Much has been written about Michael Schumacher and his family’s approach to the time following his tragic ski accident almost 3 years ago.
Part of the reason for this intense interest and speculation is due to the lack of information about Michael’s ongoing condition. This approach to Michael’s condition of ‘please respect our privacy’ together with a ‘zero information update’ has split F1 fans, many of whom feel the family should be providing occasional progress updates on Michael and recognise the role he played in the lives of his devotees and their part in his rise to fame and fortune.
In a bizarre turn of events the FIA attempted to silence ex-Formula One doctor, FIA medical delegate and trauma specialist as he interpreted the comments made by Michael’s surgeon’s on the extent of his injuries and the associated probabilities of various levels of recovery.
Since the Alpine accident, others too have commented on Michael’s current status, though these statements have often been followed by a partial retraction or qualification of the original statement about Michael’s state of health.
Of course the family are capable and entitled to build an ‘information fortress’ around Michael, however, those who knew Schumacher well and have visited at times clearly didn’t understand the nature of the absolute silence the family require from them regarding Michael’s progress and condition.
The latest of these to reveal insight into Michael Schumacher’s condition was Ross Brawn. Having returned from the cold and F1 isolation, Ross has been doing rounds of interviews with various media outlets and been expectedly asked his opinion on all things F1.
In an interview with the Guardian, Ross too now clearly feels it necessary to retract/clarify his original remarks made to Sky and others about Michael’s current recovery status. Asked whether he visits Michael, Brawn replies, “We do. We go see him and hope and pray that one day he will make a recovery. I was quoted as saying he’s improving and it was not what I really meant. The family are conducting his convalescence in private and I need to respect that. So I don’t want to comment on his condition beyond saying we’re extremely hopeful we’ll see Michael as we knew him at some point in the future.”
Clearly the mysterious hand of censorship has tapped Ross on the shoulder, though his clarification adds more intrigue than had nothing been said at all.
Brawn is an engineer who has spent his life in the detail; detail that exploits the interpretation of the wording of regulations in ways others fail to see and his use of vocabulary and grammar is extremely precise. When Pirelli ‘testing-gate’ forced Mercedes to stand before the F1 powers that be and answer questions about who knew what when – Ross Brawn was in his element and the day was in effect won by Ross’ use of the term ‘good faith’. This left Horner and his other accusers huffing and puffing over the minutia of how much advantage Mercedes gained from their ‘secret’ test in Barcelona.
So as a master of language, Ross’s recent comments for the first time raise the spectre that Michael Schumacher may indeed make a full recovery.
The English word ‘hope’ has a breadth of meaning and interpretation ranging from one extreme suggesting ‘blind faith’, to the other end of the spectrum of ‘near certainty’; and it is from the context where the precise intention of the kind of ‘hope’ can be understand the precise meaning intended.
“I hope she doesn’t come home drunk again”, clearly points us to the fact that the speaker does not expect this ‘hope’ to occur. This is an expression of vain hope, blind faith and the event ‘hoped for’ is extremely unlikely to be the case.
Yet this is not the kind of intention Ross Brawn is suggesting. We can easily unpack Brawn’s intentions as follows: “We’re extremely hopeful [that despite all that has prevailed] we’ll see Michael as we knew him at some point in the future.”
The context also given by the nature and reputation of the speaker’s character and Ross Brawn is a man whose life and career has been steeped in probability and pragmatism. This personality trait stands in contrast to the recent blind optimism of certain senior members of Ferrari during the 2016 season. So if this were something Sergio Marchionne had said, then we could infer the flavour of his ‘hope’ to be more of a whimsical, even wistful nature, rather than that Koine Greek interpretation which carries the intention of an almost certainty.
Further, Ross Brawn is a man who appears uncomfortable when operating in the margins of truthfulness. When asked over certain details of ‘tyre gate’, he appeared particularly careful over his replies – some of which were almost nonsensical.
And here again, Brawn is not making sense in the whole. It feels as though he’s been backed into a corner to say something, but what he says fails to deliver what was intended.
Paraphrased we have Brawn saying: “I said Michael was improving. The family want his progress to remain secret/private, so I really mean I hope his condition will begin and/or continue to improve until he is something like Michael of old again…”
Really? This just doesn’t make sense. Brawn is clearly trying to make amends for an absolute statement he gave on Michael’s current condition and replace it with an ‘aspirational’ one made from his perspective alone.
This doesn’t really cut the mustard so to speak, and so I suggest to you we can clearly derive from Brawn’s comments Michael Schumacher is making progress and good progress at that. Such that there is a chance, a hope and one that has some reasonable probability of occurring, that Michael will present as something like himself one day in the not too distant future.
For TJ13 the jury to discuss: Why do we think the family almost obsessively wish to restrict all information on Michael Schumacher’s state? Is it to dowse down speculation? And if so, is the approach working. If not, why?