Michael Schumacher had intended to celebrate the day as usual, among family and close friends in his winter home in France, but this year the wishes for his 45th birthday on Friday centre on hopes for his survival.
Five days after his skiing accident the “Get Well Soon Schumi” message printed on a shirt sent by his friend, German football international Lukas Podolski, along with fellow German star Per Mertesacker and other players at London's Arsenal expressed the wishes of many around the world.
Schumacher's accident at the Meribel resort on Sunday has drawn attention around the world. Indian television interrupted its programme to report on his condition, and newspapers have provided full coverage on their sports pages. China's Xinhua news agency published an archive photograph on which the Formula One legend had written the word “Safety” in Mandarin.
The state news agency put out the words “Schumi, gute Besserung!” in German on its online service - “Get well, Schumi!”
“We all know he is a fighter and will not give up.”
Schumacher's family wrote on his website: “We would like to thank the people from all around the world who have expressed their sympathy and sent their best wishes for his recovery.
“They are giving us great support..”
But Schumacher's condition remained critical on Thursday with hospital staff saying that further information would be released only in the event of a change. The seven times Formula One champion has been in an induced coma in the intensive care unit at the University Hospital Centre in Grenoble since suffering serious head injuries in Sunday's accident.
He has undergone two operations that have apparently failed to halt the haemorrhage resulting from a head-on collision with a rock that broke his helmet.
Long-time friends and associates have rushed to the bedside of the most successful driver in the history of Formula One, including his former team principal at Ferrari, Jean Todt, who once described Schumacher as a very, very good friend.
“That means more than it would if I were his father, as one chooses one's friends, but not one's father.”
Ross Brawn. his last team head at Mercedes, arrived in Grenoble on the evening of the day of the accident.
This birthday would have been one of the few when Schumacher would not have been absorbed by planning the Formula One season ahead.
After entering the mootrsport’s premier arena in the summer of 1991, used the Christmas and New Year break in the racing calendar each year to take a brief holiday and gather his strength for the new season.
For some years he has spent his birthday among family and friends at Meribel, where he spent this Christmas - but this year a brief excursion on skis put paid to his plans. At the time of the accident he was not going fast, skiing along a fairly level section of deep snow between two marked pistes.
“That's up to fate - that's the way I see it.”
Schumacher once said: “If you are in charge of the situation, you can calculate the risk. And the residual risk that you can't calculate is part of life everywhere. He was answering a question on his passion for motorcycles from Georg Hackl, a German Olympic champion on the luge - a small sled that reaches speeds approaching 140 kilometres an hour.
Schumacher's worst injury in almost two decades of motor racing was a broken leg incurred during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1999. He was back behind the wheel after 98 days. His many well-wishers are hoping for a similarly rapid recovery this time. - Sapa-dpa