|First race||Australian Grand Prix||Albert Park||March 9, 1997||Race results|
|Last race||Brazilian Grand Prix||Interlagos||October 21, 2007||Race results|
Like his elder brother Michael, Ralf was brought up on karts as father Rolf ran a kart track. He graduated to cars at 17 in 1992 then advanced from Formel Junior to Formula Three in 1994 and ranked third behind Jorg Muller and Alex Wurz. Runner-up to Norberto Fontana in 1995, this duo met again in Japanese Formula 3000 in 1996, and Ralf took the title at the final round, even though he crashed out of the race.
Ralf stepped up to Formula One with Jordan in 1997 and showed raw speed. However, he upset the team by knocking team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella out of second place in Argentina en route to third. Staying on with Jordan in 1998, Ralf peaked with second behind team-mate Damon Hill in Belgium. Moving on to Williams for 1999, his new-found maturity shone through as he scored 11 times in 16 races, peaking with second at Monza.
Ralf drove even better in 2000, ranking fifth, but he was given a scare by the pace of his rookie team-mate Jenson Button. Ralf came of age in 2001 by scoring his first win after outrunning the McLarens at Imola. Then he won again at Montreal, this time beating brother Michael in a straight fight. His third win came at Hockenheim when team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya hit trouble. The 2002 season started well with a fortunate win in the second race, in Malaysia, but his form was erratic, although winning again would have been tough as Ferrari was so dominant.
Ralf won twice in 2003, with masterful drives in consecutive races, but his form was again too patchy to mount a bid for the title. Ralf interrupted his 2004 campaign by hitting the wall at Indianapolis, then repeated the feat in 2005 after transferring to Toyota. He came good with a second third place finish in the Shanghai finale. There was a further third place in Australia in 2006, but the season was a disappointment as Toyota lost ground and team and driver parted company after another year without success.
Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books