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Graham Read
Formula 1 Correspondent
1:00 AM 29th December 2023
sports

The 10th Anniversary Of Michael Schumacher’s Skiing Accident

 
Today obviously falls between this year’s Christmas and New Year celebrations, but it also sadly marks the 10th anniversary of the life-changing head injuries the seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher suffered on December 29th, 2013 after a skiing accident in the French Alps resort of Meribel.

Michael Schumacher claimed his first title for Ferrari at the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix
Michael Schumacher claimed his first title for Ferrari at the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix
Michael, then aged 44, was wearing a helmet at the time, but he fell and hit his head on a rock. This caused a severe brain haemorrhage, which left the German having to be put into an induced coma before several surgical procedures were undertaken in the hope of assisting his recovery. In June 2014, he was transferred from the hospital to a newly established rehabilitation facility on the grounds of his secluded family home on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, although the family also has a similar property on Majorca near Puerto Andratx.

His accident and the start of his ongoing treatment once home clearly had a devastating impact on his lovely wife Corinna, now 54, and their children Gina-Maria (26) and Mick (24) plus his brother Ralf (48), but they have all constantly maintained a strict policy of total privacy regarding Michael’s condition ever since. This is something that is fully understandable, as he always maintained a strict divide between his very public life as a highly successful racing driver and his very private home life, but it is also understandable why many of his loyal fans would still welcome an update on his health. Sadly, some of the less acceptable members of the media world have even tried to masquerade as clergy to gain access and take photos of him to sell on, but fortunately, they have failed to date. Michael has never been seen in public since the accident, and no images have ever emerged, while details about his 24-hour-a-day medical supervision and progress made are also closely guarded and kept out of the public domain.

Michael formed a very close bond with his Ferrari team principal, Jean Todt
Michael formed a very close bond with his Ferrari team principal, Jean Todt
While racing for the iconic Ferrari F1 outfit between 1996 and 2006, he formed a close bond with the team principal, Jean Todt, and the Frenchman is one of the very few people still allowed to visit him regularly at home. However, he well knows how to maintain the trust the family places in him about confidentiality and very much limits what he feels able to reveal to the public. In short, Todt, who went on to be the President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of world motorsport from 2009 to 2021, will go no further than to say that Michael is still with us, but in a very different way.

In line with other highly successful Formula 1 drivers to date like Ayrton Senna, Sir Lewis Hamilton, and Max Verstappen, Michael tended to be a determined rival on-track, but off-track he was also a very likeable character and family man whom the Ferrari crew adored. Unlike some drivers, he always made a point of getting to know all their names and went out of his way to give them, their spouses, and their children birthday and Christmas cards, plus gifts. Yes, he could afford to do so, but the fact that he actually did so defined the caring nature of the man.

Michael’s son Mick is a lovely lad but always remains rightly guarded about his father’s health
Michael’s son Mick is a lovely lad but always remains rightly guarded about his father’s health
Michael began his F1 career with the Silverstone-based Jordan team at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, but such was the clear extent of his talent that he was quickly signed up by Benetton, for whom he won his first couple of World Drivers’ Championship titles in 1994 and 1995. The following year, he left to join struggling Ferrari, determined to help reverse their fortunes, and from 2000 to 2004, he added five further titles with them to his career CV. He retired from the sport at the end of the 2006 season, but he so missed it that he returned with Mercedes from 2010 to 2012, partnering Nico Rosberg. Ultimately, he achieved 91 F1 victories after starting 306 Grands Prix, with 155 podium finishes. His younger brother Ralf also competed in Formula 1, if far less successfully, from 1997 for a decade, and more recently, Michael’s son Mick has also followed in his father’s footsteps, climbing the motorsport ladder to the highest level with Haas for two seasons in 2021/22.

Let me share with you a personal recollection about Michael from the Barcelona Formula 1 paddock following the 2003 Spanish Grand Prix, which he had won comfortably ahead of Renault’s local hero Fernando Alonso. I’d paused near the Ferrari team trucks, and, following their post-race debrief, Michael skipped down the steps past me on his way to the nearby Ferrari hospitality unit to do his duty, spending time with team guests and sponsors. As he passed me, we smiled and said hi to each other, just as a nearby young boy spotted him and ran after him, shouting “Michael, Michael!” At this point, Michael stopped and crouched down, waiting for him to catch up before spending a few minutes chatting with him and happily giving him a few autographs, including on his team cap, which he had gifted to him. The true Michael. I’m sure that boy will treasure having met his hero for the rest of his life.

Michael and his longtime wife Corinna have always been close and still very much are
Michael and his longtime wife Corinna have always been close and still very much are
I fear it might perhaps be the case that Michael may not make much more of a recovery, but it’s always so important to retain hope that developments in medical science may make this possible. I and so many others around the world would simply love to see him return to the Formula 1 paddock one day, obviously not as a driver but as a true legend of the sport so many of us are so passionate about.