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Ferrari holds its breath on stricken Schumacher

Ex-teammates pray as German legend fights for life

30 December, 17:24
Ferrari holds its breath on stricken Schumacher (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, January 30 - Ferrari held its breath Monday as its former ace and Formula One legend Michael Schumacher fought for his life after a skiing accident in a French hospital.

The Italian glamour team voiced concern after the hospital said it was too early to say if the German great would survive the head trauma from Sunday's fall.

"Everyone at Ferrari has been in a state of anxiety since hearing about Michael Schumacher's accident," said a statement posted on the Italian Formula One team's website. "That includes the president, Luca di Montezemolo, who through the Scuderia team principal Stefano Domenicali is in constant contact with the family and those close to the German champion," it said.

"Montezemolo has offered his encouragement and support at this very difficult time, with the hope that better news will come soon".

F1 drivers from around the world wished Schumacher a full recovery.

Four-time and reigning world champ Sebastian Vettel, who has taken over his countryman's mantle as the sport's most phenomenal star, led the tributes.

Schumacher's protégé, who broke his boyhood hero's record for consecutive victories with eight this year, said: "I am shocked and I hope that he'll be feeling better as soon as possible. I wish his family much strength now".

In Rio, Schumacher's two Brazilian former teammates Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello said they were praying for him. "I'm praying for God to protect you, brother, and that you make a swift recovery," said Massa, who drove with Schumacher in the German's last season with the F1 giants, in 2005-2006. Barrichello, Schumacher's wingman from 2000 to 2005, said on Instagram, like Massa: "The important thing in life is to remember the good times and the good laughs. I am praying for you".

Martin Brundle, who was Schumacher's team-mate at Benetton in 1992 and 1993, tweeted: "Let's hope Michael Schumacher's ski shunt is not too bad and that he's totally fixable. He's a crazy brave skydiving/bike racing daredevil".

Hours later, when the full extent of Schumacher's injuries had become clear, he urged: "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".

British former world champion Jenson Button said: "My thoughts are with Michael Schumacher at this tough time...Michael more than anyone has the strength to pull through this".

Another British former world champ, Nigel Mansell, tweeted: "Very shocked to hear about Michael Schumacher our thoughts are with Michael, his wife Corinna and their two children at this terrible time".

Meanwhile Germany was in shock over the possibility of losing one of its greatest sporting heroes.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said: "Like millions of Germans, the chancellor and members of the government were extremely dismayed when they heard about Michael Schumacher's serious skiing accident".

Seven-time F1 champion Schumacher, who won five straight titles with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004, was skiing off-piste with his son in the French Alps when he fell and cracked his head on the rock. Doctors working to prevent permanent brain injury say a helmet likely saved his life. The German ex-driver, who was champ for Benetton in 1994 and 1995 and retired in 2012 after a disappointing three-year comeback with Mercedes, has been in a coma and in critical condition since the fall.

Doctors refused Monday to predict the outcome of brain surgery on F1's most successful driver, saying they were assessing his condition "hour by hour".

Chief anesthesiologist Jean-Francois Payen told reporters Schumacher was still in a medically induced coma.

"We cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher," Payen said. "It's too soon to talk about." Schumacher arrived at the Grenoble University Hospital Center Sunday evening and underwent brain surgery after an initial diagnosis of concussion proved to be much more serious. Doctors said he had suffered "extensive" brain damage.

On Sunday morning the 91 grands prix winner was skiing with his 14-year-old son Mick in the French Alpine resort of Meribel, about 130 km southeast of Geneva, when the accident occurred.

"Someone who had suffered this accident without a helmet would not have made it this far," Payen said.

Jean Todt, Schumacher's former Ferrari team boss and now president of motorsport's governing body FIA was at the hospital along with Ross Brawn, the technical director who helped the German win all his titles, first at Benetton and then with Ferrari. Schumacher has been seriously hurt twice before, breaking his leg in a crash at Silverstone in 1999 and suffering serious neck and spine injuries after a motorcycling accident in February 2009 in Spain.

After his retirement last year he said he wanted to spend more time with wife Corinna Betsch and their two children, Mick and Gina-Maria.