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The latest on Michael Schumacher

Today (Friday) is Michael Schumacher’s 45th birthday and he will start the second half of his forties as he ended the first – deep in an artificially induced coma, his body deliberately mildly refrigerated as doctors try both to stabilise his condition after his skiing accident and assess just how badly hurt the seven-time F1 champion really is.

That is unless his situation has changed between me writing this and it being posted which, sadly, is entirely possible. For while no news is good news, and it’s been good news that there’s been no news of late from the hospital in Grenoble, the fact is Michael Schumacher’s life continues to be at risk.

f1  The latest on Michael Schumacher

The word from the experts

Having spoken to every sane and measured member of the medical profession I know in the last few days, there is a clear consensus based not only on interpreting what those treating Schumacher have said, but the very careful way in which they have said it.

In short, the spectrum of possible outcomes is as wide as it is possible to be. None thought the fact that the members of the medical team were clearly being cagey in their comments was indicative of any significant fact that they had elected not to divulge. On the contrary, the reason for their refusal to speculate about Schumacher’s likely prognosis is simply that they know only a little better than you or I in which direction the path leads, let alone the final destination.

The truth is – and I have this from a brain surgeon – that what our current level of knowledge of brain function is best at telling us is just how little knowledge we have. As you find out more, what you find out most is how much more there is to find out.

The advantage of being fit

In the meantime we will have to put up with endless headlines about Schumacher ‘fighting for his life’ and how his renowned physical fitness will give him a chance denied to the rest of us mere mortals. Were he shipwrecked, marooned in a desert or in any way able to use his physique to influence the outcome then I have no doubt the advantage would be telling.

f1  The latest on Michael Schumacher

But lying comatose in a hospital bed with serious trauma to his brain it is easy to see why doctors felt the need to explain that, while his fitness would clearly do him no harm, the more significant factor is that as a man in his 40s he will heal less quickly and well than someone in their 20s and rather better than a patient in their 60s.

So no one knows where this is heading, not even one of Europe’s finest neuro-surgical teams and that must be the greatest agony of all for his poor family. But there is always hope and beyond wishing for his complete recovery I must echo David Coulthard’s hope expressed so eloquently in the Telegraph this week – a hope that Michael is able to see how highly regarded he really is.

I know that even if he does pull through, those who have been most venomous about him will subtly attenuate their views just as they did when Senna did not. Whatever else can be said of Schumacher’s accident, the fact it has proven him to be vulnerable like the rest of us and that it seems he was trying to help another at the time can only recast him in a more human light.

But even filtering out the humbuggery, it is possible that those who never felt the inclination to understand and therefore appreciate the magnitude of his talent and achievements will at least now take this time to reappraise their view of this extraordinary man.

f1  The latest on Michael Schumacher

As I have said before, to me his real measure is not the 91 Grands Prix victories or seven world championships, but the fact that rivals aside, to date I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come to know him well and doesn’t like him.

Our thoughts are with his wife Corinna, his children, family and friends at this impossibly difficult time.

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f1  The latest on Michael Schumacher

Add your comments

27 comments on The latest on Michael Schumacher

  1. PropJoe, 2 January 2014 22:14

    “it is possible that those who never felt the inclination to understand and therefore appreciate the magnitude of his talent and achievements will at least now take this time to reappraise their view of this extraordinary man.”

    Maybe they also take time that they are a part of a small minority, and that the rest of the world really appreciated all his achievements. For this small minority it must be hard to swallow, that Schumacher’s myth is at least level with that of Senna for large parts of the sporting world and beyond.

    Frankly I dont even know why you have to mention this. Schumacher topped a lot of popularity polls even way after his retirement in 2006. Either you feel a bit guilty, or you hang out with the wrong people.

  2. Rich Ambroson, 2 January 2014 22:51

    Thank you for the thoughtful article.

    “to date I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come to know him well and doesn’t like him.” I’ve heard/read this from many people form years back.

    I am praying and wishing the very best that Michael wins #92, the biggest one of his life, and that in the meantime his family is given some comfort.

  3. Dusty Studebaker, 3 January 2014 06:48

    Mr.Frankel seems to be accusing a certain segment of the motor racing enthusiast community of expressing some unwarranted opinion at some time in the future.

    Get well, Michael. ALL of us are hoping for your full recovery.

  4. Pat Kenny, 3 January 2014 09:22

    I would like to join with all the others in wishing Michael Schumacher a full and speedy recovery. I thought Coutlhard’s piece the best I read all week.

  5. Terry Jacob, 3 January 2014 10:53

    A fine , dignified , article . Best wishes to Michael for a full recovery .

  6. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 3 January 2014 14:06

    Happy 45th Birthday, Michael!

    May you have many more!

  7. Andre, 3 January 2014 15:10

    Michael Schumacher’s current predicament, or the fact that he appears to be a very likable bloke outside of the cockpit, really shouldn’t colour perceptions about the way he raced. Either you think his on-track behavior was OK or you don’t. Yes, it’s generally a good thing that social norms prevent people from dredging up complaints against someone who’s currently unable to defend themselves, but not bringing it up is rather different than changing one’s mind.

  8. Nigel (not that one), 3 January 2014 15:30

    You know, as Andre has pointed out, you can wish him all the best as a human being who is in trouble and still dislike him as a driver.

    I grew tired long ago of being told I disliked him because I was a xenophobe, or bitter at his success, or, for the teenagers on the forums, ‘a hater’. An actual fact I disliked him because he had atrocious racing ethics, benefited from some very dirty politics and for all his talent, did everything he could tilt the playing field to his advantage and to avoid a straight fight with a good team mate.

    None of that will change in the future so why should my opinion? instead of being told I should make more effort to appreciate his talent, or understand him as a man, why not make more effort to appreciate that there are perfectly reasonable arguments for not liking him as a driver?

    Being a perfectly reasonable person I also feel happy wishing him the very best and sincerely hoping he recovers fully, as I’m sure do most of his critics. Just don’t expect that to mean a reinterpretation of his career.

  9. Rodriguez 917, 3 January 2014 15:35

    I’ve never been a massive Schumacher fan as I always cheer for the underdog. What he has done on the track has been questionable at times (Adelaide ’94, Jerez ’97, Monaco ’06, Hungary ’10) but we can’t forget that he won 91 races, just think about that, almost Senna and Prost’s totals combined! I think he’s mellowed with age and has a lot more fans now as a result, especially in the UK. I grew up watching Schumi and now will be cheering for him. Let’s pray that he does a comeback like Hungary 1998, seemingly having to do the impossible against all odds and coming through to win. If anyone can do it he can.

  10. PropJoe, 3 January 2014 16:47

    @ Andre, Nigel,

    You guys seem to be in a minority. For the rest of the world, his vast number of stunning drives outnumber his lesser moments easely. They also seem to recognize that in F1 there are no saints. If you can see and acknowledge that, youll find a man who set the current standards of dedication, fitness, workrate for all the top dogs in F1, past, current and future.

  11. Lewis Lane, 3 January 2014 18:00

    Schumacher’s achievements are there in the record books. The manner in which they were acheived will always be open for debate, as they are with Senna (who i was also no particular fan of, but wish to God that he was still here). Michael the man also appears to be different to Michael the competitor. Despite being no fan of his time in F1 (i can be added to “the minority”), i wouldn’t wish this on anyone, and i’d like to send best wishes to his family and hope he makes a speedy and full recovery.

  12. Paal Hanson, 3 January 2014 18:55

    I will also join in hoping all the best for Michael Schumacher, and a full recovery from this dreadful accident. My thoughts are truly with his friends and family.

    My thought on the driver M. Schumacher has not changed however, and no matter how many wins and titles, I will reserve the right to remain firm in my belief that the driver was flawed, though hugely talented.

  13. ian, 3 January 2014 20:00

    Everyone hopes he recovers fully.
    But it makes no difference to the past – good and bad – although if he does recover it may have an impact on how he feels about his past achievements and actions.

  14. Steve Selasky, 3 January 2014 23:27

    My best memory of Michael is not his 91 grand prix wins and 7 world titles. It is when at Indy 2006 I witnessed when terminated an autograph session that got out of hand due to rude fans tripping and stomping on a woman. He then proceeded to finish the autograph session for the lady.. A genuine class act……

    Wish him the best possible recovery…..

  15. Michael Dunn, 4 January 2014 10:20

    No matter what I have thought in the past, both good and not so good, I wish you now the best for a speedy and complete recovery.
    Having watched F1 for 50 plus years, I consider you Michael, are up there with the best off them for sheer talent at your best

  16. Roland Mullender, 5 January 2014 19:16

    Mr Frankeĺ was speaking about a mr nigel R. !
    Thanks for this great article which summarizes it all !

  17. The Original Ray T, 5 January 2014 19:49

    This accident has really highlighted how bad the European press can be at things like “facts”. Shameful coverage by news outlets.
    While I never liked him as a driver, I hope he recovers and gets back to normal ASAP. Kudos to the medical team in Grenoble.

  18. Paul Weiskopf, 6 January 2014 01:09

    I have been watching F1 for over fifty years. I watched Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, all of them. Not one even came close to Michael Schumacher. He had it all, phenomenal driving skills, a complete technical understanding of the vehicle and its dynamics. No driver in my memory was able to explain what the car needed to the crew as well as Michael, and in the rain, oh in the rain, the man was pure magic. He was, in my opinion, the reason Ferrari was able to rack up the record they did. F1 driving is also about the day to day discipline of work. It demands constant concentration and focus, in an environment that is chaotic and distracting. Michael was the poster child for that. As people, we need to see others doing that which we cannot. It gives us a sense of what can be done if we put everything we have into it. Michael was, for me, a constant reminder of that. I have, sadly, never met him, but for many years I went to work on Monday morning with a renewed desire to go beyond what I had done before. I got that from watching the very best in world ply his craft in a way that world had never seen before, and I doubt, ever will again. Michael is simply the best F1 driver that has ever been.
    I wish Michael a speedy, and full recovery, and many, many thanks for the life lessons I received from you. I am a better engineer for them.
    He will win this race and go on to thrill and inspire us again. Of this I am sure.

  19. PropJoe, 6 January 2014 13:08

    Lets hope so Paul!!

    I fondly remember Schumacher battling the Newey penned 1998 McLarens, who had custom made tyres just for them alone. Yet somehow Schumacher managed to drag the championship till the last part of the season, with standard issue GoodYear tyres.

    The irony is, somehow this is forgotten by some of his critics – some of whom work for this fine magazine – when they say Schumacher had it easy when he got custom made Bridgestones later on in his Ferrari days.

  20. John S, 6 January 2014 17:44

    Michael never had an ‘Off Button’ when driving, hence the desire to win at all cost’s, no matter how.

    I wish him a speedy recovery and hope for better news soon for his wife and family.

  21. Gary Mason, 7 January 2014 14:16

    He has great talent, and proved that. He may have a wonderful personality as well. But purposely crashing out to win a championship while taking the only other person who could become champion with him is enough to not like him. On the positive side, he did say that Fangio could not be assailed as the best ever, so points to him for that.

  22. James, 7 January 2014 15:42

    Let’s hope for a full recovery. I see the family have asked for media to leave Grenoble today.

    Regarding his 1998 battles, I have the same fond memories as PropJoe (above) of his battle with the Newey McLarens. Hungary was a brilliant drive. However, don’t be fooled into thinking they were standard issue tyres. 1998 was a fully fledged tyre war, probably the most intense since the early 80s.

  23. Paul Cowieson, 7 January 2014 22:45

    A tear comes to my eye for Herr Schumacher and wish him all the best during this crisis. I even forgive him for clearly taking out Damon Hill to win a championship and trying ever so hard take an another by purposely driving into Jacques Villeneuve a couple of years later. Get well soon.

  24. C C, 8 January 2014 13:02

    Sad to hear about Schuey as he’s in my top 3 Drivers. Lets hope he can fight back and make a full recovery.

    I know a lot of people bang on about the early noughties when he made F1 boring to watch by winning everything in clearly the best car. Thats fine, and i found it tedious too. But what got me hooked were his drives in the late 90′s for Ferrari in a car that was usually second best to the McLarens. You could literally see him wring the cars neck on occasion and it was brilliant to watch. Like Prop Joe says above, the 1998 season is a classic example of him fighting against better cars and the incredibly quick Hakkinen. Victories that year at Monza and Hungary will always stand out along with great drives at Spa and Japan that ended in DNFs.

    I was interested to hear Eddie Irvines comments on Sky F1 Legends a few weeks back. He said it was a myth about Schumacher organising the team around him and that he was actually pretty terrible at setting the car up. The bottom line, says Eddie, is that none of that mattered because whatever the car was like, Schuey could Drive it quicker than anyone else, and that made the team believe they had a chance to win any race with Schumacher onboard, and its that fact that bound the team round him.

    I quite like that fact, as it strips away a lot of the myth around Schuey to reveal that he is just a bloke who can take a car, whatever the setup, and Drive the wheels off it!

    Wishing him and his family all the best.

  25. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 8 January 2014 13:27

    The sixth post shows that I wanted to separate the man from the Formula One driver, especially on his birthday.

    And I’ll do so again now…

    I continue to wish Michael a steady recovery – and hope for the best for him and his family.

    As per comments that he was just plain faster: Well, yes – but only in an era without Senna…and before Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton came along in competitive cars.

    It was easier to be faster than the likes of Irvine, Barrichello, JV, Hill, DC, brother Ralf, Verstappen, Herbert, Frentzen, et al – drivers which were not necessarily considered Aces from the ‘Top Drawer’ – but he wasn’t any faster than Senna, Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton (and Prost and Mansell in ’91-93). Even the inconsistent and hot-headed Montoya rattled him – and was, effectively, ‘cheated’ out of a Championship challenge by organisations that wanted to see Ferrari succeding…at ANY cost.

    As per the Ferraris of the late 90s – well, Irvine (of all people) nearly won the Championship with it!!!

    What does that say?

    Lastly, Michael’s intra-Formula One ethics were absolutely ghastly.

    So, let’s separate the man from the F1 driver…and let’s continue to wish him and his family the best.

  26. Martin Harris, 9 January 2014 00:36

    Michael is the colossus of our sport, the one driver whose name means something to hundreds of millions of people who know nothing of F1. Schumacher is to grand prix racing what Ali is to boxing. And at this moment, he is fighting to recover life as he and we know it. It strikes me as childish and in very poor taste to use this heartbreaking situation to repeat tired old arguments about Schumacher’s career.

  27. Terry Jacob, 9 January 2014 15:41

    I ‘m entirely in accord with Martin Harris’s tasteful comments above . I suggest that those who have never liked Michael , and have nothing charitable to say at this time , don’t bother saying anything …………….

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