The opening day off the Formula 1 season has seen further tributes and messages of support flood in for seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, with defending champion Sebastian Vettel admitting he remains in shock following the skiing accident that has left Schumacher in an induced coma.
The 45-year-old continues to fight for his life after suffering severe brain injuries when he hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste in the French resort of Meribel.
The latest update from Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm said the former racing driver remains in a “stable but critical condition”, and it is not yet known whether the former Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes driver will survive the accident.
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Vettel is gunning for his fifth consecutive Drivers’ World Championship this season, a feat that only Schumacher can boast following his unrivalled success with Ferrari during 2000 and 2004.
Speaking on the opening day of testing at Jerez in Spain, Vettel said: “I have known him for a long time and have been looking up to him all my life.
“I got to know him obviously when he did his comeback a little bit more and became his friend.
“It's horrible, especially for his family and close friends not knowing what's going to happen. In that regard, as I said, I'm still shocked as everyone and obviously I pray and hope a miracle will happen and he will come back and be the person he has always been before.”
Vettel was unable to get on-track on the first day of testing as his Red Bull RB10 remained in the garage, but one car that did get some running time was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. The German manufacturer, who staged Schumacher’s comeback from his original retirement in 2010 until 2012, are running their new W05sup with the message #KeepFightingSchumacher on it.
Hamilton’s day did come to a premature end though when his front wing failed and he crashed into the tyre barrier, sustaining significant damage to the front of his Mercedes that prevented any further action on the first of four days of testing.
Schumacher’s family have already expressed their gratitude at the support they have received from fans worldwide, including Bundesliga clubs Cologne FC and Schalke.
A brain injury specialist has also stated that should the German pull through his ordeal, he will not be the same person he was before due to the severity of his injury. Dr Richard Greenwood said: “If Schumacher survives, he will not be Schumacher.
“He will be [Joe] Bloggs. His rehabilitation will only be effective if he comes to terms with being Bloggs.
“That is a very, very hard process to take people through. They need to come to terms with their limitations — the fact they have changed.”