Retired seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is fighting for his life tonight after he suffered a head injury in a fall while skiing off-piste in the French Alps resort of Meribel.
The retired Formula 1 racing champion is understood to be dangerously ill in hospital after striking his head on a rock while skiing in the French Alps.
Schumacher, 44, was initially said to have escaped without a life-threatening injury but French media reported that he had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and that his condition had dramatically worsened.
In a statement the hospital in Grenoble said Schumacher was "in a coma" when he arrived yesterday afternoon. "He was suffering from a serious head trauma and was in a coma, necessitating immediate brain surgery," the hospital said.
An eminent French orthopedic and trauma surgeon Gerrard Saillant - a personal friend of Schumacher's - flew from Paris to Grenoble to take charge of his treatment.
Schumacher fell while skiing off-piste with his son Mick, 14, and friends at Meribel, where he owns a chalet. He was due to celebrate his 45th birthday on Friday.
He was flown by helicopter to a local hospital but transferred by air to a trauma unit in Grenoble when his condition worsened.
"The life of the former racing driver is now regarded as being in danger," the local newspaper, Le Dauphine Libere, reported on its website without revealing the source of its information. RMC radio also reported on its sports website that Schumacher had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and was in a "critical condition".
Schumacher was wearing a helmet when he fell. Christopher Gernigon-Lecomte, director of the exclusive resort in the Three Valleys region, said earlier in the day: "It seems that he has suffered an injury to his head but I would not say how serious it is. He was conscious but very agitated while being taken to hospital." Earlier, Mr Gernigon-Lecomte told French radio that Schumacher was "shocked, a little upset but conscious" after his fall.
The former racing driver's manager, Sabine Kehm, told the Associated Press: "We ask for understanding that we cannot give running updates on his condition. He wore a helmet and was not alone."
The German driver finally retired from Formula One last year after making a three-year comeback with Mercedes. He lives in Switzerland with his wife and two children.
Schumacher originally retired in 2006 after winning five Formula One titles in a row with Ferrari, following two earlier successes with Benetton.
He was seriously hurt in a motorcycling accident in February 2009 in Spain but recovered sufficiently from his neck and spine injuries to return to racing the following year.