It’s almost a decade since Michael Schumacher suffered the devastating skiing accident that left him with life-changing injuries.
Since the incident while on a family holiday in France, the seven-time champion has been cared for at his family home in Switzerland. In keeping with his time as motorsport’s biggest star, Schumacher’s privacy has been fiercely protected by his family.
With only trusted confidants allowed to visit him, precious little is known about the now 54-year-old’s condition. However, 11 years on from his final F1 season, and almost 20 since his seventh world title, interest in the German icon remains huge among his millions of fans around the world.
Here is a round-up of Schumacher’s former team-mates and team bosses and what they’ve said about him since his tragic crash…
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Jordan was Schumacher’s first and briefest boss after joining the Jordan team for the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. Schumacher qualified an incredible seventh, only for a mechanical failure to end his race on the opening lap.
Still, an F1 star had been born, with Benetton poaching him for the very next race. Jordan, who later employed Schumacher’s brother Ralf, had a volatile relationship with Michael.
However, Jordan was keen to see him after his skiing crash, only to be denied access by Schumacher’s wife Corinna. He explained: “I made an effort to go see Michael in the early days and Corinna refused, and rightfully so because too many people wanted to go see him.
“Jean Todt [former Ferrari boss] was given the privilege to go see him because of how close they were from their time together at Ferrari which is completely understandable.
“I was not able to go see Michael and they said ‘we love you Eddie and we've been involved with you for a very long time, but we do need privacy and safeguard of Michael’.”
Being a team-mate to Schumacher was a thankless task as it usually meant being outpaced every weekend. His team-mate during the Ferrari glory years was Ruben Barrichello, who once admitted: “I always say he was better than me, no doubt.”
Barrichello had a good relationship Schumacher, even if he found it tough not being the team’s favoured driver.
“I always made friends and I’ve always had a good relationship with all my team-mates,” Barrichello told the Beyond the Grid podcast.
Asked if he included Schumacher on that list, he said: “I do. But he was never supportive. He was never there to offer help so I never asked.
“Michael was different, he was a bit naive in the way that he worked. So many times we’d finish a meeting and then they’d start another one with just Michael there so I’d took my chair and would just sit there. Eventually I felt that the team was his.”
Todt was Schumacher’s boss at Ferrari, although it became more of a friendship than an employee/employer relationship. The Frenchman is one of the few people allowed to go and visit Schumacher, providing snippets of information over the last 10 years.
Earlier this year he told newspaper Corriere della Sera: "Let's leave him alone. We respect the privacy wishes of Corinna and her children, although we know of course that the accident had consequences. But anyone who says he knows something, knows nothing. I always go to see him. He and his family are my family."
The former Sky Sports F1 pundit was Schumacher’s Benetton team-mate for part of the German’s first title-winning season in 1994. The pair didn’t always see eye to eye and Herbert has been critical Schumacher’s aggressive approach to racing.
However, Herbert is still full of respect for Schumacher and his legacy. He told CasinoSite.nl: “We have lost a mega-star of our sport who gave so much enjoyment to a lot of people.
“It was very sad that Mick [Schumacher] couldn’t have his dad around and it is sad that we as an F1 community don’t have him around the paddock. It is a shame. Everyone loses out on learning about the Michael Schumacher we never saw when he was in the cockpit.”
Rosberg was Schumacher’s final team-mate from 2010 to 2012 after he came out of retirement to join Mercedes. Rosberg admitted he feared the worst after being told he would be partnered by the sport’s most successful-ever driver.
“I was like ‘oh my God’,” he recalled. “[I had the] craziest thoughts: that I would have no chance and the whole team would go against me and Michael would manipulate his way through, and can I keep up with him? He’s the greatest of all time – do I have a chance?
“Michael is a psychological warrior. It was incredible learning for me over those three years. And he doesn’t even have to make an effort – it comes naturally to him, to try and psychologically get into the head of his competition. And it would be from the morning to the evening.”
As turned out Schumacher’s three years with Mercedes were a major disappointment, with just one podium finish before going back into retirement just over a year before his fateful skiing crash.
The straight-talking Irishman was Schumacher’s first Ferrari team-mate and had a rather pragmatic view about being routinely outpaced.
“Obviously, you never look particularly good when you’re up against someone like Michael Schumacher,” he once admitted. “But I was lucky in a way because by the time I got there, Schumacher was very much seen as special.
“The guys that Schumacher came against much earlier in his career got dumped because people didn’t realise how good Michael was at that stage.”
Irvine added: “I never had an issue with him at all. He performed the best he could every weekend, I performed the best I could every weekend. If I had to do something for the team, I had to do something for the team, and that was it. It was very simple.”
Schumacher has close links with the Verstappen family. He and Jos – Max’s father – were briefly team-mates at Benetton in 1994 and were close away from the track. The families holidayed together, with Max even referring to Schumacher as an ‘uncle’ in his youth.
Despite being a hero in the Netherlands, Jos’s F1 career never really took off, despite a few highs. He has subsequently admitted going up against Schumacher in the same team was a mistake.
“I think we made a wrong decision in the first year next to Michael Schumacher,” said Jos in the documentary Anatomy of a Champion. “He was racing very well, and pressure was high.”
The English technical wizard worked closely with Schumacher at both Benetton and Ferrari. Like the rest of the F1 world, he misses his friend dearly and reckons he would have embraced the sport’s current regulations.
“That would have been right up his alley,” Brawn told Sport Bild last year. “He used to be the last person to leave the paddock on Saturday night before the race. He sat with me and the engineers for hours on dates and numbers.
“He would be fascinated to analyse all this with the engineers. He would be great in this new era. Michael would love the new Formula 1!”
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