Model and TV presenter Elisabetta Gregoraci is a contestant on the reality TV show and the ex-wife of Flavio Briatore — Schumacher’s former boss at the Benetton F1 team, who he drove for in the early 1990s before moving to Ferrari.
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She claims the seven-time world champion, who suffered severe brain injuries after a skiing accident in the French Alps in 2013, can only communicate with his eyes, and is being cared for in a Spanish villa.
Gregoraci said during an episode of Big Brother Schumacher was moved from his home in Switzerland into a luxurious property on the Mediterranean island of Majorca, which has been transformed into a hospital — with only a few visitors allowed.
According to reports by local Spanish publications, Schumacher’s wife Corinna bought the villa — located on a huge estate on the south-west of the island — from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.
“Michael doesn’t speak, he communicates with his eyes,” Gregoraci said. “They moved to Spain and his wife has set up a hospital in that house.
“Only three people can visit him and I know who they are.”
Of course, reality TV has a reputation for actually being far removed from reality, so Gregoraci’s comments should be taken with a grain of salt.
Schumacher’s condition has been a closely guarded secret, with his family — in particular Corinna — determined to protect the motorsport icon’s privacy.
Gregoraci’s claims come after leading neurosurgeon Erich Riederer told a documentary that aired on French TV this month Schumacher was in a “vegetative state” and was “awake but not responding”.
“He is breathing, his heart is beating, he can probably sit up and take baby steps with help, but no more,” Riederer said.
“I think that’s the maximum for him. Is there any chance of seeing him like he was before his accident? I really don’t think so.”
Schumacher’s former Ferrari boss Jean Todt has visited the F1 great numerous times and said last year he was making “good progress” but also “struggles to communicate”. Earlier this month Todt, 74, said the Scuderia’s most successful driver was fighting to overcome the devastating injuries he suffered seven years ago.
“I saw Michael last week. He is fighting,” Todt told the PA news agency.
“My God, we know he had a terrible and unfortunate skiing accident which has caused him a lot of problems. But he has an amazing wife next to him, he has his kids, his nurses, and we can only wish him the best and to wish the family the best, too.
“All I can do is to be close to them until I am able to do something, and then I will do it.”
While details around Schumacher’s health remain largely a mystery — even with Gregoraci’s update — what’s not in doubt is son Mick’s promising future as he follows in his famous dad’s footsteps.
Mick moved a step closer to a spot on the 2021 F1 circuit when Alfa Romeo announced it would again test the 21-year-old.
Mick, who was 14 when Schumacher had his accident, improved his hopes of landing a drive by winning the Sochi Formula 2 feature race last weekend, which extended his lead in the title race over Callum Ilott.
He will now take the wheel of the top of the range Alfa Romeo ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany in two weeks’ time.
Alfa Romeo will announce its line-up for the 2021 season after the October 9 Grand Prix and is thought to be keen on promoting the 21-year-old from F2 to F1.
“I am overjoyed to get this chance in free practice,” Mick said. “I’m going to prepare myself well, so that I can do the best possible job for the team and gain some valuable data for the weekend.”
If he impresses, Mick could be in the running for Antonio Giovinazzi’s seat along with several other Ferrari Academy proteges as well as the experienced Mexican Sergio Perez and German Nico Hulkenberg.