'Schumi won't give up'

Ferrari faithful wish the legend on his 45th birthday

'Schumi won't give up'

Michael Schumacher’s family hailed the Formula One legend as a fighter “who will not give up”, as he spent his 45th birthday on Friday lying in a coma in a French hospital following a skiing accident.

The retired seven-time world champion slammed his head against a rock on Sunday while skiing in the French Alps and has had two operations to remove bleeding and pressure on his brain.

Prosecutors have opened a probe into the accident, as is common practice in France in such cases, and are exploring the theory that the German was skiing at great speed when he fell.

Schumacher’s plight has prompted an outpouring of sympathy from fans and in a message coinciding with his birthday, his family said they were touched by the reaction.

“Following Michael’s skiing accident, we would like to thank the people from all around the world who have expressed their sympathy and sent their best wishes for his recovery,” the family said in a statement posted on Schumacher’s website.

“We all know he is a fighter and will not give up” they added. The Ferrari F1 team, with whom Schumacher spent many years, held a “silent gathering” in front of the Grenoble hospital where he is being treated to mark the birthday of their ex-driver.

Schumacher’s fan club in his childhood town of Kerpen said any celebration of the birthday would be in bad taste.

Jean Todt, former head of the Ferrari team, visited Schumacher’s bedside on Thursday. Schumacher’s wife Corinna, their two teenage children, and his father and brother were also there. The hospital and Schumacher’s manager had briefed the press daily since the accident. But they did not do so on Thursday, instead promising to communicate only if there was something new to report.

His media representative, Sabine Kehm, said on Wednesday that Schumacher was stable though still critical. 

Kehm said this week that the former racer was not skiing fast when he fell. “He seems to have hit a rock as he took a turn. It was a chain of unfortunate circumstances,” she said. She added that Schumacher was with his 14-year-old son Mick at the time of the accident, as well as a small group of friends. “He was not going quickly, because it seems he helped a friend who had fallen down,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ferrari fans held a vigil for Schumacher on his birthday, gathering outside the French hospital. “For us Ferrari fans, we are just like brothers, we are just one,” said one fan, Carlo Buschini, who raised his cap and blew kisses in the direction of Schumacher’s hospital room. “We are here to celebrate and to celebrate his battle for life,” said Buschini, speaking in Italian.

Supporters of the Scuderia Ferrari Club wore their team’s red colours and carried a banner reading “Schumi, All our thoughts for you and your family.” In a blog post on its website, Ferrari said Schumacher was “tackling the most important fight of his life” and sent him “double wishes” for his birthday.

Schumacher is statistically the most successful Formula One driver of all time with a record 91 race victories in a career spanning more than two decades. 

The German won five successive titles with Ferrari before retiring from the team at the end of 2006. A less successful three-year comeback with Mercedes ended last year. Messages of support appeared on Twitter from Schumacher’s former team-mates. “Happy Birthday my brother Michael! Be strong!! Be strong!! Don't give up!! We are praying for you,” wrote Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

Another former team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, wrote “Keep it up, man ... I know ur (sic) fighting.”

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