Lausanne - Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was transferred from a French hospital to a facility in Switzerland on Monday after emerging from a coma following his devastating ski accident in December.
In a surprise announcement, the retired German racing star's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm said he had left hospital in the French Alpine city of Grenoble, where he had been treated since December 29 when he slammed his head on a rock while skiing with his son and friends.
The 45-year-old was transferred to a hospital in the Swiss city of Lausanne where he will be undergoing further treatment, hospital spokesman Darcy Christen told AFP.
Stressing the hospital's commitment to privacy, Christen said Schumacher's family was with him “in a space created especially to ensure their intimacy and to ensure the best possible care.”
Schumacher, his wife Corinna and two children live in Switzerland in the small town of Gland.
While news of his accident in the French skiing resort of Meribel attracted throngs of global media to the Grenoble hospital, his departure Monday morning was very discreet and no press conference was scheduled to further brief the media.
In a statement, the seven-time world champion's spokeswoman Kehm said his family wanted to “thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months.”
“For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye,” she said.
She gave no further details about Schumacher's condition, which have been kept under a tight lid since his accident.
The racing star underwent two operations to remove life-threatening blood clots after the freak accident that shocked the world, before being plunged into a medically induced coma.
His family announced at the end of January that drugs used to keep him in his deep sleep were being reduced with a view to bringing him back to consciousness.
Since then, Kehm had said he was showing short moments of consciousness, but few other details had filtered out and it is still unclear as to what the future holds for Schumacher.
Doctors say some patients only show signs of improvement several years after their accident, and in an April interview with German broadcaster ARD, Kehm said that “a medical prognosis is not possible” due to the nature of his brain injury.
Schumacher is well known for his love of adrenaline sports, and even after retiring from the high-risk world of racing, he kept pursuing thrill-seeking hobbies as the holder of a pilot's license, an accomplished motorbike rider, parachutist, skier and mountain climber.
He survived a motorbike accident in Spain in 2009, during which he suffered head and neck injuries but was released from hospital after just five hours.
The latest accident proved near fatal, but in several statements released to the media, his wife and children had said they remained confident that the man who defied death more than once on the track would pull through.
In her statement Monday, Kehm said Schumacher's family wanted “to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes”.
“We are sure it helped him,” she added.
Schumacher, who made his debut in 1991, dominated Formula One.
A ruthless and at times controversial competitor, the German won an unprecedented 91 races, and seven world titles including five in a row with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004.
He first retired aged 37 but was unable to resist the lure of the track. In 2010, he came out of retirement but failed to re-enact his previous performances, and he quit for good in 2012.