Michael Schumacher has been granted the highest civilian honour from the state in which he was born.
The seven-time World Champion was represented at the ceremony at Motorworld in Cologne by his wife Corinna as well as his daughter Gina. His son, Mick, was unable to attend after feeling unwell. According to Bild, his participation in the French Grand Prix is not at risk as of now.
The State Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia is the highest honour available to a civilian and is awarded to those, like Schumacher, who were born within the region that have made an outstanding contribution to the world.
The award has not been given since 2019 due to the pandemic but that year’s prize was given to the former Federal Environment Minister Klaus Topfer.
North Rhine-Westphalia Prime Minister Hendrik Wust spoke at the ceremony and honoured Schumacher, saying that not only was he a World Champion but he also made an effort to care for those less fortunate.
“Today we are paying tribute above all to Michael Schumacher beyond racing and the glare of the spotlight: a person who has a big heart and for whom it has always been important to think of others,” Wust said, as reported by Sky Sports Germany.
Es ist die wichtigste Auszeichnung in #NRW: der #Staatspreis. Er wird in diesem Jahr an Michael @Schumacher verliehen – „für seine herausragenden sportlichen Leistungen und in Anerkennung seines vorbildlichen sozialen Engagements für sein Heimatland“, sagt MP @HendrikWuest. pic.twitter.com/lrbz4S9Rsz
— Staatskanzlei NRW (@landnrw) June 21, 2022
“Michael Schumacher also has those who are not well off in mind. He helped them with extremely generous donations, usually quite quietly. His family continues this charitable commitment.”
Speaking at the time of the award’s announcement in June, Wust also praised Schumacher as one of the “outstanding personalities in the history of sport worldwide.”
“Michael Schumacher’s work as a sportsman and as a supporter of good causes radiates far beyond the borders of his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia,” he said.
He also added that the 53-year-old “always kept his feet on the ground and always kept an eye on his fellow human beings”.
Before his skiing accident in 2013, Schumacher was known as a big philanthropist. He donated 1.5 million euros to the peace promoting agency UNESCO and also paid for the construction of a school in Senegal. Bloomberg estimates Schumacher donated at least $50 million to various charities from 2002 to 2006.
He was punished in 1997 for his collision at the European Grand Prix and was forced to participate in an FIA road safety campaign but that seemingly sparked his philanthropic side and he began to promote other causes and called on the United Nations to recognise global road deaths as a major global health issue.