When Howard Dunaier emailed me about Michael Schumacher – the most successful Formula One driver of all time – getting hurt in a skiing accident, the day before New Year’s Eve, I think he was more upset than I was. At the time, I really didn’t have much of an emotional reaction and I still don’t. I am not sure why. There is no doubt that Schumacher is one of the world’s best athletes – even if you don’t believe that driving a car is an athletic endeavor, it is hard not to be impressed by his making a Billion dollars by doing it – but, for me, he has always been easier to admire than love.
As an aside. I said for me because I don’t know Schumacher – of course I have never met him, I haven’t even seen him drive in person – and all my reactions to him are my reactions, my projections. I don’t want to say for me in every paragraph below but please be aware that it is there. End aside.
Stirling Moss, probably the greatest race driver never to win a championship, said, To achieve anything, you must be prepared to dabble on the boundary of disaster. Schumacher, who won seven Formula One World Championships, almost never seemed to be dabbling on that edge. Sure, he had great desire, speed, racecraft, and is relentlessly fit, but his work ethic and ability to build a team around him are what set him apart. He was too invulnerable to be a warm and fuzzy, a lovable, kind of guy. He seemed unemotional, but nobody can drive as well as he did in his prime without being emotional and Schumacher, in the moment, over the years, he has done some very emotional, very dangerous, and very stupid things.
By all accounts, the way he skied on the day of the accident was not one of them. But, I am sure that Michael Schumacher does not ski like a normal 44-year-old man. Either way, he fell nine days ago and nobody is yet willing to say he is going to live. That, in itself, is pretty unusual. They have placed him in an artificial comma and have – somehow – reduced his temperature to below normal. I think that is also unusual for this period of time, so it does not look very good.
In the strange way that life works, that has made Michael seem very vulnerable, for the first time.