GRENOBLE, France -- Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is "fighting for his life" and is being kept in an artificial coma after suffering brain injuries as a result of a skiing accident in the French Alps, doctors in the city of Grenoble said Monday.
Schumacher, who won a record seven F1 world titles and retired from the sport for a second time in 2012, fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste with his son at the Meribel resort Sunday.
The 44-year-old German was transported by helicopter to a hospital in Moutiers before being transferred to a clinic in Grenoble.
"He had some lesions in his brain when he came in" and we "had to operate him urgently to release some pressure," one of the doctors treating him in Grenoble told reporters.
Schumacher was wearing a helmet at the time, but nevertheless suffered injuries to the right side of his brain.
"He's in a critical situation, and we can say that he's fighting for his life," said Jean-Francois Payen, one of the doctors in Grenoble.
"We judge him to be in a very serious situation. We can't tell you what the outcome will be yet."
Doctors contradicted earlier French media reports that Schumacher had undergone a second operation overnight.
In fact, medics ruled out a second operation for Schumacher for now, saying "at this moment we don't think he'll need a second operation."
Press officials at the University Hospital in Grenoble told the German news agency dpa that no further medical bulletins would be issued until Tuesday.
Schumacher was conscious shortly after the accident, but was behaving erratically when he was reached by rescuers and fell into a coma upon his arrival in Grenoble via helicopter, doctors said.
"We think his helmet, with the violence with which his head hit the ground, obviously helped him," the doctors said. "Without the helmet he wouldn't be here now."
Professor Gerard Saillant, who had treated Schumacher during his racing career and traveled to Grenoble, said doctors were "concerned" about his condition.
His wife Corinna; their 16-year-old daughter Gina-Maria; and their 14-year-old son Mick, who was with Schumacher when the accident occurred, remained by his bedside at the hospital in Grenoble.
"We know that you are doing everything possible to help Michael," the family said in a statement released Monday by Schumacher's manager, Sabine Kehm, while at the same time requesting privacy.
Two of the men behind his successful Formula One career with Ferrari -- Jean Todt, the former team principal, and Ross Brawn, the former technical director -- also arrived in Grenoble overnight.
But with the list of well-wishers growing by the minute, hospital officials said only Schumacher's immediate family would be allowed to visit him.
Todt and Brawn were behind Schumacher's five F1 World Championship victories with Ferrari, between 2000 and 2004. Brawn also contributed to Schumacher's World Championship wins at the Benetton team in 1994 and 1995.
"Everyone at Ferrari has been in a state of anxiety since hearing about Michael Schumacher's accident," his former team said in a statement, adding that Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo was "in constant contact with the family."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed distress at the news.
"Like millions of Germans, the federal chancellor and the members of the German government were exceptionally distraught when they learned of Michael Schumacher's severe skiing accident," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
"We are hoping, along with Michael Schumacher and his family, that he will be able to overcome his injuries and recover. For his wife, his children, his relatives we wish strength and solidarity in these difficult hours."
Reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel also reacted with shock to the news of Schumacher's accident.
"I am shocked and hope that he recovers as quickly as possible," the four-time world champion told dpa. "I wish his family strength at this time."
Vettel, 26, is good friends with Schumacher, who was a childhood idol for the Red Bull driver.
Former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa of Brazil wrote on Instagram: "Michael!! I am praying for you my brother!! I hope you have a quick recovery !! God bless you Michael."
Schumacher has had accidents before, including a motorcycle crash in February 2009 in Cartagena, Spain, where he damaged a vertebra, a rib and the bottom of his skull. At the time, his doctor said it had caused the racer the most serious long-term harm of his career.
Concerned residents in Schumacher's home town of Kerpen, in western Germany, have also been calling the town hall to wish the F1 racing legend a speedy recovery.
"It is only right that this is an issue in the town hall as well," Mayor Marlies Sieburg said.
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