Since his skiing accident in 2013 in Méribel, Michael Schumacher has not appeared in public and his state of health remains secret, under the family lock. Thirty years after its first Grand Prix victory in Belgium in August 1991, Netflix unveiled, Wednesday, September 15, a documentary of nearly two hours (Schumacher, quite simply) dedicated to the legendary German driver, seven-time Formula 1 world champion between 1994 and 2004 and author of 91 victories.
This film, “the only one supported by his family”, uses the classic recipe of the sports documentary by retracing the extraordinary career of “Schumi” to the rhythm of the Grands Prix and family moments, through numerous images and archival videos, completed by interviews of his relatives: his wife Corinna, her two children Gina and Mick or her father, Rolf.
Those who rubbed shoulders with him in the paddocks or on the track are also present. Starting with Jean Todt, the former director of the Ferrari team and friend, now president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA). We also find former drivers like the rivals of Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill (world champion in 1996) and Mika Häkkinen (champion in 1998 and 1999), or Sebastian Vettel, the German heir four times crowned between 2010 and 2013.
From his first Grand Prix victory in Belgium in 1991 to his retirement from sports in 2006, before returning to the circuits with Mercedes in 2010, the film traces the key moments of his career in chronological order. From childhood, Michael Schumacher, who saw himself “make a career in karting but not in F1”, learns to ride on the circuits with his father. Coming from a modest family, Schumi always rode with the cheapest equipment. “I fixed old tires thrown in the trash on my kart and I won with them”, tells the pilot in voice over.
Then his first steps in the big leagues in Formula 1, which did not go unnoticed. From his first laps on the circuit, he caused a sensation and stood out with his aggressive driving. His first seasons in F1 were also marked by his (short) rivalry with the star of the time, the Brazilian Ayrton Senna, which the documentary recounts in detail until his fatal accident in 1994, in Imola (San Marino). In the beginning, “We had little information. I don’t believe in his death, because for me he will come back and be champion. (…) The worst was the following two weeks, when I had to really accept his death. C ‘was totally insane “, Michael Schumacher said after the fact.
Of course, the documentary also looks back on his arrival at Ferrari in 1996. After his first two world titles at the wheel of a Benetton, Schumacher joined the legendary Italian team, which he wanted to revive and put back at the top of the hierarchy. But this new chapter is synonymous with pressure. “If you don’t win, you look like an idiot”, tackle Luca Di Montezemolo, ex-president of the team facing the camera. His first coronation of world champion with the red team, in 2000, after four years spent wiping the casts, was a release for Schumi, who then chained four other titles in a row at the wheel of a car that has become unbeatable. .
One of the strengths of the documentary is also based on the testimonies of his relatives evoking his personality. The competitor, intrepid, constantly exceeding his limits on the circuits, was at odds with the protective and benevolent father and husband. “He was always at the limit, he excluded fear”, remembers one of his many great rivals, Finland’s Mika Häkkinen. “I said, ‘You can’t block me, you can’t do this to me at 300 km / h.'”
His search for performance guided the champion throughout his career and allowed him to transform Scuderia Ferrari, which had not, before its arrival, won a world title with one of its drivers since 1979. This perfectionist spent a lot of time with his teams, his engineers and contributed enormously to the development of his cars, like Niki Lauda or Alain Prost before him. “Each time on the circuit, I thought about how to make the car go faster”, explained the German.
For those familiar with Schumi’s career, this documentary will only bring back fond memories. On the other hand, for the curious, this production is very well done and complete. What surprises, however, is the way his relatives evoke the champion, speaking of him exclusively in the past tense. However, don’t expect to get any revelations about his state of health, let alone see him appear on screen. If his voice is obviously present in the documentary, Netflix relied on a large panel of past interviews.
The only news of the champion is given by his wife Corinna and his son Mick. “I miss him every day. He is different but he is always there (…) He receives all the care he needs and we are doing everything we can to make his condition improve”, says Corinna. “We always understand each other but in a different way”, continues Mick Schumacher, who has taken up the pilot’s torch and has been training his ranges since the start of the Formula 1 season, within the Haas team. “We have this language in common, motorsport, and we always have a lot to say to each other. I would give anything so that we can talk to each other …” News drop by drop to preserve the myth. “Michael has always watched over us and it is now up to us to watch over him”, concludes his wife.