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Formula One

Michael Schumacher's love of the limit

Michael Schumacher's love of speed and adrenaline goes far beyond the cockpit: the seven-time Formula One champion - like most of his racing peers - has always sought excitement in his private life.

Horse-riding, sky diving, motorcycle racing, football, skiing and scuba diving - these are just some of Michael Schumacher's high-octane hobbies, aside from his professional career as the most successful single-seater race driver in history.

After his first retirement from Formula One racing in 2006, Schumacher began using his contractual freedom to try his hand at things that Ferrari, or Benetton before that, might not have welcomed. The seven-time F1 champion spoke in public about his newfound love for sky diving, while at the same time experimenting in secret on two wheels. Schumacher even competed in a few motorbike races in 2008, under the pseudonym "Marcel Niederhausen" until his cover was blown.

In February of 2009, at a practice session in Valencia, Schumacher crashed his bike and sustained his worst injuries from a racing incident, fracturing bones in his neck and head. Five months later, these injuries remained severe enough that Schumacher had to abandon his first planned Formula One comeback. On testing a Ferrari at Italy's Mugello Circuit, with a view to deputizing for the injured Felipe Massa, Schumacher said he discovered that his "neck cannot stand the extreme stresses caused by F1 yet."

By the start of the 2010 season, Schumacher had healed sufficiently to start his "second career" - this time as a permanent driver for Mercedes Grand Prix.

Previous scares

Schumacher also suffered several serious accidents during his time as a Formula One driver, most notably at Silverstone in 1999. Shortly after the start of the race, his Ferrari's brakes failed, and he ploughed into a tire barrier at more than 100 kilometers per hour (62mph). Schumacher broke both major bones in his right shin, the tibia and fibia, and was forced to sit out six races, ending his title challenge that year. After the most serious accident of Schumacher's F1 career, fans were relieved minutes after the incident - which had brought the race to a halt - to see the German extend a hand from his stretcher and wave to the crowd.

Michael Schumacher's accident in Silverstone, 1999

Schumacher's waving hand, emerging from this throng, reassured millions in 1999

At the season-opener in Melbourne in 2001, Schumacher lost control of his Ferrari under braking close to full speed in Friday practice; his car barrel-rolled twice on entering the gravel trap but ended up on its wheels. The freshly crowned champion of 2000 emerged unscathed, qualified on pole the next day, and then went on to win the race.

On his retirement from Ferrari in 2006, Schumacher's wife Corinna said she was "happy that we can all go home in good health, that nothing bad has happened." Having claimed his first title in 1994, the year Formula One buried treble champion Ayrton Senna and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger after a horrific weekend at Imola in Italy, Schumacher himself was forever stoical in the face of professional risk.

"Despite the accidents, I'm not afraid," he once said in a television interview. "It may well be true that some things have changed in my life, yes. What won't change is the way I live, I'm not about to consciously deny myself the things that bring me joy."

The father of two took joy in all manner of high-adrenaline pursuits, sharing his wife Corinna's love of horse-riding, dabbling in parachute and bungee jumping - and regularly hitting the ski slopes. Norway, Switzerland and France were among his favorite winter destinations - often taking to the piste during European motorsport's weather-induced off-season.

The Schumachers' family home in Gland, Switzerland, is close to some of the most prominent resorts in the French Alps. That's where Sunday's accident took place, on an off-piste run close to the slopes of Meribel. Schumacher fell and hit his head against a rock, suffering serious injuries to the right side of his head despite wearing a skiing helmet. The 44-year-old was flown to nearby Grenoble's Centre Hospitalier Universitaire for specialist treatment, where he is fighting for his life in an artificially-induced coma.

DW.DE