Michael Schumacher is awarded. For his sporting successes, but also for a side that may not be so well known to many. His wife Corinna accepts the award with their daughter Gina. It gets emotional.
When the applause grew louder and the invited guests rose from their chairs, Corinna Schumacher could no longer hold back the tears. From a screen above the podium, her husband Michael, a photo of the seven-time Formula 1 world champion, looked in the cockpit, with his helmet on his head, visor up. On a par with some of his legendary Formula 1 racing cars, most notably those in Ferrari red. Memories of the past, everywhere.
“Of course we would all wish that he could accept his award in person. We miss him here, and he’s not just missing on days like today,” said Jean Todt, laudator, but above all a good friend of the once successful pilot. It was Todt who was also on the stage when North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst presented the state prize for Schumacher to his wife Corinna and daughter Gina at Motorworld in Cologne on Wednesday.
Applause, long applause followed. The first stood up and continued clapping, then everyone rose. It was the moment that almost had to come at a place that is only a few kilometers away from Michael Schumacher’s former home in Kerpen. In a place where racing cars, helmets or karts from a permanent exhibition from Schumacher’s private collection bear witness to the glorious days of the record world champion.
It was the moment when Corinna Schumacher became emotional. In her wine-red pantsuit, she turned briefly to daughter Gina, and family friend Todt was also at her side. They left the stage to sustained applause, and Corinna still seemed very moved from her place in the first row. Then Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was played. “I hope, we all hope that the great fighter Michael Schumacher will keep fighting, never give up, that he will make progress on the very difficult path he is on,” Prime Minister Wüst emphasized earlier in his speech.
Schumacher could not accept this honor himself, the highest award of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. This has been the case since the end of 2013. Since the skiing accident in the French Alps in which Schumacher suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. For days he had fought to survive, for weeks he had been in an artificial coma. Schumacher has since disappeared from the public eye.
Son Mick was also briefly absent from Motorworld. The 23-year-old didn’t feel so good in the morning, his stomach caused problems, he didn’t even get on the plane from his adopted home on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. At the weekend he has to be fit again in the Haas racing car for the French Grand Prix – father Michael won the Grand Prix eight times in his career alone.
But Schumacher’s successes in motorsport’s premier class – 91 race wins, seven world titles, 68 pole positions – are one thing. Schumacher also received the honor from his home state for what he and his family achieve socially. Usually rather in silence, in secret.
The generous side of Michael Schumacher
The $10 million donation after the 2004 tsunami was known, but Schumacher also made donations during flood disasters on the Elbe in 2002 and 2013, the family most recently during the devastating floods in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia last year. Schumacher also contributed to the establishment of a large center in Paris for people with brain and spinal cord injuries.
“Michael Schumacher has done a lot of good for others over the years,” emphasized Wüst, who once shared the excitement with family or friends and beers at the Rhineland-born’s races in the early 1990s, as he said in a good mood before the award ceremony. “Michael started early on to think of others with all his successes. It started in his own family – he put his prize money from the Formula 3 victory in Macau, $20,000, on his father’s dining table,” said Todt and also praised Schumacher’s family and his wife Corinna. Todt said she was one of the strongest women he knew. The emotions when the invited guests rose from their seats in honor of their husbands to applaud were even stronger that day.