Teams Ralf Schumacher
Races: 182Ralf Schumacher: Worthy of Coming Out of the ShadowsBy Jeremy McMullenPage: 1 2 next >>
Career Points: 329
Mention the name 'Schumacher' and one nearly forgets there were two racing at the same time. So dominant was the one that the other seemed destined to remain in the shadows. However, on his day, Ralf Schumacher could do more than hold his own against his sibling rival. There would be times that Michael would have to say his brother was better.
By the time Ralf was making a name for himself around his native Germany karting, his brother Michael was already a double World Champion. Already there were questions as to whether or not the younger brother was as faster, or faster; could he show up his brother, or, would prove a bust? Pressure on drivers mounts as they ascend the racing ladder. Ralf would have enormous pressure before he even had to prove himself. This meant Ralf had to prove himself many times over at every stage.
Born in Hurth in 1975, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of what was then West Germany, there would be very little indication of the name Ralf would have to make for himself just twenty years on. However, as he started to take part in kart racing, something his brother Michael had done, the comparisons and the yardsticks were to be inevitable.
And, despite not having that hyper-focus for which his brother would become famous, Ralf would give every indication that he was just as capable. After finishing runner-up in the national karting series, Ralf would move up to the German Formula Three championship in 1994.
At just twenty years of age, Ralf would go on to finish 3rd in his inaugural season in Formula Three. He would finish behind other drivers Jorg Muller and Alex Wurz and would begin really attracting attention. If he could have an even more successful season the following year then it was figured he was cut from the same mold and not a driver to be overlooked. Schumacher would have some within Formula One raising their eyebrows as he would go on to finish runner-up in Formula Three in 1995. In addition, Ralf would go on to win the Macau Grand Prix, a race his brother had also won. They were brothers. That was obvious. But there were indications they were even more alike than that and that made many mouths water.
Michael had been a part of the Mercedes development program during the late 1980s. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, he would be given the chance to drive for Eddie Jordan at Spa. It would be such an impressive debut that Benetton would sign the driver to a Formula One contract. Mercedes had lost a star for the future. Mercedes supplied the engines that powered the McLaren Formula One team. And, following the runner-up performance by the younger brother in Formula Three, it was determined that this was one Schumacher that was not to be allowed to get away. Therefore, Ralf would earn a test drive with McLaren in late 1996. At that point in time, the German was en route to the championship in the Japanese Formula 3000 series. Ralf would come and take part in the test and would thorough confuse those within the McLaren team.
|Ralf had come to the test and had done everything that was asked of him, and that was the problem. He did nothing that would give the impression that he had the hunger and the drive to be a double World Champion like his brother. He was quick, but not as quick as everyone longed and expected. Those within McLaren would be left wondering if they had unrealistic expectations. By the time they had come to a decision Ralf would be signed by Jordan. He was going to come into Formula One through the very same door as his brother. The similarities would continue. |
Eddie Jordan had one Schumacher taken right out from underneath him. Determining the younger brother to be his second chance, Jordan would jump at the chance to hire the young driver. Unlike his older brother, Ralf would have a contract for more than one race. Eddie would be sold on Ralf without him having even really setting foot inside one of his cars.
Ralf had graduated from carts in 1992 at the age of just 17. Only five years on and he would find himself in Formula One with a competitive team. Signing with the Jordan team, Ralf would be behind the wheel of the 197.
Powered by a Peugeot V10, the 197 gave Jordan a chance of seriously challenging the four major teams of that time. Designed by Gary Anderson, the car would be quick, but would be somewhat unreliable. This would be demonstrated by Schumacher's six retirements out of the first seven races of the season. Despite his early struggles, Schumacher would demonstrate raw pace. And, at the Argentine Grand Prix, just the third race of his Formula One career, Ralf would overcome a battle with his teammate to finish 3rd. This, in its own right, would be impressive. However, when considering the fact Fisichella held him up, it was clear there was a great deal of potential there. Now the Formula One fraternity had to look out for two Schumachers.
Ralf would continue to demonstrate his quality, and, in 1998, Jordan would gain the use of Mugen-Honda engines. Feelings at the start of the season were that the Mugen couldn't last. However, at the Belgian Grand Prix toward the end of the season, it would be the two Jordans running first and second.
Damon Hill had joined the team in 1998. The 1996 World Champion would not necessarily be the fastest driver with the team. In fact, Ralf would frequently out-qualify him. However, Hill knew how to collect the points and keep a car on the track. And, in the latter-stages of a rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix, the World Champion would be barely holding onto his car, let alone the lead. Behind him, Schumacher was much stronger. He was much quicker and coming closer and closer to attempting a pass for what would be his first victory. However, the conditions would dictate Eddie pass along the order that Ralf would hold station and help ensure Jordan not only secured its first victory, but a one-two on top of it all.
This decision would not sit well with the German and would only confirm what he had been feeling all along. In fact, the decision would be much more impactful than it had appeared. Michael had already bowed out in the terrible rain after a run-in with David Coulthard's stricken McLaren. And, while Hill would spend most of the race toward the front of the field, Ralf would climb up from an 8th place starting position and would be, by far, the faster of the two Jordans coming into the final laps of the race.
Hill's presence within the team had made life difficult for Schumacher and the way the Belgian Grand Prix played out made it more than obvious. He believed he could find a better opportunity with some other team. There was one team that could only offer promises, and even those were a stretch. Still, it was an opportunity not to be missed. The timing would be near perfect.
Damon Hill had earned his World Championship while driving for the Williams team in 1996. Ralf's brother had earned his two World Championships while battling with Hill and his Williams. Frank Williams was a well respected name within Formula One. The 1998 season had seen the team struggle having lost its Renault engines. Still, if there was one team that could offer success and deliver it was Williams. Therefore, it would seem only fitting that Ralf would join the very team against whom his older brother had had so many titanic battles. Joining Schumacher was not just looking for greener pastures with better opportunities. He was stepping out from his brother's shadow, telling the world he would be his own man. What he may not have realized at the time (but what everyone hoped) is that his move would set up an opportunity for the world to see two brothers go at it with rather equal circumstances.
The first season with Williams would be a difficult time as the team would be forced to make due with Supertec engines. However, Williams would be intimately involved in a sportscar project with BWM and the Formula One team would be a huge beneficiary of the partnership. Heading into the 2000 season, Williams would have BMW engines powering their FW22. What's more, Schumacher would be the elder member of the team as a young Jenson Button earned the drive in the second Williams. This meant Ralf would be front and center in the battle with his brother at Ferrari.
The FW22, with its new 3.0-liter BMW V10 engines showed a great deal of promise. Schumacher would finish the Australian Grand Prix, the first round of the season, on the podium. Another point-paying result in Brazil suggested he could steal one from his brother here and there. Many detractors believed Williams would struggle with the new BMW engines, and there would be some teething issues. However, the biggest struggle the team would face over the course of the season would be just not having the pace. This would all change in a big way the following season with the introduction of the FW23.
The Williams FW23 would help the famed team regain a place of prominence within Formula One. McLaren stumbled with their latest car and the partnership between Williams and BMW was really beginning to come into its own. The team would also get a boost with a very talented driver lineup that headlined Ralf Schumacher but that also boasted of the talented Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya. Page: 1 2 next >>