Netflix documentary is a sympathetic chronicle of the great F1 and his need for extremes

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Michael Schumacher’s Netflix documentary is both heartbreaking and ironic given its aversion to the public eye. Although this is apparently an exploration of one of Formula 1’s great careers, it is also seen through the prism of the 2013 ski accident which claimed a semblance of a normal life.

What the present looks like on the walls of his house, we have no idea. Netflix has not penetrated the intimacy the family maintains with iron determination.

It is this sense of the unknown that gives the project a certain spice, covers it with painful tension and a feeling of deep sadness because it cannot avoid the fate that befell it in the French Alps.

Schumacher’s wife, Corinna, remembers her annoyance with the snow conditions on that tragic day in Méribel, and her suggestion that they should go skydiving in Dubai instead. If only they had.

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The conditions are not optimal, he said using typical Schumi phrasing that reminded me of an exchange I had with him in a similar setting during one of the epic PR weeks of Ferrari in the Italian Dolomites, scenes of which appear among the documentary clips.

My employers had paid a photographer £ 1,000 for exclusive photos of the great man and yours truly in the seaside resort of Madonna di Campiglio. On the last day, with the mission not yet complete, I was forced to intercept Schumi as he disembarked from the chairlift at the top of the Groste piste before the traditional weekend ski race.

He reluctantly agreed, saying, “Okay, but hurry, I have to test the course.” He only had media and guests to fight, but he was taking no chances. The name Schumacher was duly at the top of the timesheets each of the five times I was present.

Through the testimony of family and relatives with the help of historical and current interviews, the documentary traces the evolution of a historical figure, resuming his first years on the karting track of Kerpen, where his father, man with modest means, would make the kart of his son. in tires thrown by others while his mother helped out at the cafe, with the more familiar rise through the F1 ranks.

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It’s the story of a boy from an ordinary background transformed by a supernatural ability and an almost pathological desire to succeed, twin elements that combined to take Schumacher to unprecedented heights until Lewis arrived. Hamilton.

I first met Schumacher at the British Grand Prix in 1998 where he won in the wet. A year later, at the same circuit, he was denied a chance to win his first title with Ferrari when brake failure resulted in a major shunt to Stowe and a broken leg that prevented him from competing in six races.

From 2000 to 2004 he was compelling, adding five consecutive driver’s titles to the two won at Benetton in 1994 and 1995.

How to watch the Schumacher documentary

  • Title: Schumacher
  • Release date: Wednesday September 15
  • Flux: Available on Netflix. Plans range from £ 5.99 to £ 13.99 per month.

The controversies that marked his career, in particular the cynical collisions during the championship duels with Damon Hill (Japan 94) and Jacques Villeneuve (Japan 97), the change of position with the leader Rubens Barrichello in the last corner of the Grand Prix d ‘ Austria 2002, the blockage of Fernando Alonso at La Rascasse during qualifying for the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, overturned him in the hierarchy of purists in the pantheon of the greats.

The lack of challenge from within within a team built entirely around him also did not appeal to Corinthian observers. If you listen to the testimony of Eddie Irvine, his first Ferrari servant in 1996, however, it wouldn’t have made any difference. Schumacher, he said, was incredibly good.

For proof, we only have to watch the reruns of his last race for the Scuderia in wet conditions at Interlagos in 2006. A mysterious setback in qualifying left Schumacher tenth on the grid and a puncture early in the race dropped him to 19th place.

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From there he would slip through the field to finish fourth in a demonstration of wet mastery that brought to mind Jim Clark at Spa in 1963, Ayrton Senna at Donington 30 years later and Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone in 2008.

Three years after his four-year hiatus, I intercepted Schumacher again in southern Spain where he was fulfilling his sponsorship obligations. The two breathtaking laps I took with him in the passenger seat of a fast Maserati are some of the most treasured moments of my career. In other words, I had none of his speed and I was relieved when he finally took his foot off the accelerator.

Your correspondent at Schumacher after a high-speed drive in a Maserati in Spain (Photo: Kevin Garside)

I quote the story that appeared in the The telegraph of the day. “We are at the limit of tires now. I have to take it slow, ”he said with a few turns remaining. Pay no attention to me, old man. “Look,” he said as we got out of the car. “What did I tell you?” He showed pieces of frayed canvas protruding from gaping holes where the rubber was.

In our subsequent rest, we discussed his life in retirement. His days, it seemed to me, were spent finding ways to satisfy the need for extremes. He spoke of his love for struggling on his motorcycle and for skydiving, which he had just started. It was no surprise then when he announced later that year that he would return to F1 with Mercedes in 2010.

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Three unproductive seasons in an uncompetitive car cured him of his infatuation with F1. In a development of historic significance, Schumacher was replaced by Hamilton, who would equal his championship total in a period of unprecedented domination in the era of hybrid engines.

Hamilton was grateful for the three seasons he shared with Schumacher, although neither ran up front during that time. He could at least say he raced against the best, a driver whose legendary contribution to Formula 1 is sympathetically narrated through Netflix’s soft lens.


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