Schumi still fighting at 50, under wraps

Seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher poses with the Mercedes team in the pits of the Interlagos racetrack in Brazil to commemorate his last race in 2012.
Seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher poses with the Mercedes team in the pits of the Interlagos racetrack in Brazil to commemorate his last race in 2012.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Michael Schumacher's legacy is still revered in Formula One's history as the seven-time world champion turns 50 today, five years on from the near-fatal skiing accident that left the Ferrari great fighting brain injuries behind a wall of secrecy.

The German is still the sport's most successful driver in terms of grands prix wins (91) and titles, and F1's focus will be highlighting the remarkable career and talents of a man whose fame stretched well beyond the racetrack.

The Ferrari museum in Maranello, Italy, is today revealing a special exhibition, Michael 50, that the carmaker said is both a celebration and mark of gratitude to the most successful Prancing Horse driver ever.

Mercedes, the last team he drove for in F1 before retiring in 2012, will also have some of his cars on display at their museum in Stuttgart.

F1 management will dedicate a week to him on its social media platforms, including exclusive interviews with many of those who were part of the German's F1 story.

Hanging over it all, however, will be a strong sense of sadness - just as every anniversary since his Dec 29 fall while skiing off piste near Meribel in the French Alps with his family in 2013. He hit his head on a rock and spent months in an artificial coma after being rushed to hospital in a critical condition.

"We think a lot about him," Mercedes motor sport head Toto Wolff said. "He was an exceptional sportsman, and he's missed.

STAYING IN TOUCH

I'm always careful when I say something. But it's true, I watched the Brazilian GP in Switzerland with Michael. There are pictures of him all over my offices and apartments. The time with Michael will be remembered as the best of my life.

JEAN TODT, FIA president and Schumacher's ex-boss at Ferrari.

"As a seven-time world champion, he's missed within the paddock, he's missed as a consultant to us, somebody we've been looking up to. We hope that his recovery continues to be positive and that's the most important thing."

Just how positive, or otherwise, is a matter of considerable conjecture and one met with resolute silence from his wife Corinna, the family and those who always formed part of his innermost circle.

They would prefer the world remembered Schumacher as the champion he was, rather than the different kind of fighter he has become.

Yesterday, on the eve of his birthday, Corinna issued a rare statement but all she would say was this: "We are very happy to celebrate Michael's 50th birthday tomorrow together with you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts that we can do this together.

"You can be sure that he is in the very best of hands and that we are doing everything humanly possible to help him.

"Please understand if we are following Michael's wishes and keeping such a sensitive subject as health, as it has always been, in privacy."

A report in The Daily Mail last month suggested he is not bed-ridden or dependent on tubes any more. But it is believed that he is still receiving extensive, round-the-clock nursing and therapy care.

Amid enduring media speculation, be it rumoured moves for treatment elsewhere or speculation concerning Schumacher's general mobility, any shred of bona fide information from behind the walls of the family's lakeside Swiss mansion is news.

Jean Todt, Schumacher's former Ferrari boss who is now president of the International Automobile Federation, is one of a select few who is a frequent visitor.

He revealed last month that he had watched last year's Brazilian race with Schumacher.

In an interview with Germany's Auto Bild, he said: "Actually, I'm always careful when I say something. But it's true, I watched the Brazilian Grand Prix in Switzerland with Michael.

"There are pictures of him all over my offices and apartments. The time with Michael will be remembered as the best of my life."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline 'Schumi still fighting at 50, under wraps'. Print Edition | Subscribe