) that for Massa it is not even as close as he explains. Hence his clear response.
I don't think any of his other points are too polemic, either.
We'll have to wait for his opinions on the same issue to a German paper and to a British paper respectively... (-: Maybe some of the emphasis he expressed comes from his desire to make a small, tiny concession to the local hero. Mind you, I think this would only impact in his opinion up to a certain extent: not so much the entire ranking, but the way that ranking is expressed, detailed, put forward...
You have your points, but it feels like Schumacher was taking flack for a lot of things that other drivers got away with. Sure, Schumacher didn't do himself any favours with his on track behaviour, but it was an era that he took exceptional flack, more than any other driver I remember. I was watching the Monza '98 GP the other day for example and thought of this exact thing. Check the start and spot Mika's move from 3rd place. He basically chopped and barged Villeneuve out of the track, in case you can't find it. If you get the UK video, you can hear Brundle giving Villeneuve praise for getting out of the way of a potential accident but otherwise being ok with the manoeuvre. We never get to hear that Hakkinen chopped though. Or look at the Hungarian GP in '00 where Hakkinen passes Schumacher for the lead at the start outside of the track, in a move similar to the one that Max got penalised for recently on Kimi. No one batted an eyelid.
It is quite easy to see that we are judging the driving back then with today's standards. We hear a lot that "yes, back then it was ok" and it sounds like a cheap excuse. Brundle was ok however with Hakkinen's start at the time and didn't give it a second thought. It is also true that drivers did stupid things on track, as Irvine also mentioned in his recent video series (he mentioned driving someone off the track to teach them a lesson). It was indeed, rightly or wrongly, part of the sport at the time.
I agree with you that there is a certain romanticism when someone has fallen ill or passed away before their time, which is why people tend to idolise Senna for example and forget his bad behaviour on track. But it is also true that Massa partnered a demotivated Schumacher in his last year, while he partnered Alonso in arguably his best years.