FEW DRIVERS in Formula One history have a legacy as impressive as Michael Schumacher’s. Now, Netflix — flushed with the success of three seasons of its Formula One fly-on-the-wall documentary Drive To Survive — has announced a series documenting the seven-times world champion’s life and career.
Netflix says the series will include “rare interviews, and never-before-seen archive material”, with contributors including FIA President and Schumacher’s former Ferrari team boss Jean Todt; ex-F1 rights owner Bernie Ecclestone, racing rivals David Coutlhard, Mika Häkkinen and Damon Hill; Benetton team boss Flavio Briatore; Schumi’s manager Sabine Kehm, and many more.
Netflix: there will be no sugarcoating
The streaming service says the series has been made with the support of the Schumacher family, though it is at pains to point out that some of the hard truths of the Schumacher story won’t be avoided
Vanessa Nöcker, who has co-produced and directed the Schumacher Netflix series, said: “The greatest challenge for the directors was certainly to find the balance between independent reporting and consideration for the family.
“Corinna Schumacher [Michael’s wife] herself was our greatest support in this. She herself wanted to make an authentic film, to show Michael as he is, with all his ups and downs, without any sugarcoating.
“She was great and brave enough to let us do what we wanted, and so we respected and kept her boundaries. A very inspiring, warm woman who made a lasting impression on all of us.”
Michael Schumacher has not been seen in public since a skiing accident in late 2013 that left him fighting for his life. Although he survived what were described as catastrophic brain injuries, there has been no clear information on his condition. All the Schumacher family will say is that his situation ‘continues to improve’.
The son of a bricklayer, Schumacher had incredible talent behind the wheel and a steely work ethic and determination to win into unheard-of glories. While Sir Lewis Hamilton has equalled Schumacher’s tally of seven world titles, it was the German who first broke the five-title record set by the great Juan Manuel Fangio.
Schumacher’s name is regularly near or at the top of lists when it comes to discussion of the greatest racing driver of all time. He built a near-symbiotic relationship with British engineer Ross Brawn, who helped create and run cars that won two world championships at Benetton (now the Alpine F1 team) and an unbroken run of five titles for Ferrari, from 2000 to 2004.
But the driver was never far from controversy. Following an electric debut in 1991 for the Jordan team, he triggered instant contract wrangling rows by moving to Benetton for the next race. Then, in 1994 came accusations of cheating, and Schumacher was given a two-race ban for breaking the rules at the British Grand Prix.
He won his first drivers’ world championship that year in dramatic circumstances, colliding with title rival Damon Hill’s Williams in what many believed was a deliberate attempt to cause his opponent to retire.
Critics list other controversial moments from the single-minded Schumacher’s career, and it’s the potential for the documentary not to shy away from such events that may make the Netflix documentary fascinating viewing.
Kehm said: “Michael Schumacher has redefined the professional image of a racing driver and has set new standards. In his quest for perfection, he spared neither himself nor his team, driving them to the greatest successes.
“He is admired all over the world for his leadership qualities. He found the strength for this task and the balance to recharge at home, with his family, whom he loves idolatrously. In order to preserve his private sphere as a source of strength, he has always rigorously and consistently separated his private from his public life.
“This film tells of both worlds. It is his family’s gift to their beloved husband and father.”
As Michael’s son, Mick, has begun his F1 career this year, it will be fascinating to see what the Netflix generation makes of his dad.
The Schumacher series will make its debut on the streaming service on September 15, 2021.