FAMILY is very important to Michael Schumacher. “I concentrate on family (out of season) when I don’t need to train so hard and have a lot of time.
“I play the family father,’’ Schuey emphasised to three Malaysian journalists during an interview on Thursday.
He keeps his family life close to his heart.
Asked about wife Corrina and how she figures in giving him support, Schuey joked: “Ya, my wife tells me how to make my gear box set-up, she supplies me a list before a race on what I have to do.”
But he quickly added that Corrina supports him in every way possible.
Married since 1995, the couple have a daughter, Gina Maria aged six, and son Mick who turned four on Saturday.
Being animal lovers, they have a large menagerie of animals including four Western horses, four dogs (Bonnie, Tracy, Jenny and Floh), fish and birds.
And the family and their “pets” are expected to move into their newly-built farm at Gland, Switzerland, next year.
“So they can have all the animals at one place. Right now, the horses are housed somewhere else,” explained his media consultant Sabine Kehm.
Schuey fiercely guards his private life and does not approve of his children being photographed by the media.
There are no nannies to help out at the Schumacher home in Vufflens-le-Chateau, near Lake Geneva in Switzerland, because he prefers a “normal family” life. Corrina’s parents are often at their home.
According to Kehm, Michael and Corrina are a very loving couple and constantly keep in touch over the phone when she is not with him during races.
“Yesterday (Friday), when he had just finished the afternoon qualifying (session one) and was getting ready to talk to the media, he gave her a call.”
There is a change in Schumacher's behaviour every time he comes back to races or testing after spending time with his family, Kehm related. “You can see that he feels fresh, calm and balanced. It gives him a lot of strength.’’
Kehm offered an account of a day in Schuey’s life out of the Formula One season. The 34-year-old driver normally starts the day by sitting down to breakfast with his family, she says.
He then starts his daily fitness routine, which lasts two to three hours. Exercises can vary from climbing to cycling or skiing.
After this, he has lunch with his family.
Later in the evening, Schumacher goes for soccer practice. The evenings are spent with Corrina after the children have gone to bed.
“He dedicates as much time as possible and has a close relationship with them (his children),” Kehm said.
“Normally he plays around with them or takes them swimming or skiing because he is a very active person.’’
Shopping, however, does not figure highly in the Schumacher family’s list of activities.
When in Maranello, where the Ferrari headquarters is located, Schuey creates a homely atmosphere at Enzo Ferrari's old house in Fiorano by putting photographs of his wife and children in his room. There also gifts from his children on the shelves and cupboards.
Pasta is listed as his favourite food while his favourite sports are soccer, skiing and mountain-biking.
Professionally, Schuey, who trained to be a mechanic, has equalled Juan Manuel Fangio’s record of winning five world championships. He is after the sixth this year.
He started racing karts when he was four years old, and enjoyed his first success as German Junior Kart Champion in 1984.
He entered Formula One on a Jordan ticket in 1991 and had his first win in Spa, Belgium in 1992 when he was racing with Benetton.
He landed his first world championship title in 1994 and did it again the following year.
Schuey signed with Ferrari in 1996 and landed the next three world titles – 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Last year, he scored 144 points with 11 victories.
Ferrari also won constructor’s title.
“Ferrari is known so well because of the history. People love history, colour and obviously the success,” he remarked when the fame of his team in Malaysia was mentioned.
He is staunchly loyal to the team and has expressed no intention of moving on to another outfit once his contract expires in 2004.
During this 20-minute interview, the racing ace proved to be a real natural at handling questions from the media.
When a question about the head and neck support (HANS) system was fielded, he cheekily answered: “Hans is doing well,'' referring to Germans named Hans. Then he said he he had no problems with the system.
Having come here for the past five years to race in the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix, he said that he loved the country for its “very nice people” and its beauty.
A favourite holiday destination for him here is Langkawi.
When asked whether he considered Malaysia a safe destination for him after the Sept 11 attacks and the Bali bombing, he said he did not see any extra risk coming here although it is a Muslim country.
“I feel that people here are a lot more educated and different from the extremist countries we are talking about (who carried out the attacks).
“There is a higher risk these days. Everywhere, anytime something could happen but life has to go on. I only hope that people will be careful enough,” he added.
On Malaysian fans, he said he hasn't had much contact with them as he usually arrived at the latest possible moment before the race.
“But I have been here in the past, like in Langkawi where people are very nice and keep their distance and respect privacy. I rate that very highly. I only know Malaysians (other than the fans) whom I like very much,” he said.
Race-day routine9.30am: Arrives at Sepang F1 Circuit
10am: Attends briefing
12.15pm: Joins Drivers' Parade before heading off to meet sponsors such as Philip Morris and Shell at the Paddock Club. (At most circuits, this also includes Vodafone.)
Subsequently attends meetings with team principal Jean Todt, technical director Ross Brawn and pit crew engineers to sort out race tactics.
1.30pm: Light lunch of salad or some fish, followed by a 20- to 30-minute nap. Afterwards, he gets a massage from his physiotherapist and then begins preparing for the race.
3pm: Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix (56 laps). Attends the FIA press conference after the race if he has a podium finish.
5.30pm: Post-race briefing. Unwinds with some food and wine. Flies back to Switzerland to be with his family.
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