Formula 1 legend: Michael Schumacher's fateful day

It could also have been to the sea with lots of sun and beach.

Formula 1 legend: Michael Schumacher's fateful day

It could also have been to the sea with lots of sun and beach. The snow is not ideal, Michael Schumacher told his wife Corinna ten years ago before their upcoming winter vacation in Méribel. Schumacher, a perfectionist. “We could fly to Dubai and then jump there,” the passionate skydiver suggested.

But they chose the mountains, the snow and skiing in the French Alps. Not for the first time: Christmas, New Year's Eve and also Michael Schumacher's birthday on January 3rd. But that's how it happened for the last time: Since the skiing accident on December 29, 2013 in Méribel, the almost 55-year-old Formula 1 record world champion and his family have led a different life.

"I believe that in cases like this you learn to perceive certain moments differently," said son Mick Schumacher of the German Press Agency: "You learn to appreciate the little things." He believes that this could also be an important insight for many other people. "If you concentrate too much on the bad things and not enough on the nice things that are out there," emphasized Mick Schumacher.

The superstar's son is now 24 years old. He has already driven in Formula 1 for two seasons and, like his father, will also compete in the endurance classic at Le Mans in 2024. When his father fell in the Méribel ski resort, Mick Schumacher was only 14.

Investigators rule out foul play

It happened shortly after eleven o'clock on a Sunday morning. "Michael fell on his head during a private ski trip in the French Alps. He was taken to the hospital and is receiving professional medical care," his spokeswoman Sabine Kehm announced a little later. The drama is not clear from these words. These are hours in which it is a matter of life and death for the father of two.

The mountain rescuers take care of him where Michael Schumacher hits a stone while swinging on the edge of a marked piste and is thrown out. He is responsive but confused. The helmet he is wearing breaks in the impact. The skis are only rented. The investigating public prosecutor's office will later be able to rule out foul play. Schumacher wasn't moving fast either.

“Perhaps the best-known German citizen”

A rescue helicopter takes Michael Schumacher to the hospital in Moûtiers. But the head injuries are too severe, so we go straight to the University Hospital in Grenoble. About an hour and a half has passed. Schumacher undergoes emergency surgery immediately. The public does not know anything about the accident at this point.

But she will soon find out about it. “Michael was perhaps the best-known German citizen at the time, and my first thought was that this enormous level of popularity was the reason for the prominent report and not the severity of the accident,” Norbert Haug told dpa.

He has known Michael Schumacher for many years. Haug was the Mercedes motorsport boss when the seven-time champion returned to Formula 1 for the Silver Arrows in 2010. It was a comeback that attracted worldwide attention after Schumacher had shaped the premier class of motorsport from 1991 to 2006 with his seven triumphs, but also in the fight for more safety. The terrible Imola weekend with the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in 1994 took an emotional toll on Schumacher in the first years of his career.

Wave of sympathy

How serious Schumacher's injuries are from the skiing accident can only be guessed at on December 29, 2013. In addition to his family, Schumacher's long-time companions Jean Todt and Ross Brawn also arrive in Grenoble, where more and more media representatives are stationed.

“Please get well again quickly,” posted the then national soccer player Lukas Podolski on social networks. “My thoughts are with Schumi,” writes former basketball star Dirk Nowitzki.

A wave of sympathy for the fate of what was by far the most successful Formula 1 driver to date breaks out. Buddy Sebastian Vettel sends another text message: "I heard you fell, hope it's nothing serious, get well soon," Vettel says later.

Doctors: “Concerned about his condition”

But Schumacher's condition is critical. A “head trauma with coma” was diagnosed, as the treating doctors explained late on Sunday evening. Schumacher has often survived serious accidents in Formula 1 and also on his motorcycle. 24 hours after his skiing accident, it becomes sadly clear how bad things are for the Rhineland native.

His condition remains “extremely serious,” the doctors explained in a press conference on December 30, 2013. Schumacher’s life is in danger. He has widespread brain injuries. “We are concerned about his condition,” says a doctor. Doctors do not give any predictions about the chances of survival.

"Like millions of Germans, the Chancellor and the members of the federal government were extremely dismayed when they found out about Michael Schumacher's serious skiing accident," said government spokesman Steffen Seibert in Berlin on the same day.

Excesses in the fight for information about Schumacher

And the fear continues for a long time. At the end of January, Schumacher's manager explained that the anesthetics had recently been reduced "in order to put him into a recovery process that can take a very long time." At the beginning of April 2014 she announced: "Michael is making progress on his path. He is showing moments of awareness and awakening."

In mid-June, Kehm announced: "Michael has left the CHU Grenoble to continue his long phase of rehabilitation. He is no longer in a coma."

It is not known how Michael Schumacher has been doing since then. There were attempts to get close to him or otherwise obtain information about his condition. Especially in the early stages. A journalist who dresses up as a priest and wants to go to Schumacher's room in the hospital is just one example.

“The fight for reach due to the increasing attention of the Internet and social networks is certainly a factor that led to such excesses back then,” says Thomas Horky, professor of journalism and sports communication at Macromedia University.

Family lawyer: “It was always about protecting private matters”

In August 2014, a high-ranking employee of the Swiss Air Rescue Service (Rega) was arrested. The investigative authorities have opened criminal proceedings against him for violating professional secrecy. Parts of Michael Schumacher's medical records have previously been offered to various media.

The Rega employee is found hanging in his cell the day after his arrest. The public prosecutor's office rules out third-party influence.

Michael Schumacher's condition remains a mystery - and this fact a phenomenon. “It was always about protecting private matters,” explains the Schumacher family’s media lawyer, Felix Damm, in an interview with the “Legal Tribune Online” in October.

“Michael has always protected us, now we protect Michael,” says Schumacher’s wife Corinna in a documentary that has been shown on Netflix since 2021. In it, the family with Corinna, Mick and his sister Gina give, for the first time, insights into life together after the accident.

"Everyone misses Michael"

“We live together at home, we do therapy, we do everything so that Michael feels better and does well and that he simply feels our family solidarity,” says Corinna Schumacher.

"It's very clear that I miss Michael every day, and not just me, the children, the family, his father, everyone who is around him. Everyone misses Michael. But Michael is there, different, but he is there, and that gives us all strength." In any case, she never “blamed the good Lord as to why this happened,” says Corinna Schumacher. Her voice falters. "It was just really bad luck. You can't have more bad luck in life."

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