Two years on from the skiing accident that caused severe brain injuries and left him in a coma for nearly six months, the condition of Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher remains a mystery. Just days after Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm angrily denied a claim made in a German magazine that he was able to walk again, the 46-year-old’s former manager has said that he has been banned from seeing him.
Willi Weber was the man who first discovered Schumacher’s talent in 1988, helping to propel him to a career in Formula 1 and a record seven world drivers’ championships. However, on Christmas Day he wrote on Facebook that he had been prevented from seeing his former client and close friend by Schumacher’s wife Corinna. He later repeated the claim to German tabloid Bild.
“Unfortunately, it is just as clear as I wrote it on Facebook. Corinna prevents me from having any contact with Michael,” Weber told said. “I’ve tried dozens of times to get permission from Corinna to visit, each time without success. I cannot say anything, I do not know the reasons. I do not know what’s behind it. There are always excuses and evasions. Recently it was said that it was for fear of bacteria.
“Before the accident my relationship with Michael was sensational. Two weeks before we were sitting in Stuttgart together and making plans. Now we can no longer implement them. The situation is terrible for me. But my family is suffering. Our families were for 25 years so closely linked -- and now no-one can understand.”
Since Schumacher’s head struck a rock while skiing in the French Alps on Dec. 29, 2013, his family has repeatedly ask for their privacy to be respected and have made few statements about his condition. After coming out of a coma, Schumacher was transferred to a hospital in Lausanne before returning to his home on the shore of Lake Geneva in September, 2014. The last official update on his condition came in May, when Kehm stated that he was “making progress,” but cautioned that people “must always keep the seriousness of his injuries in mind.”
Kehm has on more than one occasion refuted claims made about the status of the German’s recovery. That included a statement made by former racing driver and friend of Schumacher Philippe Streiff last December that the motor-racing great was suffering from memory and speech problems. And last week she hit out at a report in German publication Bunte that quoted a source as saying: “Michael is very thin. But he can once again walk a little with the help of his therapist. He manages to walk a few steps. He can even raise his arm.”
Kehm’s response again urged for his privacy to be respected.
“Unfortunately, we are forced by a recent press report to clarify that the assertion that Michael could move again is not true,” she said in a statement. “Such speculation is irresponsible, because given the seriousness of his injuries, Michael's privacy is very important for him. Unfortunately they also give false hopes to many people involved.”
However, some of Schumacher’s former colleagues have been able to maintain contact during his recovery. Former Ferrari boss and current head of Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, Jean Todt said in October that Schumacher was “still fighting,” and that he sees him often. Ross Brawn, who helped mastermind Schumacher’s titles at Benetton and then Ferrari before bringing Schumacher out of retirement at Mercedes, also revealed that he has remained in contact.
“I do keep in touch [with Schumacher’s family], but we try and keep a balance of going to see him against calling, and not being a pain,” he said in October, according to the Daily Mirror. “I’ve been to see him a few times; Corinna, his wife, calls me occasionally and keeps me updated. We just keep praying every day that he’ll recover to a stage where…it's slow, but there's always hope.”