Debut & Jordan (1997-1998)
Ralf Schumacher, the younger brother of 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher, made his break through into F1 back in 1997, driving for the Jordan Team. His team mate was ex-Minardi driver Giancarlo Fisichella. Ralf managed to score 12 points for the team and finished a respectable 11th overall in his first season.
1998 saw him remain at Jordan, but partner former World Champion Damon Hill. He only managed to score 14 points that season, but he did manage to follow his team mate home to second place finish in the chaotic Belgium GP, to give Jordan a super 1-2 finish.
1999 saw Ralf move to Williams and partner Alex Zanardi. This would prove to be Schumacher’s best season thus far, as an improved Williams meant that Ralf was able to challenge for podium finishes, which he got at Australia & Monza. Ralf scored all 35 points for the team that year.
2000 saw a new engine supplier come to Williams, in the form of BMW and a new team mate, British rookie Jenson Button. Ralf was able to take full advantage of the improved performance of the Williams and finished a career best 5th overall. Although he did not take any race wins in 2000, his maiden victory did come the following year at the 2001 San Marino GP, which was also Williams first win in 54 races.
2001 cemented Ralf of as one of the top drivers in F1. Further success came at the Canadian & German GP, where he took victory on both occasions as well as a pole position at the French GP. Although the German was pushed throughout the 2001 season by his rookie team mate Juan Pablo Montoya, he still managed a career best 4th place finish, taking 3 wins and 49 points along the way.
2002 saw Williams emerge as the main challenger to Ferrari, but they were still a long way off. Ralf managed to gain the only victory for the team in Malaysia, but was out scored by his team mate. 2003 gave Ralf the chance to be a serious title contender by mid season, claiming Poles in Monaco, Canada & France as well as back to back wins at the European & French GP’s.
Ralf was mister consistent, scoring points in every race up to the French GP, however a string of poor late season results as well as a none appearance at the Italian GP (he was deputised for by Marc Gene) removed Ralf from the tile fight. Again Montoya managed to out score his team mate.
2004 turned out to be Ralf’s worst season in F1, with a Williams that lacked pace and looked like a walrus; the German was barely able to get his car into the points. He was disqualified from the 2004 Canadian GP along with his team mate for technical infringements and just if he thought it could not get any worse, a horrendous crash at the following race in Indianapolis.
The German crashed into the pit straight barrier at top speed, destroying his car and knocking himself out. Ralf spent the next 6 races recovering from his injuries sustained and was deputised again by Marc Gene & Antonio Pizzonia. He did return for the final 3 races of the season, where he managed a strong 2nd place finish at the Japanese GP.
Ralf moved to Toyota for 2005 where he was out performed for most of the season by Italian hotshot Jarno Trulli. However the German did manage a strong end to the season, beating Trulli by just 2 points. Two 3rd placed podium finishes at the Hungarian & Chinese GP’s were the only highlight. 2006 was a very disappointing season for Ralf, mediocre finishes and only one podium in Australia left Ralf down in a distant 10th place overall in the Championship.
2007 would be Ralf’s final year in the sport, but the first season when he would not be competing against his older brother. If he had any hope to try and break out of that shadow it did not emerge. Toyota’s worst car to date left Ralf only able to bring the car home in the points on 3 occasions, totaling 5 points all season and a dismal 16th place overall.
Ralf left the sport at the end of 2007 and was replaced at Toyota by fellow German Timo Glock. Ralf has since moved to DTM, where he drives for Mercedes-Benz.