MICHAEL Schumacher has not been seen or heard for nearly nine years with total secrecy surrounding his health.
But a few key clues have been hinted at by his friends and family which offer a fleeting insight into the reclusive F1 legend’s life.
Schumacher suffered a traumatic brain injury while skiing in the Alps with his son Mick back in 2013.
He was left in a medically induced coma before being released home and then ever since it has been near silence on the driver’s condition.
His family, led by wife Corinna, closely protect Michael’s privacy and offer him a quiet life.
Fans, however, have been offered a few small glimpses into the seven-time world champion’s world.
And this includes revelations he cries at beautiful things and watches F1 races with one of his oldest pals.
Michael’s wife has never given a definitive update on his health, but in the Netflix documentary Schumacher she simply said he was “different.”
Jean Todt just last week spoke of how he still loves to watch Grand Prixs with Michael.
The champ’s son Mick is now racing in the sport with the Haas team, with the 23-year-old never commenting on his dad’s health, but saying he would “give up everything” to chat to him about F1.
Todt and Schumacher have been pals for years, with the 76-year-old Frenchman being a key part of the Ferrari team that saw the German win five world titles from 2000 to 2004.
He is understood to be one of Michael’s few friends from his racing days who is allowed to see him – coming to visit twice a month.
And he was reported to have been a regular visitor at the Ferrari and Mercedes racer’s bedside after his ski crash, with F1 champ Niki Lauda describing the pair as having a “deep and respectful friendship”.
“I don’t miss Michael, I see him. Yes, it’s true, I watch races with Michael,” Todt told German TV channel RTL.
“But sure, I guess what I miss is what we used to do together.”
The ex-FIA president previously told how he “hopes the world” will be able to see his dear friend again, revealing Schumacher has “never changed”.
He continued: “I don’t leave him alone. Him, Corinna, the family, we’ve had so many experiences together.
“The beauty of what we have experienced is part of us and it goes on.
“Sometimes success and money changes you. But Michael has never changed. He’s so strong.”
‘MICHAEL HAS NEVER CHANGED’
Meanwhile, sources – described as “close relatives” – claimed in French magazine Paris Match back in 2018 that Schumacher cries when he sees natural beauty.
They said: “When you put him in his wheelchair facing the beautiful panorama of the mountains overlooking the lake, Michael sometimes cries.”
The two family members who “visit him often” said it was very encouraging that Schumacher still shows emotions.
It was also reported in 2015 that Schumacher cries when he hears the voices of his wife Corinna and children, Gina-Maria and Mick.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra says Schumacher is moved to tears when he hears familiar sounds – such as his wife and children or even his beloved dogs.
“Schumi cries. And sometimes mysteriously,” the paper reported.
“He cries when he hears his children, his wife’s voice, his dogs. In the silence of that room, a tear runs down his thin face at a known sound.
“There is life, enclosed in a drop; there is the strength of a man who is moved and that moves each of us.
“We have his tears, his senses exposed.”
And meanwhile in 2014, fellow F1 driver Philippe Streiff claimed that just over a year on from the crash that Schumacher could recognize friends and family – but couldn’t speak.
Streiff, who was left quadriplegic by a 1989 crash, told Le Parisien Schumacher was “nevertheless starting to recognize those close to him”.
He claimed he got his information from Schumacher’s wife and his surgeon – but Michael’s longtime manager Sabine Kehm denied the family had contact with Streiff.
Cryptic comments by Schumacher’s former Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo in February 2016 sparked further speculation about the racer’s condition.
He told reporters: “I have news and unfortunately it is not good. Life is strange.”
And in a rare so-what official update, Schumacher’s lawyer Felix Damm told a German court that his client “cannot walk” as part of a lawsuit against magazine Die Bunte.
He senses that loving people are around him, caring for him and, thank God, keeping the overly curious public away
He said: “Michael cannot even stand with the help of his special therapists.
“I cannot make any other comments about Michael’s health situation.”
Die Bunte had claimed Schumacher was able to take steps and raise an arm months previously, which was rebutted by Kehm.
German archbishop Georg Ganswein also offered hints about Michael’s health as he revealed emotional visit to see the 91-time race winner in 2016.
He said although Schumacher’s face has “become a little fuller” the record-breaking driver still looks the same as he did when last seen by his millions of fans.
“I sat opposite him, took hold of both hands and looked at him,” the 62-year-old – who is one of Pope Francis’s key advisers – said according to German newspaper Bild.
“He senses that loving people are around him, caring for him and, thank God, keeping the overly curious public away.”
And in one promising comment, controversial F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone hinted that Michael could once again return to the public eye.
He said: “He is not with us at the moment.
“But when he gets better, he’ll answer all the questions.”
And all of these hints and cryptic remarks come as a vacuum of information fuels the rumors swirling around his health.
But the only people who know for sure are Schumacher’s family and his closest pals.
Corinna broke down in tears last Wednesday as her husband was awarded the State Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia.
And the family are reported to be preparing to start spending the winter months at a property in Majorca – having “big plans” for their “new life”.
Michael is one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, dominating the sport in the early 2000s after rising to power in the 90s.
He raced from 1991 to 2006, and again from 2010 to 2012 – a second act of his career which saw him become instrumental in setting up Lewis Hamilton’s dominant Mercedes team.
The German won five world championships with Ferrari and two for Benetton.
Schumacher retired in 2012, but just a year later he was involved in a life-changing skiing accident while on the slopes with Mick.
And meanwhile, Schumacher’s former manager Willi Weber accused the star’s family of lying about his condition.
The 80-year-old said he is still “angry” that the brood hasn’t updated him on the F1 icon’s health since his skiing accident nine years ago.
He took swipes at both Corinna and Jean Todt, saying: “They kept me out, telling me it’s too early, well now it’s too late.”
Weber initially understood the need for secrecy from the Schumacher family but that since he got out of hospital, “we have only heard lies from them.”