Limited public appearances, journalists banned from questioning F1 driver son Mick and restricted visits including from an ex-team boss… the amazing lengths Michael Schumacher’s family have gone to keep the F1 legend’s condition secret
- Michael Schumacher suffered life threatening skiing accident in December 2013
- The F1 legend’s condition has been largely unknown in the following years
- Schumacher’s family have fought hard to protect privacy of the German since
Keeping private is not easy in the modern world in an era where you can take a photo, post it online and layer it with a few words of context within seconds.
And that’s just for the average person. Imagine if you were the family of arguably the greatest Formula One driver of all time, who is of significant global interest to not just the sport’s fans but also the general public.
Not only is information sought to satisfy public interest, but when they aren’t alternative solutions are turned to – no matter how bizarre.
The proof of this? The recent tasteless and so-called ‘exclusive interview’ with Michael Schumacher’ from German gossip magazine Die Aktuelle.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the family’s current run-in with Die Aktuelle over the controversial AI interview is seeing the family reportedly planning legal action – and it’s not the first time.
Michael Schumacher (above in Italy in 2005) collided with a rock while skiing in Meribel in 2013, suffering a severe brain injury that left him in a medically-induced coma for six months
Schumacher’s wife Corinna (pictured skiing with him in 2005) has kept his condition private
Corinna attempted to claim €50,000 (£42,300) from Die Aktuelle in 2015, but lost her case in court.
The magazine had used a picture of Corinna on its cover, with the headline: ‘Corinna Schumacher – a new love makes her happy.’
The story was actually about her daughter, Gina-Maria. The family’s lawyer, Felix Damm, filed a lawsuit claiming the front page was misleading. The case was eventually dismissed.
A year prior the magazine had a photo of Michael and Corinna on the front cover with the headline ‘Awake’ – which drew widespread criticism.
The story itself was about other individuals who had woken up from a coma and was condemned as tasteless.
Such is the desire to get new details on the life of Schumacher following his awful 2013 skiing accident in Meribel in the French alps, the publication in light of having no access into his life got a computer to effectively guess one instead, leading to understandable fury from the seven-time world champion’s family and to many around the world.
The 54-year-old had retired from Formula One for a second time in 2012 following three years at Mercedes having made an astonishing comeback following retiring for the first time in 2006.
Having started his career in 1991 with Jordan he was immediately tipped for stardom from his very first qualifying session where he lined up seventh on the grid for the unfancied team run by Eddie Jordan.
German magazine Die Aktuelle produced a fake interview with F1 legend Schumacher
Die Aktuelle eventually admitted that the quotes had been generated by Artificial Intelligence
By the next race he was already in a more competitive Benetton team and at the team and then Ferrari he became widely known as the world’s best racing driver on his way to a then unprecedented seven Formula One world championships.
WHAT SCHUMACHER ‘SAID’ IN AI INTERVIEW
My life has changed completely since [the accident]. That was a horrible time for my wife, my children and the whole family.
I was so badly injured that I lay for months in a kind of artificial coma because otherwise, my body couldn’t have dealt with it all.
Much better than years ago. With the help of my team, I can even stand on my own again and even walk a few steps slowly.
My family and children have been a blessing to me and without them, I would not have been in business.
Of course, they are very sad about how everything went, but unfortunately, that’s life and I just have to endure the fact that things sometimes go badly.
They support me and stand fast at my side.
His skill was unmatched, star power unrivalled and he was a global megastar. You didn’t need to have a grasp of the quickest route to Silverstone to know who the great Michael Schumacher was.
So when news of his accident broke in December 2013 there was a natural concern for his health, especially when details of his injuries became serious when he was airlifted to Grenoble Hospital. While skiing off-piste, he had hit his head on a rock and was shortly after placed into a coma for six months to help reduce the swelling on his brain.
One thing that became immediately apparent from the very day of the accident was Schumacher’s family being extremely keen to keep his condition as private as possible. This isn’t a criticism. On the contrary it is a fitting reflection of a family doing all they can to protect a loved one.
Out of their hands though was the interest in the German star. Fans were effectively camped outside the hospital day and night trying to show their love and support for their Ferrari hero during which in his stay at Grenoble he underwent two life saving operations.
Supporters carried flags, banners, merchandise in desperate hope of seeing their hero could pull through. It got to the point where a message reading ’45 [his age at the time] – Schumi Stay strong! Keep fighting! was even projected onto the hospital wall.
Perhaps realising they had to at least inform supporters of his overall condition, the family – often through careful statements via his manager Sabine Kehm – would provide details sparingly consisting of his continued fight while remaining vague on specific details. It was tastefully done and served to satisfy those fans.
But the family still had severe trouble in keeping his full condition under wraps.
Just a few days after the accident Kehm informed the media of how a journalist dressed as a priest had tried to get access to the room where Schumacher was fighting for his life.
She said: ‘Apparently a journalist dressed as a priest had tried to gain access to Michael’s room,’ Kehm told a reporter from Die Welt. ‘I wouldn’t have ever imagined something like this could happen.’
Fans gather in front of the main entrance of Grenoble University Hospital Centre to show their support for Schumacher in the immediate days following his skiing accident
Fans project a message reading ’45 – Schumi Stay strong! Keep fighting!’ on a wall of the Grenoble University Hospital Centre where Schumacher was being treated
During his 15 years in Formula One, Schumacher turned into a global sporting superstar
With the Ferrari team he won an incredible five world championships in a row up until 2004
Schumacher is pictured with his Ferrari team celebrating his seventh title win in Spa, Belgium
A close friend of Schumacher and Parisian bran surgeon Gerard Saillant also seemed to allude to the incident during a press conference.
He said: ‘In Corinna’s name I would like to ask you not to pressurise us,’ he said, referring to Schumacher’s wife. ‘Neither us, nor the family. You can do your best to help Schumacher win this difficult battle by leaving the doctors in peace. We are not hiding anything.’
Schumacher’s recovery was slow but promising and by April 2014 he was being withdrawn from the coma having shown signs of consciousness. In June he was transported from Grenoble to the Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland to continue his rehabilitation.
This though presented more challenges to keep his details private.
Later in the year a man was then found hanged in his cell very shortly after being arrested in relation to the leaking of a Schumacher medical file.
Although his identity was not disclosed it was understood he worked as part of an air rescue company that transported Schumacher from Grenoble to Switzerland, according to a statement from the Zurich prosecutor’s office before adding that the man arrested had denied any wrongdoing and that he was being detained in a Zurich prison holding cell.
Kehm revealed the documents had been ‘clearly stolen’ and warning that anyone buying or publishing the ‘confidential files’ would be prosecuted.
It is understood the notes were offered for sale across Europe to media organisations for £40,000.
In response to the death Kehm speaking on behalf of Schumacher’s family told AFP: ‘We are at a loss for words and deeply shocked.
The £50m mansion in Gland, Switzerland in which Schumacher is hidden from the world
World champion Max Verstappen’s father Jos (left) was a grand prix driver alongside Michael, and their respective families would go on holidays together, with Max having fond memories
Nine months after his accident Schumacher was then finally allowed to return home to Geneva. In another statement, Kehm provided a further update on his condition reading that he would continue his rehabilitation at home but faced ‘a long and difficult road ahead… following weeks and months of progress’.
Since then updates have not been as much and little remains known about Schumacher’s status as he remains hidden from the world in his £50,000,000 mansion.
The residence near the banks of the beautiful Lake Geneva is based in Gland, a town of 13,000 in-between Geneva and Lausanne, and to this day is where Schumacher is cared for surrounded by the loving protection of his family.
Corinna, whom Schumacher married in 1995, continues to insist on secrecy over his condition. It is one faithfully observed by friends – and if they do not they are no longer friends.
In 2015 a photograph taken at his home and smuggled out by a ‘friend’ was being hawked around for £1m, in what German prosecutors described as a ‘violation of his personal range of life’ and a breach of privacy. The image never surfaced and to this day no public image exists of Schumacher from beyond 2013.
Of what little has been reported about Schumacher is that it is said he is not bed-ridden, neither is he existing on tubes and in small steps can walk. However it is believed he is receiving extensive nursing and therapy care, which has been estimated to cost more than £50,000 a week.
One person outside of the immediate family circle that the Schumacher family can trust is the German’s former Ferrari team boss Jean Todt.
It was under the Frenchman that Schumacher won five consecutive world championships between 2000 and 2004 as the duo essentially formed a super team to dominate the sport.
All of Schumacher’s 72 Ferrari race wins came under close friend and boss Jean Todt (right)
Sebastian Vettel (right) was a boyhood fan and also an on-track rival (pictured in Brazil, 2012)
Vettel went on to form a warm friendship with Michael’s son Mick during their two years in F1
Up until 2021, Todt was still a very public figure as the president as the FIA and given his role it shows the level of trust that the family have in the 77-year-old to respect their privacy over such a delicate matter.
Todt has respected this trust and all that has been reported about his visits, two a month, to his long time close friend is that they watch past F1 races together. They have many happy ones to choose from given Schumacher and Todt won 72 grands prix while at Ferrari.
At the time of Schumacher’s accident, he was with his son Mick, just 14 at the time, and in the years that have advanced since has himself become a Formula One driver.
Schumacher has enjoyed two years as a driver on the grid, featuring for the Haas team up until the end of the year. This year he is the reserve driver for Mercedes as a deputy for the team’s British drivers Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
It comes as no surprise to learn that journalists are banned from asking Mick about anything relating to his father, at least since the accident.
Many more within F1 have respected the Schumachers’ request for privacy, and that extends to four-time world champion, German compatriot and, during his childhood, fan in Sebastian Vettel.
When asked five years ago if he had even visited Schumacher in the last decade, the now retired former Ferrari driver politely declined to give an answer.
Current world champion Max Verstappen used to go on family holidays with the Schumacher family, with his father Jos a good friend and a fellow team-mate during the German’s time in the sport.
Verstappen despite being young at the time has fond memories of the seven-time champion: ‘I was only five or six years old but I remember that Michael was a very friendly guy and he liked to hang out with the children,’ said the Red Bull star.’
While Mick does not talk directly about his father’s condition he has shared insights of what he wished his relationship with the ex-F1 star would be like:
In a rare interview for a documentary on Michael’s life, Corinna opened up on her situation
Corinna and Michael were married in 1995 and have two children together, Gina and Mick, who has followed his father into F1. Both the children appear in the documentary
Michael in archival footage with Mick, daughter Gina and Corinna, in the Netflix documentary
Schumacher and Corinna were married in August 1995 and she is keen to protect him
Speaking in the Netflix documentary, ‘Schumacher’ he revealed: ‘Since the accident, of course, these experiences, these moments that I believe many people have with their parents, are no longer present or to a lesser extent. And in my view, that is a little unfair.
‘I think me and dad, we would understand each other in a different way now. Simply because we speak a similar language – the language of motor sport – and that we would have a lot more to talk about.
‘And that is where my head is most of the time. Thinking that would be so cool… I would give up everything just for that.’
The documentary also features Michael’s wife Corrina who used the platform to break her silence over how the family have been dealing with the situation.
‘Everybody misses Michael, but Michael is here – different, but here. He still shows me how strong he is every day’, she said.
‘I don’t know if it’s just a kind of protective wall that you put up yourself or if it’s because you’re in a way naive – but it simply never occurred to me that anything could ever happen to Michael.
‘I never blamed God for why this happened now. It (the accident) was just really bad luck – all the bad luck anyone could ever have in their life.’
Deeply protective of her husband, Corinna has been criticised by some people including Michael’s former manager Willi Weber, who claims he has been ‘cut out’ of the driver’s life.
Eddie Jordan (right) claims Michael Schumacher’s wife Corinna (left) lives ‘like a prisoner’ as she tries to keep the condition of her husband private following the skiing accident in 2013
Jordan gave Schumacher his big break in Formula One with his debut at the 1991 Belgian GP
Schumacher was up to fifth (centre) at the first corner but had to retire from the race
But Michael’s wife describes how he always valued privacy and that was why the family chose not to divulge everything about his condition.
However, she did reveal that the family all live together, take part in therapy and that Michael is looked after by everyone.
‘We are trying to carry on as a family, the way Michael liked it and still does. We live together at home. We do therapy. We do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable,’ Corinna says.
‘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, now we are protecting Michael.’
Last month, Schumacher’s first team boss, albeit for just one F1 race, Eddie Jordan claimed Schumacher’s wife Corinna was living ‘like a prisoner’ to keep his condition secret.
‘This was the most horrific situation for Mick and Corinna,’ Jordan told OLBG .
‘It’s been nearly ten years now and Corinna has not been able to go to a party, to lunch or this or that, she’s like a prisoner because everyone would want to talk to her about Michael when she doesn’t need reminding of it every minute.’
Jordan revealed last year that his plans to visit Schumacher had been vetoed by the family.
Corinna limits public appearances but proudly watches Mick drive a Ferrari in testing in 2019
Mick Schumacher (left), with his mother Corinna (right) and sister Gina-Maria (middle)
F1 drivers have rallied in support of Schumacher since his crash, with German driver and former team-mate Nico Rosberg driving with a ‘KeepFightingMichael’ hashtag in 2014
The hashtag remains in use within the sport, as a charity football match involving F1 stars unveiled a banner with the driver’s image during a game in Mainz, Germany in 2016
There has been no public appearance from Michael since he was first rushed to hospital, there may never be one.
It’s coming up to the tenth anniversary of his accident and having lived such secretive lives in the last decade, Schumacher’s family obviously do not feel the need to divulge such information.
It will come to frustrations of his millions of fans who only care about the well-being of the F1 legend, and to this day you don’t have to venture too far in the sport before you come across a ‘KeepFIghtingMichael’ hashtag.
One mutual wish between all those that do care for Schumacher though is that he can continue to make progress in regards to his road to recovery.
Source: Read Full Article