The Schumacher Collection is an emotional journey for all F1 Fans
In July, I had the opportunity to see the Schumacher Collection in the outskirts of Cologne, Germany. It’s been nearly five years, that the driver, who broke every possible record in Formula-1 (and still keeps the most important ones) retired and only a little bit less time passed, since we are left in uncertainty, whether we will see him driving ever again. Five years are a lot of time in Motorsports and today's youngsters may have no idea how different the world was 20 years ago. Now there is a new exhibition that reminds us of the achievements of the seven-time champion who dominated Formula-1, like nobody ever since.
The new exhibition was set up in Motorworld Rheinland, in a renovated airfield building at the outskirt of Cologne (there is a dedicated website accessible from the official page of the Champion). Motorworld is a network of premium classic and luxury car centres in Germany, offering classic and modern rarities, luxury automobiles and bikes. In addition to the Schumacher Collection, the Motorworld Köln / Rheinland offers glass boxes for exotic private vehicles, specialized workshops, premium shops for accessories, and a catering (see their website). The collection is accessible free of charge, and the opening hours are really generous.
At the time of my visit, the facility seemed to be still far from being finished, but it functioned already. On the day of my visit, there was a major US car meet, which made it a bit more challenging to take pictures, that meet Germany’s high privacy standards.
To give a better idea how the finished Köln Rheinland will be like, with service centres and glass boxes filled with private cars, I include the pictures I made when I visited the Motorworld in the Stuttgart region, about a year ago.
The most complete section is the main hall that hosts the Schumacher Collection. The Collection consists of 19 cars from various stages of Michael Schumacher from carting to the Mercedes years.
In addition, there is an audio-visual room and many memorabilia from Michael’s pass cards and gloves to his decorations and helmets (including the red wig to celebrate Ferrari’s first constructor title in 21 years).
There is a dedicated souvenir shop as well, but of course, the main attraction will be the selection of open-wheel race cars parked upstairs. The exhibition starts with an early go-kart and the 1988 Formula Ford and 1989 Formula 3 Reynard cars.
But actually, one of the first cars to greet the visitor is the Group C endurance car from Mercedes, who brought three young German titans on board in the 1991 season. The Gr C Merc is quite an impressive sight.
The two formula cars lead to the first F-1 car, the green 1991 Jordan, that gave Schumacher the first chance to show his skills in F-1, by securing an impressive seventh position on the grid. While he did not finish his first F-1 race on his favourite track, he could join the Benetton team for the remainder of the season securing points, and sometimes outscoring three-time world champion Piquet.
Next up, is the yellow 1992 Benetton B191B, that catapulted him to the podium at the end of the year (beating Senna in a Mclaren) and secured his very first victory (where else than in Spa?). Then comes the blue period with the 1994 and 1995 Benetton marking the first two championship titles of “Schumi”.
The year 1994 was marked by the death of one of the greatest F1 legends of all time, and with the tragic death of Roland Ratzenberger, it proved to be among the most tragic years in the history of modern F-1.
There are lots of stories from this period and interestingly the testimonies of “friends” (in the video room), include memories of arch-rivals Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, with whom Michael fought neck to neck, and in the close finale, were involved in shunting and body checks.
The odd one out in this segment of the exhibition is the 2010 Mercedes MGP W01, that marked the return of the most successful F1 driver of all time with the most awesome Mercedes ad, I ever saw.
The actual racing results, however, fell behind expectations, despite that fact that the team was based on the champion Brawn team and later developed into a massively successful champion team. Strongest memories I have was a scene where the car fell off the track, and while waiting for the tow car, Schumacher remained by the wreck until the last moment to cover the latest aerodynamics upgrades from the press.
From now on, we’ll be seeing red, as for the 1996 season, Michael signed up with the ailing Scuderia Ferrari, the team that became the graveyard of legendary world champions on a glide path (like Prost and Mansell). But this time, the arrival of a reigning champion led to the most successful period for both Ferrari and Michael.
The initial period, however, started anything but successfully. While Senna or Alonso always tried to secure a position at the reigning champion, Michael played a risky game to make a future champion team (with the know-how of his trusted friends, Rory Byrn and Ross Brawn), Ferrari, however, proved to be far away from that shot at the title. Mechanical failures and inferior car performance neutralized his victories (some of them are considered among the best races of F1 history), but he maintained his resolute to be more than just a pilot. He was a team captain who motivated his team during the lows, and these lows were mainly overcome during his second season with the Ferrari. Michael had a reasonable chance for a championship title, until a very unworthy final race of the 1997 season.
Michaels’s plans, however, started rollin’ by his third Ferrari season, but the weakening competitors were outpaced by the shooting star silver arrows. And his fourth season was devastated by a leg injury, that cost him one more title (that almost went to the second Ferrari pilot Irvine). Seven title seems impossible to match but these achievements are even more striking when looking at the two shots (97 and 1999) that were lost, and the fact that Michael was the top contender in almost every other season. He was the nr 1 threat to the titles of Hill, Villeneuve, Hakkinen and Alonso.
By 2000, his efforts seem to bear fruits finally, and that year brought his third driver championship title (the first in red). The next five years are about Michael as breaking every possible record in Formula 1. At the same time, he also broke or crippled many careers, of young talents and future champions. The records of Villeneuve, Montoya, Raikkönnen or Heidfeld would certainly look different with a less dominant Ferrari. It was not just about Schumacher’s records, there were years when almost every race was won by a Ferrari pilot.
The collection features all seven cars that brought driver’s championship title to Michael, with memorabilia like trophies (including a driver’s championship trophy), or the red sculpture signed by all members of the Scuderia for his recovery in 1999.
At first, I was wondering about the location chosen for the exhibition, but now that I saw, I understand. In the past couple of years, I visited a few dozen national and corporate Museums, and often thought about their best and worst aspects. The wide selection of cars in the Schumacher Collection, and the period concerned would quickly eliminate historical and corporate museums (or would alienate other brands, who contributed to the records of Schumacher). The Motorworld provides a modern and elegant environment, and is ideally located in the centre of Western Europe (and also close to Michael's hometown of Kerpen). I certainly put it on my agenda when I pass by the next time, it is half an hour from the Classic Remise, and not far away from Essen, for those who like to attend the brilliant Techno Classica or the colorful Essen Motor Show.