The nearly two-hour documentary on the life of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who remains in recovery after a devastating skiing accident in 2013, uses stock footage of him and interviews with his near-and-dear ones to chart his rise to the top.
Story: Michael Schumacher is a household name across the globe and this is the story of the steely determination that took him from his humble roots in Germany, to developing the need for speed on a go-kart, and eventually becoming one of the greatest F1 drivers.
Review: I began following F1 in the early 2000s, a time that coincided with Michael Schumacher’s brilliant stint with Ferrari, and gave up when he left the Italian racing giant at the end of the 2006 season. Ferrari without Michael in those red overalls seemed incomplete. Despite the overwhelming admiration for the seven-time world champion, when I sat to watch the Netflix documentary about Michael Schumacher, the lingering thought was about the man, who was involved in a devastating skiing accident almost eight years ago and whose exact health status remains a mystery till date.
The documentary by Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker and Michael Wech has the blessings of the Schumacher family, who are joined by several former racers, team bosses, friends, etc., to present a clearer picture of the man, his flaws and shortcomings included. Much of its 1 hour and 52-minute run-time is dedicated to Michael’s rise to the top, from driving re-modelled go-karts as a four year old, to competing at the World Junior Karting Championship, the transition to Formula 1 racing, his first Grand Prix Win in Belgium in 1991, and, most notably, his decade-long association with Ferrari, during which time he won five consecutive World Drivers’ Championships between 2000 and 2004.
Amid footage of races, Michael’s brilliance and finesse while driving through the worst weather conditions, the documentary also shines light on just how competitive he was and often failed to see that he could also be at fault when things didn’t go his way. Like, for instance, the nudge to Damon Hill’s car at the 1994 Adelaide Grand Prix that kept both of them out of the race, but allowed Michael to retain his championship points lead. Or the collision with Jacques Villeneuve at the 1997 European Grand Prix, which Michael admitted to being his fault only after seeing a video replay.
There are also poignant moments, like the 1994 Italian Grand Prix that claimed Ayrton Senna’s life, as he crashed while trying to stay ahead of a fiercely charging Michael, which visibly shook the latter or the Italian Grand Prix win, when he wept during the press conference, realizing he had equaled Senna’s record of 41 victories.
Throughout the documentary, I had this gnawing feeling that Michael being the greatest of them all needs no affirmation. It’s the moments of him as the fun-loving, devoted family man that tug at your heartstrings and it’s difficult to not get a little teary-eyed knowing that he’s still around, but just not the man he used to be.
Verdict: Schumacher is an absolute must-watch not only for fans of the man himself, but anyone with even an iota of interest in F1 to catch the action from some of the most glorious years in the sport. But, most importantly, watch it because it is an honest attempt to present Michael for who he is – a human being, who is also one of the greatest to have ever been a part of motor sports.