Michael Schumacher's little brother, Ralf, began his Formula1 career in 1997 with the
Jordan team, where he stayed for two years. He was initially known for his reckless moves
and crashes, but gradually he began to carve out a reputation as a talented young driver.
His dissatisfaction with the Irish team grew, until his brother helped him to negotiate a
place at Williams for 1999. This was year that Ralf Schumacher really came into his own.
It began in well in Melbourne, where he finished third for his new team. He followed this
with fourth place in Brazil and from then on whenever the young German did cross the
finishing line it was in a point scoring position, apart from one hiccough in Germany. He
showed a maturity of driving he had not previously displayed and won many plaudits for his
strong performances in the difficult FW21.
Where experienced team mate Alex Zanardi struggled, and eventually decided to give up the
fight, Ralf flourished and scored all 35 points that the Williams team acquired. It could
all have been so different after the acrimony of his split with Jordan in 1998, who he had
to sue so as to extricate himself from his contract. He came extremely close to taking his
first win at the European Grand Prix, only to have his hopes dashed by a puncture, but he
still hung on for fourth place.
He continued to do well in 2000 at Williams, again taking third place in the first race of
the season, and initially setting himself apart as the quicker driver in the team. As he
accrued experience Jenson Button began to gain on Ralf, and the young German apeared to
begin to lose focus at the end of the season. However, he still finished fifth in the
drivers' championship with 24 points, and was the only Williams driver to appear on the
His team mate for 2001, Juan Pablo Montoya, is expected to be an aggressive challenger,
and Ralf will need every ounce of his talent and mental strength to keep his place as
Williams' lead driver. The atmosphere between the two is already relatively cool although
Ralf has mainly had the upper hand in preseason testing.