Michael Schumacher now remains out of the spotlight since a skiing accident left him in a coma in December 2013, and his health is a closely guarded secret by his family.

“Unfortunately, I've never raced in the same team, it would have been useful to see his telemetry,” Fisichella said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

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“But we shared so many great moments at races and with the drivers' national team.

“Sometimes he would get out of the car or finish a football match and he didn't even seem to have sweated.

“He was a great football fan and we regularly kicked a ball together. As a colleague, he was an incredible opponent, and he rewrote the history of Formula One.

"Having raced with him, he has given me so much, and the few times I came in front made me even more proud because he is a great champion. 

“It is a cruel fate that someone who as a racer so often risked his life is badly injured while skiing."

Fisichella ended his 13-year F1 career at Ferrari, three years after Schumacher had left.

Italian driver Fisichella previously represented Minardi, Jordan, Benetton, Sauber, Renault and Force India.

Schumacher, of course, has the joint-most F1 championships ever (seven) alongside Lewis Hamilton and remains revered by former and current drivers alike.