Formula One: Schumacher in coma, 'critical' after France ski accident
LYON (AFP) - Michael Schumacher, the seven-time Formula One champion, is in a coma and remains in a "critical" condition after striking his head in a ski accident in the French Alps on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013, the hospital treating him said.
The 44-year-old German was "suffering a serious brain trauma with coma on his arrival, which required an immediate neurosurgical operation", the hospital in the south-east French city of Grenoble said in a statement.
"He remains in a critical condition."
Schumacher had been skiing off-piste in the upmarket Meribel resort, where he reportedly has a property, when he fell and hit his head on a rock, mountain police who gave him first aid said.
He was airlifted to a local hospital, then to the Grenoble facility. A specialist neurosurgeon from Paris was rushed in to oversee his treatment.
The director of the Meribel resort Christophe Gernigon-Lecomte had said just after the accident that Schumacher had been wearing a helmet and was "conscious but a little agitated" just after the accident, suggesting he had not received life-threatening injuries.
But when Schumacher then fell into coma, doctors realised the damage was worse than initially feared.
The two mountain police officers who gave first aid said Schumacher was suffering "severe cranial trauma" when they got to him and a helicopter was brought in to evacuate him within 10 minutes.
A renowned Paris neurosurgeon, Dr Gerard Saillant, was brought to the Grenoble hospital in a police car to take charge of the famous patient.
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. It was issued jointly with the former racer’s press team in Germany.
The next update on Schumacher’s condition would be given at 10.00am GMT on Monday, a hospital spokesman said. Police were stationed to guard the hospital’s entrances.
Schumacher, who lives with his family in Switzerland, was on a private stay in Meribel, according to his spokesman. He was reportedly skiing with his 14-year-old son at the time of the accident.
He is to have his 45th birthday next Friday.
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.
Schumacher was born in January 1969 near Cologne, Germany, the son of a bricklayer who also ran the local go-kart track, where his mother worked in the canteen.
By 1987, Schumacher was the German and European go-kart champion and was soon racing professionally. In 1991 he burst into Formula One by qualifying seventh in his debut race in Belgium and a year later he was racing for Benetton, where he won his first Formula One grand prix in 1992.
After joining Ferrari in 1996, Schumacher achieved infamy by trying to ram Villeneuve off the road at Jerez in the last race of 1997, and was disqualified from the championship as punishment.
Over the next decade, he went from strength to strength, dominating the podium, before trying to retire the first time aged 37.
But the father of two could not resist the lure of the track and in 2010 he signed a three-year deal with Mercedes.
But slower reflexes and a less competitive car meant Schumacher could not reproduce his former glory and he quit for good in 2012. His helmet had a message for fans: "Life is about passions - Thank you for sharing mine."
Retired seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher was born on January 3, 1969 in Huerth-Hermuelheim, Germany
FIRST GRAND PRIX
Schumacher’s first grand prix was with Jordan in Belgium in 1991, as a stand-in for jailed Belgian driver Bertrand Gachot. Despite completing only 500 metres in the race, he made an immediate impression with a storming start.
He was snapped up by Benetton after that debut, a move that provoked a bitter legal tussle, and scored points in only his second appearance with fifth place in Italy.
Mexico provided the first podium of Schumacher’s career, in 1992, and his first win followed later that year in Belgium.
Yet he had to wait until Monaco in 1994 for his first pole position. Won his first of seven titles later that year, going on to triumph in 1995 (also with Benetton), and 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (with Ferrari). He retired at the end of the 2006
His career was dogged by controversy as well as highlighted by brilliance, the German colliding with Briton Damon Hill to win the 1994 title and trying to ram Canadian Jacques Villeneuve off the track in the 1997 decider.
During the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session Schumacher stopped his car toward the end of the circuit, partially blocking title rival Fernando Alonso, who was on a quick lap at the time.
Schumacher was later demoted to the back of the grid for the race.
Schumacher is the only driver to win seven championships in Formula One and he owns many of the sport’s records. In 2002 he finished every race on the podium, winning the title with six races to spare – the fastest championship in Formula One.
In 2004, when Ferrari were dominant, he won a record 13 races in a single season and finished first in seven successive races, also a record for a single season.
Schumacher won an unprecedented 91 times, one fewer than the combined tally of the next two most successful drivers Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (41).
RETURN TO FORMULA ONE
Schumacher agreed to come out of retirement in July 2009 as a replacement for Ferrari’s injured Brazilian Felipe Massa. The German was then forced to cancel due to a neck injury caused by a motorcycle accident in February.
However, he did not have to wait long for another opportunity and was back on the grid the following year after agreeing a three-year deal with Mercedes and once again linking up with famed engineer Ross Brawn.
There was no glorious return to the track though as the revered driver struggled in his first two seasons, finishing ninth and then eighth as compatriot Sebastian Vettel romped to back-to-back driver’s titles.
Schumacher scored his first podium since returning at the European Grand Prix where he finished third at the Valencia street circuit before taking part in his 300th F1 race in Belgium in July.
Was ditched by Mercedes last year when the German team announced they had signed Briton Lewis Hamilton from McLaren to drive alongside Nico Rosberg for the 2013 season.
Rumours circulated that Schumacher could fill a vacant driver’s seat at Sauber in 2013, but he announced his retirement from the sport for a second time ahead of practice for the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.
Younger sibling Ralf achieved a mere fraction of Michael’s success with six wins in a 10-year career at Jordan, Williams and Toyota. The two remain far and away the most successful brothers in F1, however.
Schumacher’s agent said on Sunday he was in ‘critical’ condition with head injuries after an off-piste skiing accident in the French Alps resort of Meribel.
The 44-year-old German was in hospital in Grenoble, France, and under the care of Professor Gerard Saillant, a brain and spinal injury expert who is also president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) Institute.
-- SOURCE: REUTERS