French doctors treating Michael Schumacher for brain injuries sustained in a ski fall said the seven-times Formula One world champion was in slightly better condition on Tuesday after an overnight operation, but that he remained fragile.
The 44-year-old German is battling for his life after slamming his head against a rock while skiing off-trail in the French resort of Meribel on Sunday, an accident which triggered an outpouring of concern among fans around the world.
Doctors treating him at a hospital in the eastern city of Grenoble said his condition had stabilized enough by late Monday to carry out a new operation to treat the effects of internal bleeding within Schumacher's skull.
"The situation is more under control than yesterday but we cannot say he is out of danger," Jean-Francois Payen, head anaesthetician, told a news conference at the CHU hospital in Grenoble.
"We have won some time but we must continue an hour-by-hour surveillance... It is premature to speculate on his condition," he said, adding that Schumacher was still in a critical state and suffering from severe lesions and contusions.
Emmanuel Gay, head of the hospital's neurosurgery service, said the operation carried out around 10.00 pm on Monday had successfully removed a large hematoma - the medical term for a build-up of blood - from his brain.
"It was larger and more accessible (than others) ... We judged we could remove it without taking any risks," Gay said. He said the operation was designed to reduce, within Schumacher's skull, the pressure on the brain.
Doctors said the fact that the retired motor racing champion was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident had at least enabled him to make it to the hospital alive.
Payen said the medical team in Grenoble had discussed the operation with Schumacher's family. He added that the condition of the motor racing great was still too fragile to consider transferring him to another hospital for the time being.
Schumacher is under the care of Professor Gerard Saillant, a brain and spinal injury expert who is also president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) Institute. Saillant said it was still impossible to say how Schumacher's condition would progress in coming days.
"We are a little less worried than yesterday but I'm sure you understand that the situation could change this evening or tomorrow," he told the news conference.
Schumacher earned universal admiration for his uncommon driving talent, which led to a record 91 race wins. Schumacher "gave the image of someone indestructible, powerful," France's four-time F1 champion Alain Prost said on iTele TV channel. "It's a banal accident compared to what he's done in the past. It's just a dumb thing that ended badly."
Schumacher, who turns 45 on Friday, retired from the track for the second time only last year, after a three-season comeback.
Schumacher and his 14-year-old son were skiing Sunday morning in the French Alpine resort of Meribel, where the family has a chalet. He fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock.
An expert skier, Schumacher fell in a section of trails that slice down through a vast and, in parts, very steep snowfield. Although challenging, the snowfield is not extreme skiing. The runs are broad and neatly tended, and the ungroomed area in between — where the resort said Schumacher was found — is free of trees.
Meribel resort officials said Schumacher was conscious when first responders arrived, although agitated and in shock.
After the fall, Payen said Monday, Schumacher was not in a "normal state of consciousness." He did not respond to questions, and his limbs appeared to move involuntarily, the doctor said.
He was airlifted to a local hospital and then later brought to Grenoble. Doctors said that stopover was typical and did not affect his condition.
The French prosecutor in Albertville has opened an investigation into the accident, according to the Mountain Gendarmerie in Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The goal is to determine the circumstances and cause of the accident.
Formula One drivers and fans rushed to wish Schumacher a quick recovery.
"Like millions of Germans, the chancellor and members of the government were extremely dismayed when they heard about Michael Schumacher's serious skiing accident," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in Berlin.
Sebastian Vettel, the Formula One racer for whom Schumacher was a boyhood idol, told German news agency dpa: "I am shocked and hope that he will get better as soon as possible."
Ferrari, which Schumacher raced for, also expressed its concern. Company President Luca di Montezemolo and race team leader Stefano Domenicali were in contact with the family, the company said in a statement.
Fans gathered outside the hospital Monday. Nuravil Raimbekov, a student from Kyrgyzstan who is studying in Grenoble, said Schumacher has been an inspiration to him.
"I'm worried, of course. ... But I still hope, and I will pray for him," he said.
During his career, Schumacher set an array of Formula One records. After initial success with the Benetton team, winning his first two championships in 1994 and 1995, Schumacher moved to Ferrari.
There, he helped turn the storied Italian team into the sport's dominant force. After initially retiring in 2006, he made a comeback in 2010 and raced for three years with Mercedes.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press