Motorsport: Why Michael Schumacher’s wife keeps F1 legend’s health top secret

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In 2013, Michael Schumacher severely injured himself in a skiing accident. Video / AP

Little is known about Michael Schumacher’s health since he suffered a tragic ski accident in the French Alps in 2013.

A serious brain injury saw the F1 legend placed in a medically-induced coma for months and since then only scraps of information have come out about his condition.

Last year renowned neurosurgeon Erich Riederer said Schumacher was in a “vegetative” state while his former Ferrari boss Jean Todt gave a heartwarming update in November, revealing he visits his former colleague a couple of times a month at his home in Switzerland.

The main reason for the mystery surrounding Schumacher’s state is his wife Corinna. She has barely spoken to the media about the seven-time F1 world champion and has been determined to keep his health battle out of the public eye.

Why all the mystery?

In a rare public statement from Corinna and the couple’s children, Gina and Mick, around the time of the driver’s 50th birthday, the family said it was following Schumacher’s wishes to maintain his privacy.

“You can be sure that he is in the very best of hands and that we are doing everything humanly possible to help him,” the statement said.

“Please understand if we are following Michael’s wishes and keeping such a sensitive subject as health, as it has always been, in privacy.”

Corinna has been caring for Schumacher in Switzerland as he continues his lengthy rehabilitation, remaining by his side throughout the terrible ordeal.

Last year the ex-wife of Schumacher’s brother Ralf — also a former F1 driver — reportedly praised Corinna for how she has handled everything.

“I take my hat off to her seven times a day,” Cora Brinkmann said in an interview with Gala. “She is a great woman.”

Schumacher’s love lives on with wife, daughter

Born in 1969, Corinna grew up in Germany and developed a passion for sports — but not necessarily car racing.

Schumacher bought a ranch in Switzerland in 2005 for his and Corinna’s 10th wedding anniversary, where she now keeps 40 horses. In 2010 she won the European Championship in western style horse riding.

It emerged during the week the family had taken its love of animals to another level. Along with daughter Gina, Corinna reportedly spent $4.4 million on a plot of land on the Spanish island of Majorca, where they intend to build stables.

Gina, 24, is a non-professional horse-rider and equestrian who channelled her inner Ferrari In 2019 when she kitted herself and her horse out in Scuderia gear as she took part in a freestyle competition in Italy.

According to local newspaper Diario de Mallorca, the reason for buying the land in Majorca “is to raise and ride around 20 horses on it”.

In 2019, Corinna gave her first interview since Schumacher’s accident, telling Mercedes’ She Magazine Gina would become a champion horse-rider because of the influence of her ultra-competitive father.

“I don’t forget who I have to thank for this. That would be my husband Michael,” Corinna said, explaining he fostered Gina’s love of horses by buying that Swiss ranch 16 years ago.

“When my husband told me that one day Gina would be much better than me, I was not thrilled.”

“‘What do you mean by that? I work with horses from morning to night, trying to learn everything’,” she told him.

Michael Schumacher and wife Corinna in happier times, in early 2013. Photo / Photosport
Michael Schumacher and wife Corinna in happier times, in early 2013. Photo / Photosport

Manager points finger at Corinna

In late 2019, Schumacher’s former manager accused Corinna of blocking his attempts to visit the F1 icon because she feared the truth would come out about his medical condition.

Schumacher’s long-term manager during his racing days, Willi Weber, said his former client’s fans deserved to be kept informed about his condition and pointed the finger at Corinna for denying him access to his friend.

“I know that Michael has been hit hard, but unfortunately I do not know what progress he makes,” Weber said on a German TV documentary celebrating the 25th anniversary of Schumacher’s first world title in 1994.

“I’d like to know how he’s doing and shake hands or stroke his face.

“But unfortunately, this is rejected by Corinna.

“She’s probably afraid that I’ll see right away what’s going on and make the truth public.”

Corinna maintained she was simply doing what her husband wanted, telling She Magazine: “Try to understand that we follow Michael’s desire to keep his health a secret.”

Fight to keep Schumacher’s secret

Corinna has fought to ensure information doesn’t escape about Schumacher’s condition.

In 2016 the family took a German magazine to court after it quoted a source claiming Schumacher could walk “a couple of steps”. Schumacher’s lawyer Felix Damm told the court “he cannot walk” and couldn’t stand without assistance.

Schumacher family spokesperson Sabine Kehm slammed the “irresponsible” report. “Unfortunately, we are forced by a recent press report to clarify that the assertion that Michael could move again is not true,” she said at the time. “Such speculation is irresponsible because given the seriousness of his injuries, his privacy is very important for Michael. Unfortunately they also give false hopes to many involved people.”

Michael Schumacher takes a boat ride with Team New Zealand in Valencia in 2007. Photo / Photosport
Michael Schumacher takes a boat ride with Team New Zealand in Valencia in 2007. Photo / Photosport

Wife’s heartbreaking letter

Details of a heartbreaking letter Corinna penned about Schumacher’s battle were revealed in 2018.

German musician Sascha Herchenbach had composed a new song in Schumacher’s honour called Born To Fight, and sent a recording of the tune to the F1 great’s family as a gift.

In an emotional note to Herchenbach, Corinna said: “I would like to sincerely thank you for your message and nice gift that will help us through this difficult time.

“It is good to receive so many kind wishes and other well-intentioned words — which is a great support for our family.

“We all know Michael is a fighter and will not give up.”

Speaking to German magazine Bunte, Herchenbach said he was “overwhelmed” by Corinna’s response.

“I had not expected to get an answer and was overwhelmed,” he said. “The letter was handwritten and signed by Corinna on her stationery.

“She wrote that she was very thankful for the gift and helped her and her family over this difficult time.”

Mick Schumacher is in the midst of an extremely successful motor-racing career of his own. Photo / Photosport
Mick Schumacher is in the midst of an extremely successful motor-racing career of his own. Photo / Photosport

Corinna’s message of hope

Ahead of the six-year anniversary of Schumacher’s accident, Corinna issued a rare message of hope.

As fans prepared to launch a “KeepFightingMichael” social media page in late 2019, Corinna reportedly told them: “Big things start with small steps. Many small particles can form a huge mosaic.

“Together you are stronger, and that is exactly how combined forces of the KeepFighting movement make it easier to encourage others.”

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