Schumacher has not been seen publicly since suffering a serious head injury while skiing in December 2013, with the ex-racing driver being treated in a clinic that was built into his family home in 2014. Updates on Schumacher’s condition have been rare over the last five years as the Schumacher family elected to keep his health status private.
Ahead of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, which is being celebrated as the 1,000th Formula One Grand Prix, plenty of questions have surrounded the drivers who changed the sport over it’s 70-year history - in particularly Schumacher who remains the most successful driver with 91 race wins and seven drivers’ championships.
Ex-F1 supremo Ecclestone was asked about Schumacher ahead of the milestone race, but his comments have attracted criticism after he questioned his on-track antics.
“The scandals brought a lot of publicity, but not the right kind,” Ecclestone told German newspaper Bild. “It was good for F1, but not so good for him. That’s what I meant by him not knowing the limits.”
It’s believed that Ecclestone was making particular reference to the collision with Jacques Villenueve at Jerez in 1997 that resulted in the German being disqualified from the entire drivers’ championship, but it has been met with a stern response from Schumacher’s former manager Willi Weber, who expressed his disappointment that Ecclestone would make such comments when Schumacher is unable to defend himself.
“As a racing driver, you have to go to and sometimes beyond the limit,” Weber said. “Nobody knew this better than Michael. Bernie knows it too.
"The fact is that Villeneuve actually invited him to drive into him. "I told Michael 'if you do it, do it right, just as Prost and Senna did a dozen times', but he did it half-heartedly, because as a German he knew it was s***.
"Michael put F1 in a place it had never been before and may never be in again. Yet now he (Ecclestone) talks like that about Schumi who cannot speak for himself."
Ecclestone also offered his thoughts on this year’s championship and, in particular, the ongoing rivalry between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Ecclestone was at the helm when both future world champions came into the sport and has watched their battles over the years blossom into one that rivals the best the sport has seen.
But in recent years Hamilton has held the upper edge on Vettel, which reached a new head at the Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks ago when Vettel lost control of his Ferrari will attempting to prevent Hamilton from passing him for second place.
“Formula One needs a Sebastian who wins,” added Ecclestone. “People underestimate him. He will find a way out of the low he’s in. I’ve thought a lot about it, because I really like Sebastian and he is my friend.
“He often makes silly mistakes when he’s fighting Lewis. It’s like a mental block for him. Sebastian really respects Lewis and wants to do better than him. In Bahrain, he could have overtaken him later (in the race) because his car was faster.”
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