Schumacher coming out of coma
Michael Schumacher is being slowly brought out of his induced coma, his manager has said.
Seven-times Formula One world champion Schumacher, 45, has spent the last month in the University of Grenoble hospital fighting for his life after sustaining brain injuries following a skiing accident in the resort of Meribel.
Concern was growing as to whether he would ever make a recovery, or even wake again, but manager Sabine Kehm has now provided official confirmation that steps are under way to bring him out of his coma following the accident on December 29.
A statement read: "Michael's sedation is being reduced in order to allow the start of the waking-up process, which may take a long time.
"For the protection of the family, it was originally agreed by the interested parties to communicate this information only once this process was consolidated."
Kehm has stated no further updates will be given, and out of respect for Schumacher's family she has urged they continue to be left alone.
Kehm said: "The family of Michael Schumacher is again requesting for their privacy, and the medical secret, to be respected, and to not disturb the doctors treating Michael in their work.
"At the same time, the family wishes to express sincere appreciation for the sympathy they have received from around the world."
While the news represents progress, Professor Peter Hutchinson, a neurosurgeon at the University of Cambridge, warned that it would be premature to read too much into the developments.
"It's a step that needs to be taken at this stage," he said.
"He has been in an induced come for a long time. It's unusual for it to be a month, typically it's much shorter than that, perhaps seven to 10 days but the French do tend to keep people under sedation for longer than we would. At some point you have to reverse that.
"It is very difficult to read at present. The drugs take time to wear off, and it would be a week or so before you could be confident that the sedation has left his system.
"I think in terms of how he's going to be, it would be a week before it would be clearer...He still has the potential for a favourable outcome.
"He's fit, he's relatively young compared to some of the head injuries we treat and he was conscious immediately afterwards which suggests it's not a devastating brain injury, so he still has the potential for a favourable outcome."
Some reports have claimed that Schumacher has begun responding to basic instructions as he was brought out of his coma, but that remains unconfirmed.
Wife Corinna, who is maintaining a constant bedside vigil, last week issued a heartfelt thank you to all those who continue to send in messages of support, insisting her husband "is a fighter (who) will not give up".
Close friend Felipe Massa, who suffered his own serious head injury in an accident in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, admitted last week he was praying every day for Schumacher.
In this week's first pre-season test in Jerez, the Mercedes car being driven by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is carrying the message on the side of the W05 '#KeepFightingMichael'.
Hamilton said: "It's tragic. We are hoping he is going to pull through and we see him sooner rather than later."
Rosberg added: "We have the message on our car because as a team we want to show we are thinking about him, his family and friends, and hoping for the best every day."