Michael Schumacher has revealed that he quite literally saw his life flash before his eyes when he crashed at high speed in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1999 – genuinely believing that his time was up.
The German legend was attempting to recover from a poor start to the race that had seen him drop two positions to fourth, when he suffered brake failure approaching the end of the Hangar Straight for the first time as he passed Ferrari team-mate Eddie Irvine – spearing off the track at unabated speed and into the Stowe tyre barriers.
The impact left Schumacher with a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg and his bid to claim his first title for the Scuderia
and first for himself since 1995 in tatters – but in an interview broadcast on German TV station ZDF
last night, he confessed that he had initially feared far worse than that.
“I thought I was going to die,” the recently-turned 40-year-old, seven-time F1 World Champion admitted. “Suddenly and unexpectedly my heartbeat slowed down, and then my heart stopped beating and everything went black.
“At that moment, I thought 'this is what we must feel when we are heading on a journey into the after-life'. I don't know how long I was out for, or whether it was a simple faint or a moment of shock. For me it was enough to know that my heart had stopped beating; at least that's what I felt.”
The man from Kerpen – who triumphed in a record-shattering 91 grands prix from 248 starts in the top flight between 1991 and 2006 – also explained why he decided to hang up his helmet just over two years ago, and has not since been tempted to return, albeit not for any want of offers.
“I did it for 16 years,” he underlined, “but then I began to lose the motivation that drove me to do it.”