Formula One: Love of speed and risk haunts great Schumacher

Formula One: Love of speed and risk haunts great Schumacher
He won his first two titles with Benetton in 1994, the year when Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna died in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix, and 1995.

PARIS - Formula One legend Michael Schumacher may have retired in 2012 after a glittering career but his love for speed and danger has now led to a serious head injury while skiing in France.

The German, who turns 45 on Friday, had been skiing off-piste with his 14-year-old son at the upmarket Alps resort of Meribel when he fell and hit a rock.

Schumacher was left in a coma and underwent neurosurgical surgery at a hospital in Grenoble after his evacuation from Meribel. He remains in a critical condition.

After years of racing in the high risk world of Formula One and winning a record seven world titles, his accident suggests that perhaps retirement had not dulled his relish of dangerous pursuits.

As an F1 racer, Schumacher was known for his daring overtaking manoeuvres, his at-times almost reckless abandon in the pursuit of victory and his mastery of the tricky conditions presented by rain.

When he won his first world title in 1994 with Benetton, he did so in controversial fashion, crashing into his title rival Damon Hill at the final race after he had already scuppered his own hopes by going off the track when pushing hard despite leading comfortably.

It was indicative of Schumacher's win-at-all-costs attitude and his willingness to take huge risks in order to do so.

He almost provoked a similar crash in the final race of the 1997 season when battling Jacques Villeneuve for the title, an incident for which he was retrospectively disqualified from the whole season.

His career was also punctuated by accusations of dangerous driving following incidents such as a near collision with former teammate Rubens Barrichello in 2010, which the Brazilian later described as "the most dangerous thing" he had been through.

But even such mishaps didn't slow Schumacher down or quench his thirst for success as he went on to win five successive titles with Ferrari from 2000-2004.

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