DRIVERS: RALF SCHUMACHER

Name: Ralf Schumacher
Nationality: Germany
Date of birth: June 30, 1975 - Huerth, Germany

Ralf Schumacher, French GP 2003

Ralf Schumacher, French GP 2003 

 ¬© The Cahier Archive

The younger brother, history relates, is often the faster racer. It had been thus with the Rodriguez brothers, Pedro and Ricardo, and with Emerson and Wilson Fittipaldi. It may yet prove the same with the Schumachers.

It's interesting to note that when Ralf Schumacher tested for McLaren late in 1996, however, that people within the team remained lukewarm about the reigning champion's sibling. Ralf, they said, had done nothing special.

Perhaps it was nerves, perhaps he was just being cautious. But when Ralf Schumacher unintentionally turfed Jordan teammate Giancarlo Fisichella off the road in Argentina the following year, he went on to finish third, on the podium, in only his third F1 outing. Without the delay, he might even have challenged for victory.

Schuey Junior had followed his big brother through karting and Formula Ford, and rumor has it that he was already in the big earning category by the time he joined Michael's manager Willi Weber in German F3 in 1994. One win and a string of high placings left him third in the title chase, but despite winning four races in 1995 he was still bested by Argentinean Norberto Fontana. It didn't seem to matter. The Schumacher name, and Weber's guidance, looked set to push Ralf onwards and upwards. They headed for Formula Nippon in 1996, where Ralf added another three wins before going on to that test for McLaren.

At Jordan his teammate was the highly regarded Giancarlo Fisichella, and the pair kept one another on their toes all season. Generally Fisichella had the upper hand after a difficult start, but in 1998 Ralf kept Damon Hill honest, but spoiled an impressive year by complaining bitterly after Eddie Jordan had instructed him not to challenge Hill for the team's first victory, at Spa-Francorchamps. In truth, Ralf's chance there had only arisen because the deployment of the safety car had allowed him to close on his team leader.

Such behavior was seen as brattish by the F1 fraternity, though it was understandable in any racer. But when Ralf transferred to Williams for 1999, and did so much to extract solid performances from a bad car, his stock rose dramatically. He won his first race at Imola in 2001 and followed up with two further wins to end the year fourth in the World Championship. In 2002 things were tougher but he won in Malaysia although he was often outpaced by Juan Pablo Montoya. He remained at Williams in 2003 and 2004 but was never very convincing although he did a good job when he came back from injury after a big crash at Indianapolis. In 2005 he moved to Toyota F1. He had a second big crash at Indianapolis but towards the end of the year looked as though he might finally be in a position to compete with team mate Jarno Trulli.

The two men remained together at Toyota in 2006 but did little to make any impact. Schumacher again failed to shine in 2007, his best result being sixth at the Hungaroring. At the end of the season he retired from Formula 1.

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