LEIPZIG – “We miss Michael Schumacher,” says Jean Todt at the recent inauguration of the motorsport Hall of Fame of the ruling body FIA.
Todt is the FIA president but also one of the close friends Schumacher got to know during his unique Formula One career.
The record seven-time world champion and 91-time grand prix winner Schumacher would be a natural candidate to be present at the inauguration.
“We all know Michael and I am convinced that he would love to be here,” Schumacher's manager Sabine Kehm confirms at the Paris event.
But he can't as he has been protected from the outside world ever since his skiing accident at the French resort of Meribel on December 29, 2013.
Four years in which his fans haven't given up hope; four years in which his family resolutely protects his privacy at their Swiss home.
“The family has the right to deal with it in the best way for the family,” Kehm insisted earlier in the year in an interview with a German publishing group.
And 12 months ago she had insisted: “Michael's health is not a public issue, and so we will continue to make no comment in that regard,”
“We have to protect his intimate sphere. Legally seen and in the longer term, every statement related to his health would diminish the extent of his intimate sphere.”
It is also in the best interest of Schumacher, who turns 49 on January 3 - the most ambitious, perfectionist and fittest driver in his era.
But it is not known whether he can actively influence his own life since suffering the severe head injuries and being in an induced coma.
The only thing that is known is that he has been home since September 2014, and all measures taken to allow him rehabilitation there.
Now it is his children, whom he used to protect from the public eye when they were small, who are entering the spotlight.
Son Mick, 18, wants to emulate his father's F1 career and is currently racing in Formula 3.
On Boxing Day he posted on Facebook, recalling one of his highlights of the year, driving the Benetton car in Spa-Franchorchamps with which his father won his first career race 1992 at the Belgian course.
“One of the most impressive moments of this year for me. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of my dad's first F1 victory. Incredible to drive that car,” Mick Schumcher said.
Daughter Gina, 20, has chosen equestrian as her sport and won reining individual and team gold for young riders at the world championships. And she has thanked her parents “for the love they give me every day” at an award event in Munich.
No word on Michael Schumacher's condition from the children, Kehm or Todt, and French sports daily L'Equipe spoke of plenty of speculation on this issue in its Boxing Day cover story on the German.
“Schumi we won't forget you,” L'Equipe said.
It remains a cruel twist of fate that Schumacher sustained the bad injuries while skiing - not even too fast, according to French authorities - and not in his 700 horse power and 300kph speed F1 cars where his only mishap were lower-leg fractures 1999 at Silverstone.
What is left of Schumacher is the memory, such as when it comes to exhibitions or awards, mostly attended by Kehm.
“What made Michael so special and successful ... were his love and passion for this sport,” Kehm said at the Hall of Fame event.
The last slightly more detailled news date back to September 2014 when Schumacher was brought home after six months at Grenoble hospital and another three at a clinic in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Kehm's statement said that “progress has been made in the past weeks and months” but that he faced “a long and difficult road ahead.”