Media shunned as Michael Schumacher fights for his life

Journalists camped outside the French hospital where motor sport's most successful star is critically ill have told "it's crazy with all media here and the press officers don't want to deal with us anymore".

Seven times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher, 45, has been in a medically induced coma since December 29, after going off piste, while skiing at Meribel ski resort in the French Alps, and hitting his head on a rock. Doctors say he would have been killed if he had not been wearing a helmet.

Asked whether Schumacher would recover, the question on everyone's mind, a top TV journalist at the scene told us, grimly: "I don't think looks pretty bad. But the doctors don't want to communicate anymore for now so I can't say for sure."

A statement from the Grenoble University hospital on Monday said Schumacher, called fondly  "Schumi" by his fans, remained critically ill after two operations to relieve swelling on his brain but there had been a slight improvement in the racing driver's condition.

His wife, Corinna, has appealed to the news media to go away. But, because her husband is perhaps the biggest global sports celebrity, her plea has fallen on deaf ears. Corinna, daughter Gina-Marie and son, Mick, with whom Schumacher was skiing at the time of the accident, are at his bedside.
Our source said Sabine Kehm, Schumacher's manager, was "behaving weird". He added: "She is angry. Yet, [the media] have been her friend since '91. I suppose she just wants to be next to him (Shumacher) with no one else but his close family there. It seems the story is too big for her, emotionally. So, now the very media she has courted in the past to further Schumi's career has turned against her."

But our source conceded: "Some media have been saying lots of shit on the story."

There has been speculation about a video someone took of the accident, whether or not Schumacher's helmet split in two, whether the ski station was to blame for the accident, the racing driver's finances and management. "And now everyone is having to pay the price with a news blackout", added the source.

Prosecutors investigating the accident said examination of Schumacher's helmet camera showed he had left a properly marked out trail at the time of his fall.

Albertville prosecutor Patrick Quincy said the two-minute film from the helmet camera was very clear and showed the former  Formula 1 driver lost his balance in the French ski resort and struck his head on a rock.

Investigators said they had established the signage on the slopes was in accordance with regulations, but the area where Schumacher was hurt was "virgin territory" so was not marked and could be dangerous.

"There are French standards setting rules on safety, signalling, demarcation ... The checks we have made show these standards had been respected," Quincy said.

However, he said the investigation would take time to establish whether the area where he was skiing could be classed as an "official piste" in French law.

The video will now be examined by a police expert in mountaineering.

Problems with the rented skis Schumacher was wearing have also been ruled out.

Quincy said Schumacher was "obviously a very good skier" but had not been able to slow himself down in the rocky area of the slope where he fell.

Describing the sequence of events after the former F1 driver went off-piste, he said: "At one point his skis touch a rock, he loses balance and falls forward and his head hits a rock which is 3.5 metres below.

"The rock he hit is eight metres from the edge of the piste and Mr Schumacher on the ground, inanimate, is nine metres from the edge of the piste. That's the information we have with regard to the inquiry."

Early viewings of the helmet camera footage appear to confirm this sequence of events.

The inquiry has not yet been able to confirm reports that Schumacher - who was on a family holiday - was going to the aid of a relative when he fell or the speed at which he was travelling, Quincy said. 

Police chief Stephane Bozon said Schumacher's speed increased when he entered the steeper off-piste section and he had tried to slow down but had difficulty because of the nature of the slope.

Quincy said investigators have also spoken to emergency services and doctors and visited the scene of the accident.

The Albertville prosecutor's office carries out around 50 investigations into serious skiing and climbing accidents every year, he added.

There was initially speculation that Schumacher was travelling up to 100kph (60mph) when he crashed, after it was revealed his helmet had split on impact.

But subsequent reports suggested he was travelling at a "leisurely pace" of up to 20kph (12mph).

Schumacher is the most successful F1 driver in history, racking up a record 91 race wins, before he retired in 2012. He was due to make a statement this month about his future plans.