Retired seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is in 'critical' condition with head injuries after an off-piste skiing accident in the French Alps resort of Meribel.
His agent, Sabine Kehm, said late on Sunday evening the 44-year-old German was in hospital in Grenoble and under the care of Professor Gerard Saillant, a brain and spinal injury expert who is also president of the International Automobile Federation Institute.
“He suffered head trauma with coma that needed prompt neurosurgical treatment,” she said. “He remains in critical condition.”
A hospital official declined to give more details but said more information would be given on Monday.
Christophe Gernigon-Lecomte, the director of the Meribel ski resort where Schumacher has a holiday home, said earlier that the former champion was wearing a helmet when he fell and hit his head on a rock at about 11am local time.
He added that the German had been conscious while being transported first to a local hospital in Moutiers before then being transferred to Grenoble.
“He was conscious but very agitated while being taken to hospital,” said the director.
Schumacher's accident topped news bulletins in Germany, with the bestselling tabloid newspaper Bild reporting on its website: “Schumi fighting for his life”.
Bild reporters also said that Ross Brawn, the Briton who worked with Schumacher at Ferrari and Mercedes as technical director and team principal respectively, had arrived in Grenoble.
SHOCK AND PRAYERS
The Formula One community, and the wider world of motorsport, reacted with shock and prayers on social network Twitter for the champion to win his biggest battle.
“If anyone can pull through, it's him,” said Scottish three times Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who is still walking on crutches after a huge crash in October that ended his racing career.
“Come on Michael, give us one of those race stints at pure qualifying pace to win through, like you used to. You can do it,” said Schumacher's former Benetton team mate Martin Brundle.
Former Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa, who suffered a near-fatal head injury at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, said he was praying for his friend.
Schumacher is the most successful driver in Formula One history with a record 91 race victories in an extraordinary - and frequently controversial - career spanning more than two decades.
He won his first two titles with Benetton in 1994, the year when Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna died in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix, and 1995.
The German then took five in a row with Ferrari between 2000 and 2004 in what now seems a golden age for the Italian team who named a square after him at their Fiorano test track.
Schumacher left the sport in 2012 after a less successful three-year comeback with Mercedes following an earlier retirement from Ferrari at the end of 2006. He lives in Switzerland with his wife and two children. - Reuters