Ralf Schumacher is giving famous brother Michael a run for the F/1 title
Growing up in Huerth-Hermuelheim, Germany, Michael and Ralf Schumacher often raced at a go-kart track where their parents worked part time. Michael, six years older than Ralf, was the natural in the family, winning his first club championship at age six. Ralf was known as the family daredevil; his lead-footed racing style resulted in spinouts and, frequently, curse-outs from other drivers. "Ralf was crazy," says a family friend. "We used to worry that he'd kill himself out there."
Ralf, 28, continues to live in his big brother's very large shadow. Michael is, after all, a five-time Formula One champion and one of the most popular athletes on the planet. But over the last month the Schumacher making the most noise on the F/1 circuit has been Ralf. Before finishing ninth at Sunday's British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England, Ralf had won the two previous F/1 races, at N�rburgring, Germany, and Magny-Cours, France. With five races left in the season, Ralf is in fourth place in the Formula One standings, trailing Michael, who finished fourth on Sunday, by 16 points. (Partly because of Ralf's recent success for BMW Williams, Budweiser announced last week that it will sponsor the team through 2008; it is the company's first sponsorship in Formula One.)
"If I say Ralf's my main challenger, everyone will say [I'm saying that] because he's my brother" says Michael. "But if I say he's not, I would lie."
Called Schumi Two by German race fans, Ralf nearly got the pink slip earlier this season from BMW Williams. After failing to finish in the top three in any of the first seven races of 2003, Ralf received a letter from Patrick Head, the team's technical director, telling him, in effect, that if he wanted to keep his job, he'd better become familiar with Victory Lane. Since then Ralf has been a different racer. He's driving with the kind of do-or-die determination that he so often exhibited on the go-kart track.
"There's no denying that Ralf has been guilty of occasional inconsistency, but he is capable of enormous speed," BMW Williams owner Frank Williams said last week. "He is becoming very experienced and has a good understanding of the car."
Yet for Ralf to make a name for himself, he'll need to win an F/1 championship. Can he pull it off this season? "The chances are very small," Ralf said recently. "But if we work as hard and stay as focused as we did during the last few races, it can get interesting."
Who's the Boss?
Johnson Makes Most of Chance
In September 2001 Jeff Gordon offered then little-known Jimmie Johnson a ride with a team he was forming for the following season. Since then it's often been hard to discern which of the two is the four-time Winston Cup champion. Take last Sunday's New England 300 in Louden, N.H. When Johnson crossed the finish line for his second victory of the season, the driver directly in front of him was Gordon, who would end up 24th. Since the start of the 2002 season, Gordon has beaten Johnson 29 times; Johnson has finished ahead of his owner 26 times.