THE NUMBER 1 – Bittersweet return to an epic era of racing

From 25th of May to 23rd June, Sotheby’s Monaco is hosting the exhibition “Michael, intimacy behind speed” by Vanessa von Zitzewitz.

All images @Vanessa von Zitzewitz

If this is the first time you’ ve heard of it, the Keep Fighting Foundation is a global non-profit initiative founded by Michael Schumacher’s family, in response to the immense outpouring of love and support from Michael’s innumerable fans the family perceived following his tragic skiing accident back in 2013.

As the story goes, the hashtag #Keep Fighting Michael emerged as the unanimous voice of the fans in their desire to stay close as they could to the former racing star. Schumacher’s family launched the Keep Fighting Foundation in late 2016 with the purpose of doing charity work, which had always been of the greatest importance to Michael when he was fit.
Oddly prophetic is that one of the major beneficiaries of the Foundation’s work is the Paris Brain Institute, founded in 2002, that lists both Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt as founder members. The institute is renowned for its research into understanding how the brain works and to finding solutions and cures.
After Michael’s accident, fans continued to use the hashtags #KeepFighting and #KeepFightingMichael to encourage him and his family. The hashtags quickly spread worldwide and when Schumacher was hospitalised, as his wife Corinna drove to visit him everyday at the hospital in Lausanne she would always notice a #KeepFighting graffito done by a particularly courageous fan on one of the motorway bridges, which inspired her to start the Keep Fighting Foundation.

Hosted by Sotheby’s Monaco, the exhibition Michael, Intimacy behind speed consist of a series of photos by world-renowned photographer Vanessa von Zitzewitz, based in Monaco and celebrated for her portraits of luminaries, from Gianni Agnelli, Carla Bruni and Princess Charlene of Monaco to Rafael Nadal, Mick Jagger and Ringo Starr. In her trademark black and white style that gives these beautiful prints a timeless feel, she captures the formula 1 star in some off-guard moments on the trackside, discussing strategy with his friend Jean Todt, the Ferrari team principal, pointing with gloved hand at a screen most probably showing Mika Hakkinen’s latest lap time, bending over to tie his shoelaces or leaning on a wall with his feet crossed in that quirky ‘Schumi’ way.

Then there are some, more tense, shots of Michael, like the one with a very preoccupied-looking Schumacher staring distractedly into the camera while obviously being prepped by Jean Todt, then preparing for the race, running toward his car and clambering in surrounded by his crew. Other photos, likely taken after-race on the same occasion, include some poignantly artistic shots of Michael’s kit, the race-soiled helmet being a particular favourite. Asked about her work for this event, Vanessa is quoted as saying “I am very proud to have been able to capture these precious moments in time, especially considering the fast and ephemeral world we live in…”.

The photo destined to be auctioned as the exhibition opens is the one showing a very relaxed Michael sitting somewhere at the back of the pits sipping coffee and chatting on a vintage Motorola Startac. It goes by the title Behind Speed.
This single photo will be auctioned on line, with the proceeds going to benefit the Keep Fighting Foundation. The other photos will be sold at the gallery.

“I am very proud to have been able to capture these precious moments in time, especially considering the fast and ephemeral world we live in…”

Vanessa von Zitzewitz

These iconic images capture the essence of a true racing legend, reminding us of the indomitable spirit and sheer determination that defined Schumacher’s illustrious career. Who doesn’t remember the golden decade that saw Michael Schumacher truly enter the hearts of the Italian public with his first victory at Monza for Ferrari in 1996. Even he was surprised by the enthusiasm of the crowd, in his own words “Never in my life I have experienced anything as incredible as this, with all the people who went crazy beneath me, it was fantastic to witness the red sea!” That sea of red was something he’d get used to, with victories at Monza again in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006.
Schumacher has remained a revered figure in Italy throughout his career, with many Italians seeing him as a symbol of the country’s passion and determination, despite his being German and hardly speaking a word of Italian! Even after his retirement, many fans continued to follow his progress and support his family after the tragic accident in 2013.

click here: Vanessa von Zitzewitz

click here: Sotheby’s Monaco