GRENOBLE (FRANCE), Jan 1 (AFP): Formula One legend Michael Schumacher remained �stable� today after spending a third night in hospital with severe brain injuries sustained while skiing in the French Alps.
The German racing great entered the new year in an induced coma and a critical condition, with his family at his bedside in the French Alpine city of Grenoble and doctors unsure of his future.
The 44-year-old�s fight for survival after he fell and slammed his head on a rock Sunday has shocked legions of fans used to seeing him brave death on the racing tracks.
�At the moment, he is stable,� the seven-time world champion�s manager Sabine Kehm told reporters massed outside the hospital in Grenoble on Wednesday, in a brief update before heading back inside.
Initially described as serious but not life-threatening after the accident in the upmarket resort of Meribel, Schumacher�s condition rapidly deteriorated and by Sunday evening, doctors said he was in critical condition and had undergone an emergency operation.
On Tuesday, they said a slight improvement in his condition had allowed them to perform a second nearly two-hour long procedure to remove bleeding in the brain, but warned he was �not out of danger� yet.
�We cannot speculate on the future,� said Jean-Francois Payen, head of the intensive care unit at the hospital. �We cannot say he is out of danger but we have gained some time.�
Doctors have so far ruled out any transfer from the hospital, which they say would be �dangerous�.
But they have pointed out that Schumacher, due to turn 45 on January 3, has age and physical fitness on his side.
He has been put in a medically induced coma to spur recovery, and his temperature has been reduced to around 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) to reduce swelling.
Schumacher�s accident has prompted an outpouring of sympathy from racing stars and fans alike.
Former Formula One driver Niki Lauda, who himself suffered severe injuries in a 1976 racing crash, has also come out in support of the man known fondly as �Schumi�.
�I think there is someone up there who is trying to help him in this situation. At the time, I could help myself. Michael, though, cannot do anything for the moment,� he said in an interview with the Die Zeit weekly, extracts of which were published Wednesday.
�Chain of unfortunate circumstances�.
It is as yet unclear exactly how the accident happened, but a source close to a probe into the incident told AFP that Schumacher�s helmet, which medics say saved his life, had been smashed �in two� by the impact.
Kehm told journalists Tuesday that Schumacher was skiing �with a small group of friends� as well as his 14-year-old son Mick.
She said he was not skiing at high speed when the accident happened. �He seems to have hit a rock as he took a turn. It was a chain of unfortunate circumstances.�
Kehm added that the accident could have happened even �at 10 kilometres (six miles) per hour� and took place during �a normal turning manoeuvre�.
Several people have tried to sneak through the hospital and approach the former racer, she said. �There apparently was a person dressed up as a priest, who tried to get near Michael. I am asking everyone to let the doctors work and leave the family to spend peaceful time with Michael.�
Asked whether the priest was a journalist, she said: �It�s what I was told... We have clearly noted that people are trying to get beyond the press room here in the clinic. It�s revolting, in my opinion.�
Schumacher towered over Formula One from his debut in 1991, winning more world titles and races than any other.