There were several honors for seventime world champion Michael Schumacher at the Australian Grand Prix shown at 1 a.m. today, Sunday, March 16 in the United States as the German remains unconscious in his Grenoble hospital room, according to NBCSN. As a tribute to the man who is reputed by many to be the greatest Formula One driver ever, the stewards of the Melbourne race circuit flashed a video tribute of Schumacher shortly before the first race of the 2014 season.
Normally, everything is all business prior to a Formula One event as drivers focus on the start and then the first turn of the race with valuable points and millions of dollars on the line. But this race was different in the normally unsentimental world of Formula One racing as a video tribute to Schumacher was shown to the packed crowd at Albert Park racetrack and to millions around the world watching on television.
The shadow of Schumacher's uncertain though reportedly improved condition blanketed the Formula One world making the final results of this first race in the pursuit for another Grand Prix world championship almost an afterthought. Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who drove with Schumacher's initials emblazoned across his Red Bull helmet, was forced to retire early from the race because of a lack of power. He repeatedly radioed to the pits "lack of k, lack of k" which the commentators interpreted as lack of kinetic energy.
Lewis Hamilton, pole winner, was also forced to retire early.
Felipe Massa, close friend to Schumacher, also raced with the alltime winner's initials incribed on his Williams helmet. He too was forced to retire early in the race as driver Kamui Kobayashi punted Massa's Williams car off the track and in the process damaged it too severely to continue.
The winner of the race Nico Rosberg, driving for Mercedes, was almost an afterthought as the hearts of millions of Formula One fans are with the stricken Schumacher as he attempts to emerge from his coma. Wife Corinna Schumacher is at her husband's bedside daily as she talks to him, hoping the recognition of her voice will awaken him from his 10-week sleep.
His skis struck a snow-covered rock in the French Alps catapulting him 34 feet into the air. His helmet was split when he struck a second, larger rock. He was conscious moments after the accident near Meribel, France ski resort and was flown by helicopter to University Hospital in Grenoble where he underwent two brain surgeries. He was also placed into a medically-induced coma.
Sabine Kehm, 45, Schumacher's longtime agent, lifted the hearts of the legions of Schumacher fans around the world with news this week that he'd shown slight signs of improvement. The eyes of Formula One have been focused on Michael since his Dec. 29 accident.
The Bahrain race circuit, which will host a Formula One race later in the season, named a corner after Schumacher, who has won 91 races in his career for first Benetton and later Ferrari. Steve Matchett, a former mechanic for Benetton, was one of the commentators at this morning's race. Matchett and the other commentators referred to Schumacher's situation during the race.
This promises to be a unique season in Formula One as Schumacher's condition will overshadow each race this year. Rosberg won the first race by more than 20 seconds over Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo of Australia. Kevin Magnussen drove to a third place finish in a McLaren which is once again under the control of Ron Dennis.
Those results are in dispute though as several hours after the drivers crossed the finish line, the stewards disqualified Daniel for a fuel infringement. Red Bull is appealing that decision.
The sport's governing body the FIA installed fuel-flow sensors on each car to monitor the fuel consumed in this new eco-friendly era for Formula One. If Ricciardo's disqualification is upheld on appeal, Britain's Jensen Button will be promoted to third place for McLaren while Magnussen will move to second giving McLaren a lead in the constructor's standings.
Formula One is attempting to go green this year and be more environmentally friendly by abandoning the V-8 engines and going to turbocharged cars. The different sound of the this year's turbo-charged cars was obvious to Formula One fans around the world throughout the first race.
Fernando Alonso, former two-time world champion, finished fourth for Ferrari while teammate one time world champion Kimi Raikkonen collected points for seventh place also driving for the blood-red Prancing Horses of Italy.
Valleteri Bottas was fifth for Williams.
All Formula One races will be carried this year by either NBCSN or NBC in the United States.
While the results of the first race may be in doubt, there is no question that 100% of millions of Formula One fans are pulling for Michael Schumacher as he fights for his life. Hopefully, he will emerge from his coma soon and make this the greatest F-1 season in history.
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