Ralf Schumacher – Reality Bites

Ralf Schumacher is not a bad driver. But even the best ones should know when to go…

Ralf Schumacher

The departure of Ralf Schumacher from Toyota was long expected. He was reportedly within a race of being fired during the summer but he managed to hold on to his seat till the end of the season. The expected announcement came in Shanghai, between the Japanese and Chinese GPs. What was unexpected was Ralf’s decision to leave instead of Toyota’s decision to let him go. Well, there are only few who believe that is how it happened…

The departure from Toyota however did not change anything on Ralf’s confidence of racing in F1 in 2008. However with no phone calls coming his way the confidence soon turned into desperation. These words from Vijay Mallya should have sent him clear “time to retire” message:

“I know Ralf well from my role as a sponsor of the Toyota team and I personally hold him in high regard, but a driver line-up is not something that should be decided by the heart but by the brain. I want drivers that can raise the standards in the team. I always get asked if we will have an Indian driver and my response is – if I can find one who is ready, yes. But only under the parameters just said. Drivers are a crucial part of the team so the driver line-up is a serious matter and not a sympathy contest.”

Pity Ralf did not get the message. He continued with his confident proclamations of sure race seat in 2008 and was even as specific as suggesting his race seat will be at expense of a English driver:

“It is too early to say. We’re still in talks, but my confidence about being in Formula One next year still hasn’t changed. It’s terrible for the English guys, but…”

But with less and less available seats remaining his options shrunk. He sort of offered himself to McLaren (without success) and he even alegedly tried to broker a customer car deal between Ferrari and Force India with himself as a driver a part of the package (rumour, source F1 Racing Magazine).

Then last week he tested for Force India, as one of many. I do not believe he went into that test without hoping to get the race seat. But instead of showing he still has got it (like his brother), he suffered further humiliation by being the slowest on his day. He initially tried to put a brave face on his performance:

“Although it was a difficult day, it was still good and I think we did get some good information.”

Then in a kind of a U turn, he told Autosport, that he in fact is not interested in drive with Force India:

“It was not shoot-out. I don’t think I will be driving for Force India. I want to achieve something and I don’t think I can do that with Force India. I am going home now and we will see.”

However his words to GPUpdate.net later on that day sounded a bit different:

“I’m testing today because Vijay Mallya asked me to try the car. This way I can give the team some feedback and tell them what might need to be changed. I don’t see myself as a candidate though to race with the team next season. To be honest, I don’t exactly know what I will be doing next season. Maybe I will quit racing, or maybe I will just join another racing series. I just want to do what’s best for me. This week might have been the final outing for me in a Formula 1 car.”

I do not find it believable that Ralf Schumacher lost interest in Force India drive. This was realisticaly the only chance for 2008 race seat for him left. The only other option I see would be Ralf paying for a drive with Super Aguri. But if Force India with solid finances is not good enough for him, how good would almost cashless Super Aguri be ? I am sure had the offer from Vijay Mallya come, Ralf would have taken it…

Even his brother, Michael Schumacher, commented on Ralf’s situation:

“I don’t know all his options, but before he drives like he did yesterday it is better to think about if it makes sense to drive knowing you can only come last. I think there are more reasonable, safer, wealthier and nicer options for him. I told him personally that there are so many nice things outside of F1. But I don’t know all his options. There are other cockpits which are not taken, so he might see other options.”

“If he can get a good result then he should. He is able to bring good results and he is motivated to do so. But it is different for me. I would not be so motivated to race, and if it doesn’t fit then maybe he should stop and have a break. He is young enough to stop, re-evaluate the situation and come back.”

Unfortunately for Ralf, he did not only come last in Jerez. He came dead last, 0.7 sec behind Liuzzi in the other Force India car… And I do not think that is down to lack of skills. I still say that Ralf Schumacher is a good driver. But the motivation Micheal mentioned hasn’t been there for the whole of 2007 season and it looks like even the chance to test for another team did nothing to change that for Ralf.

It looks like the sense of reality finally has kicked in and Ralf is ready to call it a day. He should have done it with dignity few months back and spare himself this humiliation. The difference between great and ordinary is also in knowing when to go …


2014 Teams and Drivers

Red Bull
Sebastian VETTEL
Fernando ALONSO
Adrian SUTIL
Force India
Sergio PEREZ
Felipe MASSA
Valtteri BOTTAS
Toro Rosso
Daniil KVYAT
Jean Eric VERGNE

2014 F1 Calendar

14-16 March - Australia
28-30 March - Malaysia
4-6 April - Bahrain
18-20 April - China
9-11 May - Spain
22-25 May - Monaco
6-8 June - Canada
20-22 June - Austria
4-6 July - Great Britain
18-20 July - Germany
25-27 July - Hungary
22-24 August - Belgium
5-7 September - Italy
19-21 September - Singapore
3-5 October - Japan
10-12 October - Russia
31 October-2 November - USA
7-9 November - Brazil
21-23 November - Abu Dhabi


2010 Mercedes GP F1 Merchandise
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