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Investigators: Veering Off Trail Hurt Schumacher

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 8 2014

The investigation into Michael Schumacher's crash continues.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

French prosecutors investigating Michael Schumacher’s skiing accident have confirmed that the former Formula One World Driving Champion was “off-piste” – off a marked path – when he fell and hit his head on a rock.

But police investigators continuing to review footage from Schumacher’s helmet camera added they do not believe excessive speed was a factor in the crash at the Meribel resort early on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 29.

‘‘He was going at a speed that was in accordance with the slope. But he did not make any special turns to reduce his speed,” investigator Stépahne Bozon from the French Gendarmerie said during a news conference on Wednesday.

While investigators acknowledged they have not yet determined exactly how fast Schumacher was traveling when he fell, the prosecutor at Albertville said police did not consider speed a major factor in the crash of the seven-time World Champion.

“We are going to study the film with the best qualified people and with experts,” Patrick Quincy said in a report originally posted on Autosport.com. “If necessary we will be able to say what the speed was, but speed is not a particularly important aspect for us, nor (will it be) important for decisions we will likely take at the end of the inquiry.”

Bozon said a more detailed investigation of the helmet video will be needed. “Looking at the evidence he was a very good skier,” Bozon said. “He did go off-piste, and when he went off-piste he didn’t look at reducing his speed. We cannot really tell his speed yet. However, it is a speed of a very good skier on a fairly hard terrain and he was cornering to reduce his speed a little bit.”

In addition to reviewing the helmet video, Quincy said police had interviewed witnesses – ncluding several members of Schumacher’s family – and also had reconstructed the accident. Schumacher was skiing with his 14-year-old son, Mick, at the time of the fall.

Quincy reported that Schumacher had strayed only a few yards off-piste during his mountain descent. “He reached an intersection between a red and a blue run,” Quincy said. “He followed the red piste and he went off-piste. He is evidently a very good skier, but one of his skis hit a rock that was sticking out of the piste. The rock that he hit was eight meters from the piste. His positioning after he fell was nine meters away from the piste.”

Bozon added there was no evidence Schumacher’s skis had failed or caused the accident. “The skis were in perfect condition,” Bozon said. “They weren’t the cause of the accident. However, there is a scratch underneath the skis that proves that he did indeed hit a rock.”

Quincy said the piste was well-marked that morning, ruling it out as a contributing factor.

Schumacher remains in an induced coma in Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Grenoble, where his family marked his 45th birthday on Friday, Jan. 3. Schumacher’s condition continues to be listed as critical but stable after undergoing two operations on his brain.

On Tuesday, Schumacher’s wife, Corinna, requested that media camped outside the clinic leave the scene to give the family privacy.

The medical team reiterated after the second operation that because a number of lesions remained on Schumacher’s brain it was impossible to make a recovery prognosis. Schumacher will remain in the induced coma for as long as necessary.

Widely considered F1’s most successful driver, Schumacher retired from F1 for a second time after the 2012 season following a lackluster three-year stint with the Mercedes AMG team. “The Great Schumi” racked up seven world championships, 91 wins, 68 poles, 155 podium finishes, 19 consecutive podium results and 5,071 laps-led.

Schumacher shares the record for most single-season wins at 13 with four-time/reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who tied his fellow-countryman from Germany and boyhood idol with a victory for Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault in the 2013 season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

A star of Mercedes’ endurance sports car racing program in the late 1980s, Schumacher made his F1 debut in 1991 and compiled his seven championships by time of his first retirement in 2006. Five of those titles and 72 of his 91 wins were scored with Scuderia Ferrari, F1’s most glamorous team. In addition to his seven driving titles, Schumacher led Ferrari to six consecutive Constructors’ Championships.

Schumacher returned to F1 with Mercedes AMG in 2010, but struggled to repeat his earlier successes. His only podium was a third-place during the 2012 European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 8 2014
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