F1 legend Michael Schumacher in coma, 'critical' after ski accident

F1 legend Michael Schumacher in coma, 'critical' after ski accident

GRENOBLE - Agence France-Presse
F1 legend Michael Schumacher in coma, critical after ski accident

This file picture taken on January 15, 2004 shows German Formula one world champion Michael Schumacher skiing in Madonna di Campiglio, Nothern Italy. AFP Photo

Michael Schumacher, the retired seven-time Formula One champion, was in "critical condition" on Dec. 30 after suffering severe brain trauma in a skiing accident in the French Alps, doctors said.

The German racing legend, who turns 45 at the end of the week, had been skiing off-piste Dec. 29 with his 14-year-old son in the upmarket Meribel resort when he fell and hit his head on a rock.

Doctors at the hospital in the southeastern city of Grenoble where he is being treated said it was still too early to make a prognosis on the famous patient.

"He is in critical condition. He is in intensive care, his condition is very serious," Jean-Francois Payen, head of the intensive care unit, told reporters.

Stephan Chabardes, the professor who operated on Schumacher, said the former racer arrived in hospital on Dec. 29 in an agitated state and was not able to answer questions. His condition "rapidly deteriorated" and he fell into a coma, he told reporters.

Payen said he was operated on and put into an artificial coma, adding he had been partially protected by his helmet.

"If someone had had this type of accident without a helmet, they would definitely not be here," he said.

Schumacher's wife Corinna was at his side with his two children, the hospital said.

F1 community in shock

The hospital statement was signed by the facility's neurosurgeon, the professor in charge of its anaesthesia/revival unit, and the hospital's deputy director. News of Schumacher's accident stunned the Formula One community and his former teammates joined thousands on Twitter in wishing him a speedy recovery.

"My thoughts are with Michael Schumacher at this tough time.. Michael more than anyone has the strength to pull through this," tweeted British F1 driver Jenson Button.

Schumacher's former teammate at Benetton Martin Brundle wrote on Twitter: "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." He added that the German was "a crazy brave skydiving/bike racing daredevil".

Brazilian Formula One racing driver Felipe Massa said he was "praying for God to protect you my brother!! I wish you a speedy recovery Michael", the former Ferrari driver wrote.

Police kept guard at the hospital's entrances as journalists and fans, some wearing the colours of the Formula One legend's former stable Ferrari, gathered outside awaiting news of his health. Police have opened an investigation into the circumstances of the accident, the ski resort said.

Schumacher, who won the last of his world titles in 2004, definitively retired in 2012 in the Brazilian Grand Prix, in which he finished seventh, after an abandoned attempt to quit six years earlier.

Since his debut in 1991, the German towered over the sport, winning more Formula One world titles and races than any other. He had a record 91 wins and is one of only two men to reach 300 grands prix.

Schumacher's duels in his heyday with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, fired by an unquenchable competitive spirit, have gone down in Formula One lore.

During his retirement he survived a horror accident that knocked him out when racing a motorbike in Spain. That time he was released from hospital after just five hours.