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Schumacher fights for life on 45th birthday

'Stay strong' say Ferrari teammates Massa, Barrichello

03 January, 19:47
Schumacher fights for life on 45th birthday (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Rome, January 3 - Michael Schumacher turned 45 Friday fighting for his life in a Grenoble hospital after a skiing accident in the French Alps Sunday. The family of the seven-time Formula One champ said Thursday he was "a fighter who will not give up". Schumacher, who won five titles with Ferrari, smashed his head against a rock near his holiday home at Meribel after going off piste to help a friend's daughter. Prosecutors have opened a probe to establish whether the rocky area should have been marked, and if so, whether owners or managers of the runs might be placed under investigation for suspected negligence or culpability.

The German driver has had two operations to drain blood from his skull and ease pressure on his brain, and is stable in a medically induced coma after a "very slight" improvement from the second op. Ferrari fan clubs held a silent vigil outside the hospital Friday. The Ferrari Internet site dedicated a special feature to the German great, wishing him a happy birthday and speedy recovery. "Double best wishes," read the banner. "Today is the birthday of Michael Schumacher, who is currently engaged in the most important race of his life, and we want to pay him special homage," read the text on the side's website. The feature also included a photo gallery of the 72 Ferrari victories posted by Schumacher between 1996 and 2006 - part of his record 91 tally. Former Ferrari teammates Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello also sent well wishes for the day. "Be strong! Very strong, my friend!" wrote Brazilian Massa on his Instagram profile. "Keep going strong," echoed his fellow countryman Barrichello. "I know you are fighting". They were among the latest words in support of Schumacher, known affectionately as the Red Baron from his racing days at Ferrari. Those who have sent messages include virtually all the F1 drivers and former Ferrari champs like Niki Lauda who said Schumacher was in his prayers. Former United States President Bill Clinton also said he was praying for the German speed king and thanked him for the millions he donated to his charitable and philanthropic foundation. Schumacher's family, who has been at his bedside throughout the ordeal, called him a fighter who will not give up in his battle for survival, and thanked well-wishers for their support.

"We are overwhelmed! "The incredible sympathies shown today by the Ferrari Fans outside the hospital has utterly overwhelmed us and moved us all to tears. "We are deeply grateful for it and also for all the heartwarming and heartfelt wishes for Michael to get well soon, which have reached us from all over the world," said the statement on the website of F1's most successful driver.