OllieF1
Does Ralf Deserve To Be In F1?

Does Ralf Deserve To Be In F1?

Ralf Schumacher - 2007 Malaysian Grand PrixRalf Schumacher’s contract is up for renewal at the end of this year, and with many young up-and-coming drivers eager to show their worth in motorsports elite series, maybe it is time for younger of the Schumacher siblings to stand aside and let someone else begin a career in Formula One.

Competing in his eleventh year in Formula One, Ralf has accrued six wins from 166 starts, had many a big accident and has been often outpaced by his team mates. This year alone, and only after three races, fellow Toyota driver Jarno Trulli is on four times the points. For the past two seasons though, Ralf has finished higher than Trulli, 20:15 and 45:43 for 2006 and 2005 respectively. But with confidence waning at Toyota, and with the car performing woefully for the money that is thrown at it, maybe the Japanese marque need to shake up their drivers and team personnel a little.

It is also worth noting that Ralf is one of Formula One’s top earners, only eclipsed by Kimi Raikkonen, allegedly. Of course, exact numbers are never disclosed, but it has been made clear that Ralf is a very expensive driver. Older brother Michael once made a bit of cash from appearing on a l’Oreal advert, where he muttered the famous line, “Because I’m worth it!”. Is Ralf worth it?

Probably not, in all honesty. If I were a team owner, and Alonso’s manager came to me offering his driver’s services for Ralf’s salary in return, I’d probably agree – Alonso is a double world champion and only 25 years old. If Kimi Raikkonen’s manager offered the same, I’d probably agree for similar reasons – Kimi is a real talent and proven race winner. But with only six wins under his belt, I do not understand what Ralf can contribute that other (cheaper) drivers cannot.

Ralf Schumacher - 2007 Bahrain Grand PrixI also find it odd that Toyota have been very firm with their drivers in the past, but have relaxed recently with their current pairing. They launched the team with Mika Salo and Allan McNish, but rather cruely ditched both drivers after only one season in favour of ChampCar title winner Cristiano Da Matta (he won it in a Toyota-powered car) and experienced driver Olivier Panis. Cristiano left before the season ended though, and test driver Ricardo Zonta was put in place. And then Olivier Panis retired from F1 and made way for already contracted Jarno Trulli at the final two races of the year.

Trulli was obviously retained for 2005 and this was the first year that saw Ralf Schumacher join the line up. The car seemed to be improving, but it didn’t last too long and things have pretty much descended since the ’05 high. Despite all this though, and despite Ralf’s huge accidents at Indianapolis that caused him much pain and injury, Ralf still rates himself quite highly. Speaking before the start of the 2007 season, he stated that he considers himself to be one of the top three drivers currently on the grid. I presume the other two are Alonso and Raikkonen, although the fact that he rates himself so well leads me to believe he isn’t of sound mind!

I know positive mental attitude is essential for sportsmen and sportswomen, but you must remember to keep your feet on the ground.

Ralf Schumacher - 2007 Malaysian Grand PrixSo anyway, Ralf will probably want to stay at Toyota, believing that the team will one day make it to the top. They are wealthy and can afford his excessive salary and ego. But will they want to? I’m not so sure, and while the two parties that have more-cash-than-sense are perfect for each other, I’m wondering if enough has finally become enough for Toyota.

As mentioned in a previous post about Giancarlo Fisichella, there will be more options for next year with Prodrive joining the grid, and team boss Dave Richards is keen on having an experienced driver in one of his cars. Whether or not they can afford Ralf is another question, but it is a possibility should Toyota decide to ditch Schumacher Jr. Trulli is already contracted to the team for another two years (inclusive of 2007), so it really is just down to Ralf and his measured performances against his team mate this year.

Are you a Ralf fan? Would you like to see him stay at Toyota, or move to another team? Or are you of the opinion Ralf should quietly walk out of the back door and never look back? Does Ralf deserve to be in Formula One?

Formula One, F1, Ralf Schumacher, Toyota, Jarno Trulli

Oliver White

13 comments

  • I totally agree. I had no idea why they signed Ralf in the first place… possibly to brag to less understanding people that they had a Schumacher in their car.

    I think Trulli and Schumacher are taking Toyota in the wrong direction. Neither are totally proven race winners. Neither have experience of developing a top line car. What do Toyota hope to achieve by retaining them?

    I think they should snap up Gary Paffett, who has recent experience of developing the McLaren. His contract can’t cost that much to buy from them. But to be honest, any one of the current top team’s test drivers would do the trick… even Ferrari’s (and ex-Williams) Marc Gene who didn’t really set the world alight in his previous F1 career. At least he knows what it’s like to drive a top drawer F1 car.

    Just my thoughts…!

  • Hi Thomas, thanks for commenting.

    I think Toyota would do well in hiring Gary Paffett. He must be getting frustrated at the moment seeing Lewis Hamilton doing so well, and maybe a change of scene would be good for the fella.

    Toyota could even take a chance and promote their test driver, Franck Montagny – he did as well as he could for Super Aguri last year.

  • Oooo, the knives are out now! 😉

    I would probably have to agree though. Ralf only got the drive because Eddie Jordan knew how to play the media. McLaren didn’t want him after his test there, and nobody had heard of Fisichella, even though he had already driven in six races the year previous. Eddie needed a headline name, and you don’t get anymore headline than Schumacher.

    Just a shame it was the wrong one.

  • eddie had the right one briefly.

    he’s a waste of space. he doesn’t seem to be taking the team anywhere. he’s going backwards faster each and every race.

    pull the plug and bring in some new blood.

  • If Ralf Schumacher wants to have a contract for 2008 and beyond, then he will have to sort out his inconsistency problems. If a driver can only be relied upon to put the car where it is capable of being for a third of the time, then it will be difficult for Ralf to persuade Toyota (or anyone else) to keep him on – even if he is faster than Trulli in the third of races when he’s racing at his best.

  • It seems like Toyota are pouring their money down the drain . To pay ridiculous amount of money for a third rate driver at best is illogical bordering on insane .How anyone managed to justify this at Toyota is a mystery . They would gain much more publicity by donating this money to charity as their performance in F1 is substandard .

  • Ralf Schumacher is probably the most disliked man currently driving F1 cars. He’s not really sympathetic or charismatic, just like his brother, and that certainly doesn’t help his reputation very much. Just like his brother before his great successes. And having such a brother who has had so much success has certainly not made his life easier. Being ‘someone’s little brother’ is tough. He could have deserved more sympathy.

    As to whether he deserves a place in Formula 1, I’m undecided. In the past, he has demonstrated to be a very fast, constant lead driver, who can motivate his team and contribute much to the development of the car from the moment he landed at Williams. He was probably Michael’s strongest opponent in the days Michael didn’t really have any. He was generally on pace with the gifted but less consistent Montoya and has had a more than fair share of bad luck throughout 1999-2004.

    When Williams decided to build a car specifically for Montoya in 2003, it was Ralf who contributed much into getting the car back on track, and driving it, he became Michael’s closest contender half-way the season. Was it not for bad luck in Monaco, Canada and the last 6 races of the season…well, what?

    In 2004, Ralf had more bad luck, ruled out with an injury for almost half of the season, and never regaining his pace in a team that was falling apart on all sides (Patrick Head, Berger, BMW, JP and Ralf were all unhappy with each other).

    In 2005, he still showed that he was a very capable driver, but within the poorly managed and bureaucratic Toyota team, he’s slowly rotten away. If this is what is left of his talent, than its time for him to quit. If there is a second youth for him, he may just earn himself another 6 years.

  • Surely any fresh contract would have to be negotiated on a more realistic pay-scale?

    It’s obviously contract-negotiation time as I recently saw Ralf describe himself as in the top 3 current drivers or something equally as delusional!

  • @Peter: Welcome to BlogF1! Great comment, and much truth was spoken. Once upon a time Ralf did look good, despite his first poor season in the Jordan. But his talent does appear to have evaporated, and I think Craig hit the nail on the head (in comment 9) when he mentioned a revised pay-scale for any future negotiations. However, I don’t think that will be acceptable to Ralf and his manager. We’ll see what happens later in the year, but I don’t think Ralf will be driving a Toyota next year. Having said that, Toyota aren’t exactly looking great themselves at the moment. The market is currently flooded with youthful talent, so gaining employment for 2008 is going to be an uphill struggle for Ralf.

  • Ralf Schumacher is my favourite driver, which is why it is so sad for me to have to agree with this report…

    He is over-paid and under-performing and I don’t see any reason why Toyota would want to hire him for the next years.

    That of course doesn’t mean I don’t want them to sign him though..!

    I disagree though with “sidepodcast”s comments, back in the day he was really good and very nearly won a world championship…2001 or 2002….i can’t remember…

    Anyway, Long Live Ralf!

  • i work for a japanese company (tho i myself am british), and i can see that toyota’s F1 squad operates in the typical japanese fashion – quite slowly and carefully, with inadequate lines of communication through the hieracrchy, and with no room for critique.

    it happens in my company, and it’s a pain. for an F1 team it’s a fatal mis-arrangement, and it’s why Toyota F1 (split between Tokyo and Cologne) so totall cannot get it together, despite throwing so much money at it. the lacklustre Schumacher Jr makes the situation even worse.

  • I’ve never undestood how Toyota agreed to his price and forget to put the word “performance” in the contract. Does he “deserve” to be in F1? As much as any other underwhelming driver past, present or future as long as someone is willing to pay for him. Is he worth it? Never has been.

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