Netflix’s new documentary about the life and career of seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher not only showcases his astounding ability behind the wheel of the world’s fastest racing cars, but also sheds new light on the man he was away from the race track.
The documentary was produced in cooperation with the Schumacher family, including interviews from Michael’s wife, Corinna, brother and former F1 driver Ralf, daughter, Gina-Maria, father, Rolf and son, Mick, who is now a current F1 driver himself. Due to this, most of the interviews within the documentary shed Michael in a very positive light, despite
some of his controversial actions while racing in the upper echelon of motorsport. The documentary focuses heavily on Michael as a fierce competitor on the track, including how he was determined to win at all costs and willing to push the boundaries of not only himself but the car he was operating.
This fierce and undying determination sometimes landed Michael out of his depth, including the 1994 title decider in Adelaide in which Schumacher crashed into title rival Damon Hill, securing Schumacher the title. Three years later in 1997, Schumacher again found himself shrouded in controversy when he again crashed into his title rival, Jacques Villeneuve, in Jerez, this time handing Villeneuve the title as he was able to complete the race.
Ever the competitor on the track, the documentary also gives the viewer a glimpse into Schumacher’s private life through footage provided by his family. The footage shows Michael on holiday with friends and family, enjoying the riches that life away from the media circus of F1 has to offer. Schumacher was not afraid to drop his confident façade when with his family as he expressed his true self, a man racked with insecurities and self-doubt just like the rest of us. His emotions came to the fore when he equaled the win record of F1 legend Ayrton Senna. Schumacher broke down in tears at the delight of equaling one of the all-time greats, portraying how this man of steely grit and determination was a man that had cracks in his demeanor.
The documentary does primarily focus on the earlier parts of Schumacher’s career, but is a serious issue with the pacing. Glossing over his glory years of five consecutive world titles with Ferrari within a matter of minutes, there is a feeling that the document could have been unraveled a lot neater than it was.
Following the montage of glorious success, the mood of the film becomes somber and gloomy as the interviewees begin discussing Schumacher’s 2013 skiing accident which left him in a coma and changed his and his family’s life forever. No real insight is given as to what happened on the day of the accident as the family continues to keep the details under
wraps for the time being. We learn that Schumacher’s current condition is kept so secretive because just as he protected them from unwarranted attention in the past, they are doing the same for him. Just as he made them feel loved and protected, they now repay the favour. “Everybody misses Michael”, explains Michaels wife, Corinna, “but Michael is here. Different, but he’s here. And that gives us strength, I find.”
Ultimately the documentary is one filled with very high highs, low lows and its fair share of
controversy. A much needed and all in all well-executed look into the man Schumacher was
behind the wheel but also the man he was behind closed doors.
Image Credit: Netflix