Publish date:

Family Affair 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 Nurburgring, 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

"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

COLOR PHOTO: RYAN REMIORZ/AP Since saluting Michael for his June victory in Montreal, Ralf(right) has won twice himself.

COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW WALLACE/REUTERS Michael (right) thinks Ralf is his chief threat.