The life of iconic racing car driver Michael Schumacher is the subject of the latest sporting documentary from Netflix, after The Last Dance, a docu-series about the life and career of NBA star Michael Jordan, and Formula 1: Drive to Survive, both exploded in popularity.
This is everything you need to know.
Who is Michael Schumacher?
Michael Schumacher is a German former racecar driver who holds a joint record seven World Drivers’ Championship titles alongside Lewis Hamilton.
He competed in Formula One for brands like Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes. Across the 308 races of his career, Schumacher won 91 grand prix races.
Schumacher made his Formula One debut in 1991, and after a one-off appearance with Jordan at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, he was signed by Benetton for the rest of the 1991 season.
He went on to win his first and second drivers’ titles in 1994 and 1995. In 1996, he moved over to Ferrari, with whom he won five consecutive titles in 2001 to 2004, and broke several world records. He retired from the sport in 2006, but made a brief return from 2010 to 2012 with Mercedes.
Schumacher was born on 3 January 1969 in West Germany, to parents Rolf and Elisabeth.
In 1995, he married Corinna Betsch, and together they have two children, daughter Gina-Marie born in February 1997, and son Mick born in March 1999.
Schumacher has famously disliked the limelight, and has always been very protective of his private life.
What happened to him - and what’s his condition like now?
In December of 2013, the racing driver was involved in a skiing accident in the French Alps, which left him with a near fatal brain injury.
Schumacher fell and his head hit a rock - it is believed that the helmet he was wearing saved his life. He was airlifted to Grenoble hospital where doctors put him into a medically induced coma before undergoing a number of operations to reduce the swelling in his brain.
In 2014, Schumacher left Grenoble hospital for further rehabilitation at the Lausanne University Hospital. Later that year he returned home to Lake Geneva.
The Telegraph, in November 2014, reported that Schumacher was “in a wheelchair paralysed” and that he “has memory problems and speech problems”, according to former racing driver and friend of Schumacher Philippe Steiff.
He hasn’t been seen in public since the accident, but his family did release an update on his 50th birthday saying that they are “doing everything humanly possible” to aid his recovery.
In the documentary, Schumacher’s wife, Corinna, offered a rare glimpse into the racing champion’s current condition.
She said: “Everybody misses Michael, but Michael is here. Different, but he’s here, and that gives us strength, I find.
“He still shows me how strong he is every day. We’re together. We live together at home. We do therapy.
“We do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable, and to simply make him feel our family, our bond.”
She added: “No matter what, I will do everything I can. We all will. We’re trying to carry on as a family, the way Michael liked it and still does. We are getting on with our lives.
““Private is private”, as he always said. It’s very important to me that he can continue to enjoy his private life as much as possible.
“Michael always protected us, and now we are protecting Michael.”
What’s the documentary about - and how can I watch it?
The documentary, simply called Schumacher, explores the life and career of the legendary racer.
The official description of the almost two hour long documentary from Netflix reads: “Through exclusive interviews and archival footage, this documentary traces an intimate portrait of seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher.”
The documentary was released on Netflix today, Wednesday 15 September.
There are three Netflix packages you can choose from if you want to sign up to the streaming platform - basic, which costs £5.99 per month; standard, which costs £9.99 per month and premium, which costs £13.99 per month.
Each package offers something slightly different, like Ultra HD and the number of screens that can be watching Netflix at the same time.
What are reviews saying?
As the film has only just debuted, there aren’t many reviews out quite yet - but the ones that have been published seem to feel that the documentary doesn’t dive deep enough into the life of Schumacher, instead only scratching the surface of his career and private life.
Robbie Collin, the chief film critic from The Telegraph, awarded the film one star out of five, calling it “a catastrophically misjudged positioning exercise for the Schumacher brand”.
Collin says: “Directors Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker and Michael Wech walk us through his career from his arrival in Formula One in 1991 to his retirement in 2006 with an aversion to humanising details that borders on the pathological.
“Legendary instances of unsportsmanlike conduct are glossed over or talked around: the biggest character flaw acknowledged on screen was his penchant for singing My Way at karaoke.
“The talking heads offer little but platitudes and clichés, while the endless racing footage is dry in the extreme. Here is a life not sugar-coated by cinema so much as rolled in powdered alum.”
Miranda Collinge, from Esquire, asks: “Why does Netflix’s new Michael Schumacher documentary insist on applying the brakes?”
She says: “Schumacher never gets off the start line. There’s the chronological trot-through of his achievements, honing his skills on the family go-karting track, debuting in Formula 1 for Jordan, then Benetton, and his dogged determination to turn Ferrari into a contender – which he of course did – often accompanied by a soaring orchestral score that is both overblown and emotionally unearned.
“There are the attempts to show what a nice guy he was off the track: he enjoyed Bacardi and coke! He liked to throw people in the swimming pool at parties! (“That was his thing,” says Corinna).
“But even the personal photographs are frequently of the staged kind – all soft focus and matching pastel knitwear – a projection of a life, but not the life itself.”
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