Teams Ralf Schumacher
Races: 182Ralf Schumacher: Worthy of Coming Out of the ShadowsBy Jeremy McMullenPage: << prev 1 2
Career Points: 329
Montoya was the raw speed and performance while Schumacher would be the experience and consistency. Montoya, however, would find that, on his day, Ralf would be every bit as fast, and just as fast, if not more so, than his brother at Ferrari.
Never would this fact be more evident than throughout the 2001 season. Things would finally come good for Ralf in a big way and he would finally take his first Formula One victory winning the San Marino Grand Prix.
The whole weekend would be the little brother's opportunity to shine and demonstrate just what he was made of. The Formula One circus had returned to Europe and to the unofficial home of Ferrari, the Imola circuit. The Tifosi would be present and beyond itself as Michael set the early pace in practice and qualifying. David Coulthard would end up on the pole in the McLaren, but it would be Ralf's day to shine as he would prove more than his brother's equal bettering him to start 3rd on the grid, right beside his brother. It would be the first time in his Formula One career that he would out-qualify his brother and his mature, level-headed drive to victory firmly suggested the younger Schumacher was ready to step into his own limelight.
This first victory would be followed by two more victories over the course of the season. Montoya would only score one and it seemed abundantly clear Ralf was Williams' number and not someone to trifle with on the track. The victory over his brother in the Canadian Grand Prix would not only be the first time two brothers would finish one-two in a Formula One race, but the order also suggested something about the future as well.
The 2002 season would be difficult for Schumacher and Williams. Ferrari would be unbeatable. Just getting to the podium would be an achievement. Montoya would begin to show his qualities earning a number of 2nd place finishes. However, Williams would earn just one victory over the course of the season and that would be earned by Ralf at the Malaysian Grand Prix. In fact, it would be the first one-two finish for the team since the Portuguese Grand Prix back in 1996. The year before Ralf had finished ahead of Montoya in the championship standings. In 2002, however, the roles would be reversed and would only get worse the following season.
Ralf would be consistent, not failing to finish a race until the 12th round of the season. Once again, Scuderia Ferrari was proving to be the unbeatable entity in Formula One. All other teams and drivers needed to take points and podiums when and where they could get them. The first half of the season appeared to be another Michael Schumacher and Ferrari runaway with him taking four victories in the first eight races of the season. Kimi Raikkonen would take a victory and would be consistent throughout the same stretch to remain in touch in the fight for the championship. Ralf would be scoring points, but he could do no better than 4th on any of those occasions. It appeared as though he was out of the championship picture and that big brother would trounce his way to his fifth world title.
|Ralf would not step onto the podium until the 8th round, but it would be an impressive leap forward in performance. His previous best had been two 4th place finishes. A 2nd place in the Canadian Grand Prix would make what had been a lackluster season better, but it would do little to please those at Williams who believed victory was well in hand. In the end, Ralf would not even put up a fight against his big brother and would end up a step down on the podium. Nonetheless, after a first half that had been filled with difficult performances, the 2nd place would kickoff a run that would bring Ralf into the championship picture. |
Montoya had already earned a 2nd place and a victory on the streets of Monaco. It appeared Ralf had been supplanted by Juan Pablo at Williams. Then there would be the embarrassing Canadian Grand Prix when the superior Williams machines would get usurped by a struggling Michael Schumacher in a handicapped Ferrari.
It was clear Ralf and Juan Pablo had received a stern talking-to by those within Williams, but it would be Ralf that would respond the best storming back earning two-straight victories in the European and French grand prix. In the matter of a week Ralf would go from championship outsider to statistical contender. In both cases he would lead home a Williams one-two and again looked the part of team leader. Ralf had seemingly reacquired the role he had been handed when Juan Pablo had come to the team in 2001. However, the string of success would not continue and he would be out of the championship picture by the time of the Italian Grand Prix. A testing accident at Monza, which would leave him injured and unable to compete in the grand prix, would be just the final blow to any championship hopes, and to some confidence as well.
The 2003 season had turned out to be a disappointing near-miss. The 2004 season would prove to be a nightmare. Relations between Williams and BMW were beginning to unravel. The first half of the season would see just Montoya stand on the podium two times. Ralf's best would be a 4th place earned at the first round of the championship. Both drivers would be disqualified in the Canadian Grand Prix in a most embarrassing fashion.At one point in the race Ralf had been challenging for the lead. This would wither with the heat. Both cars would finish the race with rather lackluster performances. But to add insult to injury, both Williams cars would be disqualified from the results after it was found their brake cooling ducts were too large. The gain from these larger ducts would be highly debatable, but what it would highlight was a difficult season that was about to get even worse for Ralf.
Williams arrived at the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis in serious need of a good result. After the disqualification in Canada, the team had just two podium finishes to its credit and Ralf had earned none of them.
At the time, Michelin had become the tire to have in Formula One. Ferrari ran on Bridgestone tires. The Bridgestone tires had their strengths, but they were just not as good as the Michelins. In spite of this, Ferrari continued to dominate the World Championship. Michelin, therefore, offered its customers a tire with incredible grip, but the strength of the tire was questionable. Ralf would find this out first hand as he came through the banking at Indianapolis. The tire broke apart sending the German's Williams into the outside wall. The impact would read a deceleration value of 78g and would result in a concussion and two minor fractures in Ralf's spine. After four days in a nearby hospital, Ralf would make his way home to Germany where he would spend the next few months in bed.
The injury would cost Ralf the majority of the season and would pretty much bring an end to his career with Williams. Though he signed a deal with Toyota Racing for the following season, Ralf would return for the final three rounds of the 2004 season and would blow many away with a 2nd place result in the Japanese Grand Prix. It would be his best result of the season and would confirm the German's resilience and drive in spite of terrible circumstances.
Ralf could have sat out the remainder of the 2004 season. However, his willingness to come back, and his results over those three remaining races, suggested a bright future with the Toyota Racing team. Ralf himself would state he had a better chance at winning the title with Toyota than he ever had with Williams. Unfortunately, this would prove to be mere promotional talk as he would only manage to finish 4th place twice throughout the first eight races of the season. Then it was time to return to Indianapolis.
Ralf returned to Indy in 2005 driving for a new team in a new season. It appeared as though everything had changed and that there was no way of repeating the terrible accident of the previous year. Sadly, there would be one important carry-over between the two seasons—Michelin.
During practice for the United States Grand Prix, Ralf would be coming through the banking when he would suffer yet another tire failure. Terribly, the results of the accident would be far worse than the injuries Ralf suffered. All but three teams in Formula One ran Michelin tires. As a result of Ralf's accident, and the failure of the organizers to make any last minute changes to the circuit, the teams running on Michelin tires would come into the pits at the end of the reconnaissance lap leaving just six cars to take the start of the race. It would be one of the most embarrassing moments in Formula One history and Ralf's accident would be the unfortunate catalyst.
Sadly, the fiasco at Indianapolis would serve as a signpost to an embarrassing time at Toyota. Toyota would spend hundreds of millions of dollars and would be regarded up and down the pitlane as having one of the strongest cars. However, both car and driver would seem to have a propensity to fade over distance. This would lead to Ralf standing on the podium just three times over the course of three seasons with Toyota. There would be moments, flashes, of brilliance throughout those three seasons. But, those moments of sheer brilliance would be overshadowed by an unexplainable fading over the course of numerous grand prix. Ralf had been fighting hard in Formula One for a decade and it seemed clear he had lost his interest, his fighting spirit. This would be evident at the end of the 2007 season.
Ralf's time with Toyota would come to an end after a disappointing 2007 season in which he finished 16th in the driver standings. As it would turn out, he would have a better chance at winning the World Championship in nearly each of the six years he drove for Williams than any single one in which he drove for Toyota.
Still, he was a race winner. He had won half a dozen races over the length of his career. This meant he was still a man in demand. Though he would be turned down by McLaren, Hispania (HRT), Virgin and Lotus would all express interest in retaining his talents. However, after he ended up the slowest in a test for Force India the German would determine it was time to call it quits in Formula One.
Formula One had worn the German down. But the racer's spirit still beat within his chest. Though there was no opportunities within Formula One that interested him, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) would offer him a perfect outlet to get beyond the politics and just go racing. Ralf would say it best when he said, 'I am still the same Ralf as at those times, the same racer who has fun in motor sports and who wants to compete with the best.' Therefore, Ralf would drive in DTM during the 2008 season for Mercedes.
Ralf would compete in DTM for five seasons. In the highly competitive series, points and podiums would be difficult to come by, especially for someone coming from Formula One. However, Ralf would earn a couple of points-paying results in his first season and would follow that up with a personal best season in 2011 when he would earn a couple of podium finishes and an 8th place result overall in the drivers' championship.
At the end of the 2012 season, Ralf would retire from all motorsports and would look to a life, but it would not be outside of motorsport. His first season in the DTM series had been while driving with Mucke Motorsport. Starting in 2013, Ralf would take on a managerial role within Mucke Motorsport which would include him helping in recruiting and coaching young drivers within the DTM team. Mercedes Motorsport Director, Toto Wolff, would declare Schumacher's role as 'vital' within the series, no doubt reverencing the German's abilities at forging his own path within the sport despite all of the expectations of his successful older brother.
Sadly, Ralf would still find himself in a very unfortunate role. In early 2014, Ralf would be forced out into the fore when Michael suffered terrible injuries from a skiing accident. Suddenly, Ralf would be the target of all the media, but it would still be all about his brother's condition. Even in near death, Michael's shadow would loom large over Ralf. Instead of being left alone to pray and care for his brother as most unknown siblings would, Ralf would again find himself answering questions about his brother, or, having to push his way past a media eagerly awaiting the latest news.
Even though all the record books would declare Michael Schumacher's name nearly everywhere, his brother Ralf more than forged his own path in Formula One. For more than a couple of brief moments the younger brother would step out from under the shadow of his brother's reputation and would prove himself to be an equal. Excuses aside, Ralf Schumacher more than deserves to be judged on his own, free from all sibling comparisons. As his own man in Formula One, he is a multiple race winner.
Proving more than once to be more than capable and surprisingly fast, it is, perhaps, better his real qualities are judged by those who raced against him than any family expectations that are absurdly impossible to equal. When such unfair expectations are thrown off, Ralf Schumacher more than stands on his own two feet within the hallowed halls of Formula One winners; he truly stands out from the shadows.Page: << prev 1 2 Sources:
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