This time, however, the Benetton team successfully appealed. An FIA tribunal on April 13 reinstated Schumacher's 10 points for the win in Brazil, and he now leads Hill by 11 points—a fairly comfortable margin in F/1. And this time around Schumacher handled the controversy with greater equanimity. "Maybe I was already used to winning races and getting disqualified for, really, nothing," he says. Then again, perhaps his mature response was attributable to something else.
The day after the Brazilian Grand Prix, something happened to Schumacher that made all the F/1 hoopla seem meaningless. He nearly died, in a completely unexpected way. "This," he says, "may tell you something about my character."
He was scuba diving off the coast of Brazil, with a crew whose ineptness Schumacher did not discover until it was too late. The crew carelessly allowed the dive boat to drift while Schumacher and his companions were underwater. Weber, who dislikes diving, and Betsch, who was seasick, remained on the boat but weren't aware of what was happening.
Schumacher says he and two other divers "were down 30 or 40 minutes, with a diving teacher who wasn't thinking about the boat drifting away. When we came up, the boat was gone. I looked around and finally saw it, far away on the horizon."
"In the beginning," says Schumacher, "I tried to keep all of us together. I said, 'Come on, boys, hand-by-hand, let's swim in the direction of the boat.' But after 10 minutes, two of the guys were finished. They just couldn't go any farther."
With his superb conditioning, he knew that he must be the one to swim for it. "I kept thinking, You do one of the most dangerous sports and nothing happens to you, you're never afraid, and then suddenly you're in the water doing something that everybody does, and now you have the feeling, That's it. This is strange. This is the first time in my life I've thought. That's it."
At last he was within 200 meters of the boat, screaming at the crew, which was playing loud music. Finally he was spotted from the boat.
"He wasn't exhausted, and he wasn't panicked," Weber recalls. "He was pissed."
"That was the first time I have seen myself very upset," Schumacher says. "I threw the goggles into the boat, and I was close to throwing the tank, but then I thought, If you throw it wrong, then we're going to have another disaster. So I cooled myself down. That shows me, now, that I have never seen myself out of control, which is how people view me—they say I am a machine, I never get out of control."
The other divers were picked up, their lives likely saved by the levelheaded actions of a world driving champion who was more frightened than he'd ever been in his life. "But it is my personality," says Schumacher, "to be in all situations under control."