IN A COMA

Racer Schu­macher in crit­i­cal con­di­tion af­ter ski­ing ac­ci­dent

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Paris

For­mula One leg­end Michael Schu­macher may have re­tired in 2012 af­ter a glit­ter­ing ca­reer, but his love for speed and dan­ger has now led to a se­ri­ous head in­jury while ski­ing in France.

The 44-year-old Ger­man suf­fered a blow to the head af­ter hit­ting a rock com.cn for at the up­mar­ket

Alps re­sort of Meri­bel, and al­though ini­tial re­ports sug­gested his in­juries were not life-threat­en­ing, he was later listed as be­ing in crit­i­cal con­di­tion by the hos­pi­tal treat­ing him in Greno­ble.

Meri­bel re­sort di­rec­tor Christophe Gernigon-Le­comte said Schu­macher was ski­ing late Sun­day morn­ing with com­pan­ions when he fell and struck his head.

Af­ter years of rac­ing in the high risk world of For­mula One and win­ning a record seven world ti­tles, his ac­ci­dent sug­gests that per­haps re­tire­ment has not dulled his rel­ish of dan­ger­ous pur­suits.

As an F1 racer, Schu­macher was known for his dar­ing over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vres, his at­times al­most reck­less aban­don in the pur­suit of vic­tory and his mas­tery of the tricky con­di­tions pre­sented by rain.

When he won his first world ti­tle in 1994 with Benet­ton, he did so in con­tro­ver­sial fash­ion, crash­ing into ti­tle ri­val Da­mon Hill in the fi­nal race af­ter he had al­ready dashed his own hopes by ca­reen­ing off the track while push­ing hard — de­spite lead­ing com­fort­ably.

It was in­dica­tive of Schu­macher’s win-at-all-costs at­ti­tude and his will­ing­ness to take huge risks.

He al­most pro­voked a sim­i­lar crash in the fi­nal race of the 1997 sea­son when bat­tling Canada’s Jac­ques Vil­leneuve for the ti­tle, an in­ci­dent for which he was ret­ro­spec­tively dis­qual­i­fied from the whole sea­son.

His ca­reer was also punc­tu­ated by ac­cu­sa­tions of dan­ger­ous driv­ing fol­low­ing in­ci­dents such as a near col­li­sion with for­mer team­mate Rubens Bar­richello in 2010, which the Brazil­ian later de­scribed as “the most dan­ger­ous thing” he had been through.

But even such mishaps didn’t slow Schu­macher down or quench his thirst for suc­cess as he went on to win five suc­ces­sive ti­tles with Fer­rari from 2000-04.

He re­tired at the end of the 2006 sea­son be­fore at­tempt­ing an un­suc­cess­ful come­back in 2010 with Mercedes.

In the in­terim he sur­vived a hor­rific mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent that left him un­con­scious in Spain. That time he was re­leased from hos­pi­tal af­ter just five hours.

Schu­macher is F1’s most dec­o­rated cham­pion with 91 GP wins, while be­ing one of only two men to reach 300 races.

In 2000 he also sealed Fer­rari’s first cham­pi­onship in 21 years by win­ning the penul­ti­mate race of the sea­son in Ja­pan.

Schu­macher’s duels with Hill, Vil­leneuve and Mika Hakki­nen, fired by an un­quench­able com­pet­i­tive spirit, have gone down in folk­lore.

He was born on Jan 3, 1969 near Cologne, Ger­many, the son of a brick­layer who also ran the lo­cal go-kart track, where his mother worked in the can­teen. His younger brother Ralf also be­came a suc­cess­ful For­mula One driver.

By 1987, Schu­macher was the Ger­man and Euro­pean gokart cham­pion and left school to work as an ap­pren­tice me­chanic, al­though he was soon rac­ing pro­fes­sion­ally.

In 1990, af­ter win­ning the Ger­man F3 cham­pi­onship, he was hired by Mercedes to drive sports cars. Just a year later he burst onto the For­mula One scene, qual­i­fy­ing sev­enth for Jor­dan in his de­but race at Bel­gium.

The young Ger­man was im­me­di­ately snapped up by Benet­ton, where he won his first For­mula One race in 1992, again at Bel­gium’s tough SpaFran­cor­champs cir­cuit.

Schu­macher won 18 races over the next four sea­sons with Benet­ton, claim­ing back-to-back world cham­pi­onships in 1994 and 1995.

In 2002 he won 11 times and fin­ished on the podium in all 17 races.

In 2003 Schu­macher broke Juan Manuel Fan­gio’s record by claim­ing his sixth world ti­tle and in 2004, his great­est sea­son, he won 13 races.

PA­TRICK HERT­ZOG / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Michael Schu­macher skis in the north­ern Ital­ian re­sort of Madonna di Campiglio in 2005. Schu­macher, the re­tired seven-time F1 cham­pion, was in a coma and listed in crit­i­cal con­di­tion af­ter strik­ing his head in a ski ac­ci­dent in the French Alps on Sun­day.

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