Seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is still in critical condition after undergoing brain surgery following a weekend skiing accident that has stunned drivers, fans and athletes around the world.
The Grenoble University Hospital Centre has said Schumacher arrived at the clinic in a coma on Sunday and underwent immediate surgery for a serious head trauma.
It was not clear whether the 44-year-old former racing driver was still in a coma but the hospital statement, which was signed by a neurosurgeon, an anesthesiologist and Marc Penaud, the hospital's deputy director, said “he remains in a critical condition”.
Schumacher fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste at Meribel in the French Alps with his 14-year-old son Mick on Sunday morning. Resort managers said he had been wearing a helmet and was conscious when rescuers first responded to the scene.
Initial reports from Meribel management said Schumacher had been taken to Grenoble for tests and authorities said his life was not in danger.
But the situation began to appear more serious when the resort said orthopedic and trauma surgeon Gerard Saillant - who operated on Schumacher when he broke his leg in a crash at Silverstone in 1999 - had traveled from Paris to the hospital in Grenoble to examine him.
Schumacher's manager Sabine Kehm said: “We ask for understanding that we cannot give running updates on his condition.”
His wife Corrina and their children were reported to be at the hospital, along with Jean Todt, his former Ferrari team boss and now president of motorsport's governing body, the FIA.
Ross Brawn, who worked with Schumacher at the Ferrari and Mercedes F1 teams, was reportedly also at the hospital, where a gathering of media and fans was swelling.
As news of the accident spread, Formula One drivers used social media to wish Schumacher a quick recovery.
His former Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa, who himself recovered from life-threatening head injuries sustained at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, wrote on Instagram: “I am praying for you my brother!! I hope you have a quick recovery!! God bless you Michael.”
British former world champion Jenson Button said posted that his “thoughts are with Michael Schumacher at this tough time. Michael more than anyone has the strength to pull through this.”
Romain Grosjean of Lotus tweeted: “All our thoughts to Schumi and his family! Hope you will recover soon #legend #Schumi.”
Support also came from German sports personalities.
Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki said his thoughts were with Schumacher, while Lukas Podolski, who plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League, tweeted: “Bad news from Switzerland: please get well soon, Michael Schumacher. All the best for you, my friend! #getwellsoon #MichaelSchumacher.”
Former tennis star Boris Becker posted: “Let us all pray for @realschumacher michael for a full and speedy recovery!!!”
In addition to the crash at Silverstone, Schumacher injured his neck and spine in a motorcycle accident in February 2009 in Spain, which prevented him from making a shock comeback that year to stand in for the injured Massa; however he came back to the sport full time in 2010.
Schumacher is the most successful driver in Formula One history, with seven Drivers' championships and 91 race wins. After initial success with the Benetton team, he moved to Ferrari and helped turn the Italian team into the sport's dominant force. After initially retiring in 2006, he made a comeback in 2010 and raced for three years with Mercedes. - Sapa-AP