How Should Formula 1 Show Respect for Michael Schumacher Once the Season Begins?

Matthew WalthertFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 23:  Michael Schumacher of Germany and Mercedes GP walks in the paddock following practice for the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 23, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

When a tragedy occurs, it is human nature to want to help in some way. In the case of Michael Schumacher, still in a coma following his December 2013 ski accident, there is very little that his millions of fans around the world can do to help.

His family does not need money, so any kind of fundraiser is pointless, and Schumacher is already getting the best medical care possible, so there is nothing to be done on that front.

Fans show their support outside the French hospital where Schumacher is being treated.
Fans show their support outside the French hospital where Schumacher is being treated.Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Yet still, there is a desire to show that we care—for Schumacher and for his family.

The 2014 Australian Grand Prix will be the first Formula One race since Schumacher's accident. In Melbourne, how should the F1 world show its respect for one of its greatest champions?

Clearly, anything that suggests mourning is not appropriate. Schumacher may be in a coma, but he is alive. So no black nose cones (like Ferrari used when Pope John Paul II died in 2005), black armbands or moments of silence.

Schumacher's last two teams in F1, Ferrari and Mercedes, did make small additions to their car liveries to show their support during preseason testing.

Mercedes added a #KeepFightingMichael hashtag:

And Ferrari had one saying #ForzaMichael!:

These types of understated tributes are the best format for now, while everyone anxiously awaits further updates from Schumacher's medical team.

On a slightly larger scale, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) has decided to name its first corner after Schumacher. The German won the first Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004.

The BIC's news release notes that it consulted with Schumacher's family and quotes his manager, Sabine Kehm, saying, "I am convinced Michael will love the idea and feel very honoured about having a BIC corner named after him."

No doubt we will also hear many drivers voicing their support for their colleague during interviews in Australia.

Dr. Hartstein treating Felipe Massa at the Hungaroring in 2009.
Dr. Hartstein treating Felipe Massa at the Hungaroring in 2009.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The best tribute, though, might be an initiative to protect others from suffering the same type of injury as Schumacher. Former F1 race doctor Gary Hartstein suggested on his blog the FIA, F1's governing body, offer its advanced helmet research to help develop a ski helmet to better protect against brain injuries.

Hartstein points out Felipe Massa actually suffered a stronger blow to the head in his accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix. However, Massa avoided an injury as serious as Schumacher's due to his more advanced helmet.

Why not use the start of the new F1 season to announce the FIA's "Michael Schumacher Initiative for Head Protection" or something of that nature? The FIA's research could help improve not only ski helmets, but those for cycling, American football, ice hockey and any other sports requiring one.

According to The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) contributed to more than 50,000 deaths in 2010 in the United States alone.

FIA president Jean Todt.
FIA president Jean Todt.Jon Super/Associated Press

If even a fraction of the TBIs suffered worldwide each year could be prevented by better helmets, thousands of victims and their families could be spared the Schumachers' tragedy.

The FIA has already presided over substantial increases in safety standards for motorsports and is currently running a campaign to improve road safety around the world. A new partnership with helmet manufacturers to reduce the number and severity of brain injuries could save thousands of lives and enhance the public perception of the FIA.

Messages of support and renaming corners are nice gestures, but this would serve as an enduring tribute to one of the greatest F1 drivers in history.

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