(Championspk)SCORES of Michael Schumacher’s fans today gathered outside the French hospital where he is being treated for serious head injuries on his 45th birthday.
The Formula One legend has been in a medically induced coma at the University Hospital of Grenoble since Sunday, when he struck his head on a rock while on a family vacation in the Alps.
About 100 fans came by bus from Italy and by car from northern France and beyond, saying they felt compelled to honour a man who had given them so many reasons to celebrate in the past.
Gulio Carissomi, who drove four hours from Italy to reach Grenoble, said: “With all the joy he has given us, it was important for us to return the favour and be here for Michael.”
One group quietly assembled beside the Grenoble hospital’s windows, unfurling a large banner for Ferrari, the racing team that Schumacher anchored for so many years.
The seven-time F1 champion has undergone two brain operations since the accident.
Doctors are keeping him sedated and his body at an artificially low temperature to help his condition. The physicians have refused to give a prognosis for Schumacher, saying they are focused on his immediate care.
Schumacher, known affectionately as “Schumi” by fans, is the most successful F1 driver in history, racking up a record 91 race wins. He retired in 2012.
Ferrari today sent a special birthday message to the F1 legend, recalling the 72 victories he won for the Italian team between 1996 and 2006.
“Today is Micheal Schumacher’s birthday. In these hours he’s on the most important race of his life and we want to dedicate a special honor to him,” the company said in a statement, adding: “Forza (Come on) Michael!”
Schumacher’s family, including his wife, Corinna, 44, and children, Mick, 14, and Gina-Marie, 16, thanked his legion of supporters from his bedside.
“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. They are giving us great support.
“We all know he is a fighter and will not give up,” they said in a statement posted on his website.
The former-Benetton driver was skiing with his family when the accident occurred at popular resort, Meribel.
Rescuers were on the scene within minutes and Schumacher was initially conscious, before deteriorating into a critical condition.
He was airlifted to Grenoble hospital, where neurosurgeons have operated twice to remove blood clots on the brain and reduce swelling.
Medics have said the impact caused numerous brain injuries including intracranial blood clots, lesions and bruising of the brain.
An initial operation carried out on Sunday to reduce swelling was followed by a second to remove the largest of a number of clots in his brain.
Jacqueline Hubert, the Grenoble hospital’s director general, said on Tuesday that his condition had started to improve.
Schumacher retired from F1 for the final time in 2012 after a three-season comeback with Mercedes. He also raced for Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari, winning 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, amassing 91 career wins.