Why the world will likely never know the truth about Schumacher's condition
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Little is known about Michael Schumacher’s health and the release of a new documentary has provided several clues as to why his family is so desperate to keep his condition a secret.
Wife Corinna has been central to protecting the F1 legend’s privacy — though it’s an approach that hasn’t always sat well with everyone. Schumacher’s manager during his racing days Willi Weber, for example, has said previously his former client’s fans deserve to be kept informed 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. “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 opened up more than ever about her husband’s health battle in SCHUMACHER, the Netflix documentary set to be released on September 15, as she broke down in tears revealing the 52-year-old is “different” after suffering a near-fatal brain injury from a skiing accident in the French alps in 2013.
But specifics about Schumacher’s condition, and whether he will ever recover, were kept under wraps.
Multiple scenes in the documentary, which features never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with those who knew Schumacher best, provide an insight into why Corinna and the family are so determined to keep everything private.
Corinna has said before she is following her soulmate’s wishes to keep his health out of the spotlight and the documentary opens a window into just what she means.
“‘Private is private’, as he always said. It’s very important to me that he can continue to enjoy his private life as much as possible,” Corinna says.
“Michael always protected us and now we are protecting Michael.”
She adds that Schumacher enjoyed racing in its purest form, but not everything else that came with being a global superstar.
“What he really didn’t like was the press, the people, all the hype around him,” she says. “That’s not what he wanted. He wanted to do the sport.
“Michael is very suspicious. He always has been, during the initial period. Until he thinks he knows someone or can trust them, then he opens up completely.”
Schumacher’s former Ferrari boss and good friend Jean Todt, who is optimistic the seven-time world champion will one day recover, says in the documentary Schumacher “is an extremely reserved, shy person”.
“He was looking for a normal life and he had a hard time understanding why he couldn’t have that normal life,” Todt says.
Observations like those show why Schumacher wouldn’t want his health condition being made public.
Ex-Australian F1 star Mark Webber says it was tough to become close with Schumacher and get to know him because there was always a “fence” up between him and everyone else, except his family.
The Ferrari legend’s manager Sabine Kehm also provided an insight into Schumacher’s racing career that may explain why he doesn’t want anyone to know how he is doing.
“It was very important to Michael that nobody in the team ever noticed when he was really struggling, gritting his teeth, maybe even having doubts or feeling desperate,” Kehm says. “He was extremely good at hiding that.”
In an interview with Netflix to promote the documentary, Kehm expanded on why secrecy surrounds Schumacher’s health nearly eight years on from his accident.
“The family has decided to deal with it in a way Michael dealt with all private topics. When he was racing, he was a public person and that was part of his job. But when he came home, he pulled up the drawbridge, as he called it, because he needed this space for himself,” Kehm said.
“He was in the world championship fight for so long, this is so tiring, and so he needed his home and family life as a refuge. Otherwise he wouldn’t have had the energy for the fight. This he sensed relatively early and he did it like that all those years.
“This again is the reason why his family has been doing it like this all those years now. And I think the film has found a good way to confront this topic despite this attitude.”