Launched worldwide on 15th September 2021 only on Netflix, we have the first official documentary film about the legendary Michael Schumacher.
He’s the Formula 1 driver who dominated the sport for over a decade in the 1990s through to 2006, winning (at the time) an unprecedented seven world titles.
The documentary is the first to receive backing from the Schumacher family, allowing its production and release to the world.
Schumacher (the 2021 film)
If you’re unaware, it’s important to begin this review by highlighting Michael Schumacher’s skiing accident in December 2013.
This left him with severe brain damage, from which he continues to recover. But he hasn’t been seen in public since late 2013 and his family has worked hard to protect his privacy during rehabilitation.
So watching this documentary is inherently moving, as it’s a tribute to the competitive, loving, and generous man Schumacher was.
Again, if you don’t know anything about Formula 1 then Schumacher’s story may be foreign to you. But it follows in the wake of such brilliant films as Senna (2011).
The documentary explores his F1 career, which began in August 1991 (the documentary was timed to mark the 30th anniversary of this).
Subsequently, he quickly rose to prominence and was the driver set to take on the sport’s superstar Ayrton Senna.
The Brazilian driver’s tragic death at Imola in 1994 changed the course of the sport’s history. And Schumacher’s interviews from the time indicate just how much the accident affected him.
And he helped the sport overcome the tragedy by rising to become its next superstar, winning two titles with Benetton before blitzing the opposition with Ferrari between 2000 and 2004.
During his career, Schumacher’s uncompromising approach to winning did mean he ended up in multiple major controversies.
That included two championship deciding collisions with rivals in 1994 and 1997.
That often led to friction with his peers, such as long-term McLaren rival David Coulthard. The pair obviously respected and liked each other, but as they both kept colliding on track they’d often also infuriate each other.
And that was most apparent at Spa in 1998 when the two almost came to blows.
Despite being a fearsomely competitive driver whose genius was unmatched during his time in the sport, the documentary also reveals the other side to the man.
When not doing his job, he could embrace a “normal” life.
He wasn’t one for celebrity, choosing instead to lead a private life. And he would stay out of the limelight as much as possible, not enjoying being bombarded by the press at circuits.
Schumacher was also a UNESCO ambassador and dominated tens of millions of his money to various charities and humanitarian projects.
Not for publicity, just as that’s who he was. He once sent a cheque for $1 million to a German charity with zero fanfare and without any recognition for his efforts.
Schumacher also makes it painfully clear how much of a dedicated family man the F1 driver was. There are many pictures with the family spending time together, grinning delightedly as they clearly bonded so well as a unit.
His wife, Corinna, who reveals a few rare details of his current condition.
Michael is still very much with us, but “different” and in need of protection and support from his wife and children.
The sad reality is he seems destined to a lifelong recovery and we may simply not see him in public again.
Which makes watching the film rather heartbreaking, as his strong and endearing personality is on full show throughout.
That highlights, asides from his endlessly miraculous feats as an F1 driver, the world is now sadly missing a compassionate and magnanimous individual.
So, it’s a touching documentary but also a loving homage to the driver who thrilled a generation with his on track exploits.
And whilst lacking the thrilling pace and verve of the Senna documentary, it’s nonetheless still a fitting tribute to one of F1’s great superstars.