06/06/2014 07:18 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:05 EDT

Schumacher's legacy still felt at Canadian GP with former champion hospitalized

MONTREAL - Racing legend Michael Schumacher left a permanent mark on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Schumacher is a major figure in the Canadian Grand Prix's history, winning the race a record seven times between 1994 and 2004.

But there was little talk of the Formula One racing phenom on Montreal's Ile Sainte-Helene ahead of this weekend's big event. The former F1 champion has been in a medically-induced coma since suffering a head injury in a skiing accident on Dec. 29, 2013. The incident occurred in an off-piste area of the French Alp resort where he owns a chalet.

In April, Schumi's family claimed the most successful racer in Formula One history was showing encouraging signs after his two surgeries — that he was momentarily awake and conscious. But there have since been no updates from his hospital in Grenoble, France.

Canadian race driver Jacques Villeneuve, winner of the 1997 Formula One season, was at a loss for words when asked about Schumacher after the day's second practice session on Friday afternoon.

"What can you think or say? We don't know what's really happening," said Villeneuve outside the team paddocks, on the track named after his father. "What is the truth? All that we know is that it's probably really hard for his family, for his kids and his wife. That's what matters. Apart from that, what can you say?"

The Iberville, Que., native, who finished 14th in last month's Indianapolis 500, has a storied history with Schumacher on the F1 racetrack.

The German driver infamously attempted to run Villeneuve off the Jerez Circuit in the 47th lap of the 1997 Spanish Grand Prix, the last race of the season. With Villeneuve challenging Schumacher's lead in both the race and the overall championship standings, the Ferrari superstar rammed into Villeneuve in a bid to take them both out of the race.

The manoeuvre failed, and Schumacher was instead thrown off the course. Villeneuve finished third to leapfrog Ferrari in the standings and capture his lone world championship for Williams-Renault.

As a result of the incident, Schumacher was disqualified from that year's championship and stripped of every point. He later called the clash the biggest regret of his career.

"It's really a tough situation," said Villeneuve, who incidentally suffered a concussion in a skiing accident in the French Alps in 1997, roughly 200 kilometres from the spot of Schumacher's injury. "When someone spends all his life taking risks, living on the edge, and then a freak accident like this ... That means that you can't play with destiny, that's all."

Earlier this week, former F1 doctor Gary Hartstein suggested Schumacher would likely never recover from his injury.

"I'm quite afraid we will never have any good news about Michael," wrote Hartstein on Sunday. "I can conceive of no possible reason that Michael's entourage … would not tell his fans if significantly good things have happened."

Schumacher was utterly dominant throughout his illustrious 19-year career, winning a blistering 91 races and seven championships.

He was born with a racer's brain. At an early age, with several karting championships already under his belt, he exhibited the determination and rapid decision-making that would serve him well throughout his career on racing's biggest stage.

He made his Formula One debut in 1991 with Benetton, and won his first championship just three years later. Shortly after a move to Ferrari, Schumacher became invincible, winning five consecutive championships between 2000 and 2004. In 2002, he finished on the podium in all 17 races.

Alexander Rossi, an up-and-coming reserve driver for UK-based racing team Caterham, grew up watching the seven-time world champion race in his prime.

"He was an inspiration to everyone just because he was so dominant," said the 22-year-old after the morning practice on Friday. "When I was younger, it was in the era when he was at Ferrari and they were unbeatable. Everyone grew up wanting to emulate him, whether he was your favourite driver or not. He was the best there was."

The American Rossi drives a GP2 Series race car and is being groomed for the Formula One. He was distraught when he learned of Schumacher's injury five months ago. He said his absence from the sport leaves a huge void in the racing community.

"Everyone is waiting for good news, because there hasn't been anything new out of there," said Rossi. "Until then, you just keep praying for the family while you wait and see.

"It's obviously horrible. My thoughts go out to his family. When the news immediately came out, everybody was stunned and shocked."

Notes: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton finished fastest in the second practice with a lap time of one minute 16.118 seconds. … In the first practice, Fernando Alonso posted the quickest lap time at 1:17.238. … The qualifying session gets underway Saturday.