I’ve taken some heat for being a Michael Schumacher fan over the years but such is life. I’ve followed his career since he began driving in Formula 1 and while there have been up’s and down’s in his on-track career, the current battle he faces is just about as serious as it gets.
On a very peripheral level, my family has been tied to Schumacher in various ways. My daughter shares the same birthday, I’ve been a keen follower for years, I have (thanks to Michael S. in Australia) signed merchandise from Schumacher, I’ve met him briefly and a large limited edition piece of artwork hangs on my wall of the familiar Ferrari and the distinctive German’s helmet at the wheel. I have and always will be a Schumacher fan.
There is a more emotional attachment as well. My father was also a fan of Schumacher’s. In 2006, my father passed away from a brain aneurism (this was the second aneurism he suffered with his first being in the late 1980’s).
The 2005 season was a very difficult year for Ferrari and Schumacher with only one win at the miserable US Grand Prix, mid-year, in which most of the field did not start the race due to dodgy tires. The remainder of the year was a real struggle with no wins and the 2006 season looked to be off to a similar start with second and sixth place finishes followed by a DNF in Australia.
On April 23, 2006 the San Marino Grand Prix happened and I was in a hospital sitting at my father’s bedside. He was in a coma and had been for a several days. This was a reality re-living itself as I had spent days in the hospital with the first incident and the internal bleeding and swelling were all exactly like Schumacher’s recent accident. I was not much older than Schumacher’s son, Mick, when it happened the first time and I know exactly how he feels.
My father was given a 3% chance to survive back then and he beat the odds but he was never the same. My mother was immediately placed in a caregiver role for well over 20 years. It radically changed the lives of our entire family much as it has done to the Schumachers. Only time would tell the extent of any possible recovery my father might experience and this, too, is exactly where Schumacher is right now as some say he is in a wheelchair and unable to speak.
If there is encouragement I can give the Schumacher family, it is that time can offer further improvement. What his current state is today, may not always be the current state of his health or capacity in the future. My father, over time, was able to walk and speak. It was a struggle as I lamented the loss of the father I knew but as time went on, I was incredibly grateful he survived and was in our lives even if he wasn’t the man he used to be. I would give anything to watch one more race with him today.
Today’s news, that a few of the sponsors are ending contracts or not seeking to renew them with Michael Schumacher, is perhaps a simple business decision but it is lamentable nonetheless. We didn’t have the kind of wealth the Schumacher family has but there is a chance that all things are relative given where they live, the lifestyle they have and the kinds of services they are paying for in order to support Michael at home. The loss of any revenue is felt immediately along with a real sense of departure of emotional support.
On one side of the coin, you can understand that paying an icon of motorsport to be a spokesman, who currently cannot speak, isn’t the best use of your marketing dollars. On the other hand, DVAG and Mercedes have publicly stated they are standing by Michael regardless of what he can do for them.
It is a grey line and each has to make their own decision. I appreciate those acts of kindness that go beyond the common sense of a marketing dollar—when someone’s life is in the situation like Schumacher or even Jules Bianchi—and teeter on the line of illogical and money wasted on the emotional quotient of a relationship between a company and a driver.
In the end, companies will have to make the decisions they feel compelled to make but they will be known as the company who left when Michael could have used the support.
Schumacher held a lead and Fernando Alonso failed to undercut him during the final pit stop of the 2006 San Marino Grand Prix. On April the 23rd, Fernando Alonso made a small mistake that left me thrilled and I clinched my father’s hand as he lay motionless in the hospital bed. I knew he would be thrilled too. When the checkered flag flew, I was elated to see another win and I held my father’s hand, leaned over and said in his ear, “it’s ok Dad, Michael won the race…he’s won the race for you”. It was a matter of minutes and my father stopped breathing, his race was over too.
Hat Tip: Daily Mail