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F1 family unites in somber celebration of Schumacher

China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-29 09:30
Michael Schumacher won seven Formula One world drivers' titles between 1994 and 2004. [Photo/IC]

Host of tribute events as stricken legend turns 50

LONDON - Michael Schumacher is to the fore of Formula One's thoughts as the seven-time world champion approaches his 50th birthday, five years on from the near-fatal skiing accident that has left the Ferrari great fighting brain injuries behind a wall of secrecy.

The German, still the sport's most successful driver in terms of wins (91) and titles, will reach his half-century on Jan 3.

F1's focus will be on highlighting the remarkable career of a man whose fame stretched well beyond the racetrack, and who enthused a legion of fans in the 1990s and early years of this century.

The Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Italy, is planning a special exhibition, opening on his birthday and lasting for a few months, "both as a celebration and a mark of gratitude to the most successful Prancing Horse driver ever".

Mercedes, the last team Schumacher drove for in F1 before retirement in 2012, will have some of his cars on display at the manufacturer's museum in Stuttgart.

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

"We are going to celebrate Michael's birthday," said a spokesman.

Schumacher remains a big part of the sport's narrative, with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton now a five-time world champion with 73 wins and getting ever closer to the German's greatest records.

Hanging over it all, however, will be a strong sense of sadness - just as every anniversary since his Dec 29, 2013, fall while skiing off-piste near Meribel in the French Alps with his family.

Schumacher 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 motorsport head Toto Wolff told Reuters. "He was an exceptional sportsman, and he's missed.

"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, his family and those who always formed part of Schumacher's innermost circle.

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

Sabine Kehm, Schumacher's trusted assistant and spokeswoman who now also manages the racing career of his son Mick, continues to guard his privacy with polite but firm determination.

"In general the media have never reported on Michael and Corinna's private life," she said in 2016. "When he was in Switzerland, for example, it was clear he was a private individual.

"Once in a long discussion Michael said to me, 'You don't need to call me for the next year, I'm disappearing.'

"I think it was his secret dream to be able to do that some day. That's why now I still want to protect his wishes in that I don't let anything get out."

It is clear that if Schumacher was to have made a miraculous recovery, the good news would have been known quickly enough.

The fact nothing has been said speaks volumes.

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