Michael Schumacher is showing signs of improvement after a second operation on his brain following a skiing accident, doctors said yesterday.
The former F1 motor racing champion is thought to have been travelling at up to 80kph when he hit a rock buried under the snow at Meribel in the French Alps on Sunday. He was catapulted into the air, landing head-first on another rock.
It was reported that he hit his head so hard that his ski helmet "broke in two".
Specialists said they had been "surprised" by Schumacher's recovery, though he remains critically ill. His condition has stabilised after a "really big" internal bleed was drained, easing the pressure on his brain.
Prof Jean-Francois Payen, the chief anaesthetist at the hospital in Grenoble where Schumacher is being treated, said a scan yesterday showed "a few signs that the situation is better controlled than yesterday". He added: "We can't say that he's out of danger but we have gained time."
Schumacher had surgery to remove a haematoma (a pocket of blood) from the outside of his brain on Sunday. A scan on Monday showed that another haematoma inside his brain had "unexpectedly" reduced in size. This meant that surgeons could carry out a two-hour operation that night to drain the second blood clot and further reduce the pressure on the brain.
Prof Payen said the 44-year-old German's condition had "slightly improved" and was "relatively stable".
He added: "The more hours he spends in a stable situation, the better it is."
Prof Emmanuel Gay, another of the specialists treating the seven-times Formula 1 champion, said: "Dangers are still there. We cannot say that we have won because there are still some highs and some lows, but it's better than yesterday.
"He is still in a very critical condition -- this has not changed. And we still cannot tell how he will be, which state he will be in when he does wake up.
"We cannot speculate on the future because once again it would be too early to do so. There are still many haematomas in the brain, with little bits everywhere. That is what makes the situation critical and it needs to be looked at hour by hour, day by day.
"We won't be able to evacuate the other haematomas at the moment because they are not accessible. They are not as big as the one we removed yesterday."
Schumacher remains in an artificial coma, with his body kept two to three degrees below normal body temperature to reduce brain activity.
A source close to the investigation into his accident said the impact had been so severe that Schumacher's helmet split in two. "It may have been the impact, or there could have been a problem with the helmet. He could easily have been going at 80kph".
One emergency worker said: "When we got there, Schumacher's helmet was broken and we saw a lot of blood."