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The younger brother of Michael Schumacher, Ralf had a lot to live up to when he made his Formula One debut with Jordan in 1997, but the young German has now established a name for himself in his own right.

He earned himself a bit of a reputation as a 'crasher' during his debut season, and even managed to knock team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella out of second place in the Argentine GP.

He showed he had the speed to succeed however, and was kept on for the following season, this time racing alongside Damon Hill. A second place behind his team-mate at the Belgian GP was the highlight in a difficult season, and Ralf moved to Williams for 1999.

Eleven points finishes in sixteen races demonstrated just how far Ralf had come since his debut, and better things were around the corner, when he finished 5th in the 2000 Drivers' Championship.

2001 saw the arrival of Juan Pablo Montoya at Williams, and it was not long before rumours of tension between Ralf and his new team-mate began to do the rounds. Despite this, the German took his debut victory in the San Marino GP, before winning twice more later in the season.

Although Montoya pushed him hard towards the end of the year, Ralf came home third in the Drivers' Championship, and looked set to build on that in 2002.

Unfortunately although BMW's engine was the class of the field, the FW24 was not the perfect compliment, and quite often neither were the Michelin tyres.

Ralf's season got off to a great start with a fine win at Sepang but from then on the Ferraris simply pulled further and further away.

Although Montoya got most of the attention for his seven pole positions and third spot in the drivers' championship, Ralf certainly held his own. The German out-qualified his Colombian team-mate on eight occasions and finished the season in fourth, just eight points behind.

That said, Ralf tended to be a little too impetuous and incurred Patrick Head's wrath - never a good thing to do - when he took out his team-mate at Indianapolis, just two weeks after almost doing it at Monza. In addition, there was been widespread criticism of his apparent failure to 'take on' his brother.

In 2003 it was a case of 'a season of two halves' for Ralf. After Austria - round six - he was the only driver to finish in the points in every race, indeed the German scored points in ten consecutive races.

Although the FW25 had been disappointing in the first couple of races, by mid-season it was clearly the class of the field and though Juan Pablo was the first WilliamsF1 driver to climb to the top of the podium in 2003 - having won in Monaco - it was Ralf that really re-established the Grove outfit by taking back-to-back wins at the Nurburgring and Magny Cours.

In the last part of the season it all appeared to fall apart for Ralf, culminating in a horrendous crash on the first day of testing at Monza. The German turned up at the Italian track a week later ready for the Grand Prix but subsequently withdrew from the event complaining of headaches.

After a rest he was back in action at Indianapolis but was caught out by the changeable weather conditions.

Fifth in the drivers' championship is something of a step back for Ralf, especially since team-mate Montoya finished third, and indeed came very close to winning the title.

Ralf went part of the way to silencing his critics, most notably for the way in which he finally 'took on' his brother on a number of occasions, indeed the titanic fight at Suzuka could well have ended in tears.

In 2004, with Juan Pablo Montoya's move to McLaren already confirmed for 2005, the way seemed clear for Ralf to establish himself as team leader at Grove. However, it wasn't long before rumours linking the German with a move to Toyota were surfacing, and by mid-summer this was confirmed.

2004 was a strange season for Ralf, who once again delighted and infuriated in equal measure. Granted the FW26 was a major disappointment, but that cannot be wholly blamed for some of the German's lacklustre performances. Then, in Canada, just as we are beginning to think that Ralf has lost his edge, he give a pluperfect lesson in how it should be done, taking a fine second to his brother, only to be disqualified, through no fault of his own.

A week later, at Indianapolis, the world looked on in horror at the wrecked WilliamsF1 in the middle of the track, with Ralf slumped in the cockpit. Thankfully the German was nowhere near as badly injured as we'd feared, though complications with his vertebrae left him sidelined for the next six races.

There was talk the Ralf might quietly retire - though it was during his convalescence that Toyota announced the three-year deal with the German - while others feared that his second major crash in just over a year might cause him to lose his edge.

However, the Ralf Schumacher that re-appeared in China, was the same Ralf Schumacher we'd seen in Canada, clearly up for a fight. In Japan he gave a stunning performance, finishing second, seemingly sparking a WilliamsF1 revival which was to lead to Juan Pablo Montoya taking a fine win in Brazil.

For much of the early part of 2005, Ralf was firmly in the shadow of teammate Jarno Trulli, the Italian giving the Japanese team its first (and second) podium.

Toyota appeared to suit Ralf far more than WilliamsF1, particularly during the Montoya period, and though the German was unable to match Trulli's qualifying pace, he seemed much more competitive when it really mattered, on race day.

That said, there were no real fireworks from the German, and there were times when one could have been forgiven for forgetting his existence, as little was seen of him. Yet there he was, completing the laps and taking the points. While Trulli appeared to hog the limelight, Ralf was quietly getting the job done, finishing five points ahead of his teammate to take sixth position on the Drivers' Championship, and proving to be the most consistent finisher.

At Indianapolis, for the second successive year, he crashed heavily, and though he only missed the one race, the accident was to have a major fall-out, as it ultimately led to one of the darkest days in the sport's history.

The introduction of the TF105B, at the end of the season, clearly suited Ralf, for he was immediately on the pace, and even took pole position in Japan.

Ralf ended the season just ahead of his teammate, generally being more consistent in the races - even if his qualifying performances were disappointing - scoring points on 13 occasions - while Trulli only did so in nine Grands Prix.

The German scored 45 points to Trulli's 43, ending the year on a high, with a third place finish in China, which secured him sixth place in the Drivers' Championship.

Retained for 2006 - the second year of a five-year deal - much was expected of Ralf, with the Japanese team unsurprisingly announcing that its target was to take its maiden F1 win. Based on its 2005 performance many thought this was not an entirely unreasonable prediction.

It was soon clear however, that the TF106, introduced in late 2005 in order to give the Japanese team a head start, was not the car Toyota or Ralf had hoped for. Third in Australia was the season highlight, while a second row grid spot at Suzuka was more about light-fuel load and positive publicity on home ground than a return to form.

To be fair, Ralf's qualifying performances improved, getting the 106 and the (hurriedly introduced) 106B up to the top end of the grid far more times than Trulli. However, the shortcomings of the entire package meant the German was rarely able to shine.

According to Formula Money, in 2007, Ralf was the third highest paid driver on the grid, raking in a cool $20m. Considering that he scored just five points, finishing sixteenth in the championship - making it his worst ever season - this worked out at $4m a point. Whether Toyota considers this VFM is a question that only the Japanese manufacturer can answer.

2007 got off to a good enough start with Ralf opening his team's account with an eighth place at Melbourne. But after that it all started to go wrong.

It wasn't all Ralf's fault, the TF107 simply didn't have the pace. However, to most outsiders it appeared the German's heart was no longer in it and that he was merely going through the motions merely to keep the pay cheques coming.

By Monaco - where he failed to make it to the second phase of qualifying - there was not only fierce speculation regarding Ralf's 2008 drive, there were even claims that the German had been given an ultimatum, improve or we'll drop you. Indeed, a reliable source informed Pitpass that unless Ralf showed signs of improvement during the North American leg he would be axed.

There was a slight improvement with points finishes in Canada and Hungary, while a strong performance at the Nurburgring, which looked certain to result in a handful of points, was ruined by a disastrous pit stop. However, there were too many times, particularly in qualifying, when it appeared the German wasn't bothered - the fact that Trulli out-qualified him fourteen times being all one needs to know.

Possibly knowing that the axe was about to fall, Ralf made the first move, announcing on his website at the start of October that he was to leave Toyota at the end of the season. There was the usual stuff about "seeking new challenges", whilst Toyota reacted by thanking him for his input and wishing him well for the future.

With his options for 2008 severely limited, Ralf tested with Force India, ironically the latest incarnation of the team (Jordan) with which he'd made his F1 debut back in 1997. However, the seat eventually went to another Jordan 'old boy, who was also remaining in F1 by the skin of his teeth, Giancarlo Fisichella.

On Feruary 18, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport announced that, following a successful test, Ralf is to contest the 2008 DTM in a Trilux AMG Mercedes C-Class. "Of course I know that neither the media nor the spectators consider me the greatest race driver of all times," said Ralf at the time, "but this is not what I'm aiming for. During my last three years in Formula 1, I didn't have much success and it almost sounded strange to me when Norbert mentioned in our conversation, that short before this time I had managed to win two Formula 1 Grands Prix within only eight days. However, 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."

It is strange to think that the 2008 Australian GP will be the first race since August 1991 that there hasn't been a Schumacher on the F1 grid.

Statistics - At the end of 2007

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 11
Grand Prix: 180
Wins: 6
Points: 329
Poles: 6
Fastest Laps: 8

Best result in 2007: 6th (Hungary)
Best qualifying 2007: 5th (Hungary)
Worst qualifying 2007: 20th (Monaco)
Average grid position 2007: 12.65
2007: Out-qualified Jarno Trulli 3 times
2007: Out-qualified by Jarno Trulli 14 times

2007: Completed: 840 out of 1065 laps (78.87%)
2007: Finished 11 times from 17 starts (65%)


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