Franz Tost believes that, if not for two serious crashes and some bad timing, Ralf Schumacher could have been a multiple World Champion.
Schumacher enjoyed a fairly successful F1 career, winning six races and standing on the podium 27 times, but was always in the shadow of his brother Michael, who has more titles to his name than anyone other than Lewis Hamilton, who he is level with.
Tost worked with Ralf in Japan before the German entered the world of F1 and says he was immensely talented himself.
“Ralf was sensationally fast, incredibly talented,” the AlphaTauri team boss told F1 Insider.
“The highlight at the beginning of his career was winning Japanese Formula Nippon. It was an extremely high-quality championship and almost impossible for a European to win.
“I went to Japan with Ralf but he didn’t enjoy the stay there that much. Because his contract was actually designed for two years, I said to him ‘win the championship in the first year, then you can shorten the time in Japan’. And that’s what he did.”
Tost says that what was so remarkable about Schumacher was not only his outright pace but his understanding of his machinery and his intelligence.
“I can still remember his prophecy at Silverstone when he was testing the McLaren-Mercedes,” he added.
“It was fitted with Goodyear tyres. Ralf was already doing tests with Bridgestone in Japan back then. So he leaned out of the window and said ‘If Goodyear don’t come up with something, they will have problems against Bridgestone’. That’s what [happened].
“That showed how extremely sensitive Ralf was early on as a test driver. Regarding his Formula 1 time, he had high-quality, extremely fast team-mates like Juan-Pablo Montoya or Jenson Button. And he controlled [them].”
Despite possessing such talent though, Schumacher never came close to winning a title in F1, falling to ever finish higher than P4 in the end-of-year standings.
Tost puts this down to some bad timing and two big crashes that he feels made the German slower.
“His problem? He was never in the right place at the right time, otherwise he would have won titles like his brother,” he said.
“What ultimately cost him his speed were two extremely serious accidents. Once when testing in Monza (in 2003) and the crash at Indianapolis (in 2004).”
Whether Mick Schumacher will enjoy a career more similar to his father’s or his uncle’s is unclear with him struggling at times in his first year-and-a-half on the grid.
That has led to rumours that Haas will choose not to retain him beyond 2022, but former Formula 1 driver, Hans-Joachim Stuck, has said that they will not be able to find a better driver than the German.