Formula One legend Michael Schumacher was in a “critical condition” in a coma after striking his head in a ski accident in the French Alps, the hospital treating him said.
The seven-time Formula One world champion’s wife Corinna and his two children were reportedly at his bedside.
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.
Schumacher crashed while skiing in the resort of Meribel and was airlifted to hospital.
He retired from F1 for the final time in 2012 after a three-season comeback with Mercedes.
Schumacher was wearing a helmet when he hit his head, his spokeswoman said.
Sabine Kehm said: “Michael fell on his head when he was on a private skiing trip in the French Alps. He was taken to hospital and is receiving professional medical attention.
“We ask for understanding that we cannot give out continuous information about his health.”
The director of the Meribel resort was quoted earlier as saying the injury, which happened at 11.07am local time, was “not very serious”.
Christophe Gernignon-Lecomte said on rmcsport.bfmtv.com: “It was a pretty heavy fall at 1100 this morning while skiing off-piste. He was wearing a helmet. He was conscious after his fall.
“Two or three minutes later two ski patrols intervened to help him. They immediately asked for a medical evacuation helicopter. It arrived in less than 15 minutes. He was sent to Moutiers first, then on to Grenoble for more analysis.”
Schumacher, who also raced for Jordan, Benetton, and Ferrari, won the last of his world titles in 2004.
He won two with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before moving to Ferrari and winning five in a row from 2000. The German has 91 career wins.
His return to the sport with Mercedes after a spell in retirement was less successful. He managed just one podium finish in his three years with the team and a best end-of-season placing of eighth in 2011.
During his first period of retirement, in 2009, he was hospitalised after a motorbike crash during testing at a circuit in Cartagena, Spain.
Meribel, an upmarket resort, hosted the ice hockey and women’s alpine skiing at the 1992 Winter Olympics.
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