- June 30, 1975
- Not Active
- Panasonic Toyota Racing,Jordan-Mugen Honda,Williams-Supertec,Williams-BMW,Jordan-Peugeot
Many famous racing drivers were sons of former racing champions and they had to cope with that, but in Ralf Schumacher's case it was different as, for many, he always was only the younger brother of the seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher.
Early career spent in karting and Formula 3
However, Ralf had a pretty good career during which he won some titles and many races in various competitions, but never was close to the fame of his brother. Ralf Schumacher was born on 30th of June, 1975, in Hurth, North Rhein-Westphalia region in Germany. Just like his brother, Ralf started to race karting when he was only three years old. Over time, he achieved many good results, most notable were the German Junior Kart Championship title in 1992, and being the Formula BMW Junior vice-champion in 1993.
Logically, the next step was the German Formula 3 Championship in which he had entered in 1994, driving for Opel Team WTS. His rookie season went pretty well. Ralf won one race and finished 3rd overall. The following season was even better as Schumacher finished as the series runner-up with three wins on his account. During the same season, he was also 2nd in the Masters of Formula 3 race and the winner of the Macau Grand Prix, being faster than Jarno Trulli and Pedro de la Rosa.
Move to Japan was a good decision
Surprisingly, Schumacher moved to Japan in 1996 to race in the Formula Nippon Series, but that proved to be a perfect decision made by Ralf’s manager. Schumacher won the title in his first attempt, scoring three wins out of 10 starts, becoming the first rookie to win the title, but he also finished as the vice-champion in the All-Japan GT Championship, again having three race wins.
Ralf debuted in Formula 1 with the Jaguar team
Before the end of 1996, Ralf Schumacher signed a contract with Jordan Peugeot F1 team after having tests with McLaren at Silverstone. His first year in the most popular racing series was a relatively good one. During the first half of the season, he retired from six races but also finished 3rd in the Argentinian Grand Prix. In the second half of the season, Ralf had another four retirements but also earned points in five races to finish 11th in the final classification.
Just like in his first season in the series, Schumacher again struggled in the first half of the 1998 season, but he later improved. He finished 2nd at Spa and 3rd at Monza, collected points in other three races and eventually finishing 10th in the Drivers’ championship. After the race at Monza, it was announced that Ralf Schumacher leaves Jordan at the end of the season after he has signed a contract with Williams.
Schumacher signs with Williams
Driving for the more ambitious team and having a more competitive car, Schumacher had a pretty well first year in the new team. Although he still couldn’t grab his first win, he settled with the 2nd place at Monza and 3rd places at Albert Park and Silverstone, proving that Williams had made a good choice. He also scored points in other seven races to finish 6th in the championship.
In 2000, Ralf made a step forward. The season started with a 3rd place won in the Australian Grand Prix; later, he repeated the same result at Spa and Monza, but the finish of the season was a bit disappointing after Schumacher had retired from the last three races. However, he finished the season at the 5th position even after he scored less number of points than in the previous campaign.
Schumacher achieved his first F1 triumph at Imola
Finally, in 2001, Ralf Schumacher managed to win the race. More precisely, he won three races that year – at Imola, Montreal, and Hockenheim. He also was 2nd at Magny-Cours and 3rd at Monza, so it wasn’t a surprise when he took the 4th place in the final standings with 49 points.
Interestingly, before the start of the 2002 campaign, Ralf Schumacher asked for permission to drive wearing glasses. The reason was that he had a traffic accident in Germany after which was concluded that his vision has weakened. The FIA allowed Ralf to wear glasses under the developed helmet. During the season, Schumacher won the Malaysian Grand Prix, finished 2nd in Brazil and 3rd in San Marino, Monaco, Germany, and Hungary, which was enough to repeat the result from the previous season – 4th position in the Drivers’ Championship.
Helping Williams to finish as the Constructors' championship runner-up
Schumacher missed the 2003 preseason because of the back pains but returned to the seat before the start of the campaign in which he maintained a remarkable level of form seen in previous years. He scored points in seven consecutive races at the start of the campaign, and had later grabbed two wins in a row, in the European and the French Grand Prix. However, the last third of the season managed to ruined all the good work done before.
His form dropped after the accident at Monza when he sustained a concussion. He was forced to precautionary miss the race. That accident reflected in the last two races of the year in which Schumacher drove below his abilities. However, he took the 5th place in the championship and helped Williams to finish the season 2nd in the Drivers’ championship.
A huge crash at the US Grand Prix
The start of 2004 was relatively good for Ralf who continued to collect points on regular basis. But, after a 10th place in Monaco Grand Prix, he had one retirement and one disqualification. Schumacher was ready to bounce back at the US Grand Prix but on the lap 9 he was involved in a huge crash and suffered bad injuries which forced him to miss the following six races. He returned for the last three races and a 2nd place finish in Japan was the highlight of the season, his last with Williams.
Video - Ralf Schumacher crash at Indianapolis, 2004 US Grand Prix
Move to Toyota
In the middle of 2004, Ralf Schumacher signed a three-year contract with Toyota. The team and Schumacher were very ambitious before the start of the 2005 campaign, but that wasn’t enough for the top results. However, that season wasn’t bad for the German: he failed to finish only one out of 18 races he had entered, scoring two podiums and regularly collecting points to finish 6th overall.
Ralf’s second season with Toyota was the beginning of the downfall. Despite the solid start of the campaign and a 3rd place in Australia, the results were becoming worse as the competition progressed. Too many retirements forced Schumacher to the 10th place on the ranking list. In 2007, his final year with the Japanese team, Ralf did pretty bad and almost lost the place in the team after a couple of bad performances, but managed to finish the season which proved to be his worst in his F1 career. With only five points in his books, the German finished 16th.
Departure from F1 and move to DTM
Schumacher was resolute to stay in Formula 1, but nobody wanted him for two years. New teams that entered the circus in 2010 had contacts with the experienced driver, but it was too late and Ralf decided to reject all proposals as he, in the meantime, had found a new engagement.
In 2008, Ralf debuted in the DTM Series, driving Mucke Motorsport’s Mercedes. He managed to score only three points that year and finished at 14th position overall. In 2009, he moved to HWA team with which he spent four years, but without too much success. He failed to win a race out of 41 starts while his best final position was the 8th place in 2011, after which he'd finished 2nd in the race at Spielberg and 3rd at Hockenheim.
After retiring from driving in 2013, Ralf Schumacher decided to stay in motorsport. He became a shareholder of Mucke Motorsport and mentor of young drivers signed by the Mercedes team.