A renowned brain surgeon has given a troubling update on Michael Schumacher's hopes of recovering from a horror skiing accident.
The accident in the French Alps in December 2013, left the Formula One legend in a coma and his ongoing condition has been a closely guarded secret between family and close friends.
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Former Ferrari chief Jean Todt last week revealed that the German great was fighting to overcome the devastating injuries that have kept him out of public view for almost seven years.
Now, respected neurosurgeon Erich Riederer has offered a heartbreaking insight into the 51-year-old's current condition.
Speaking on a new documentary that aired on French TV, Riederer cast serious doubts over whether Schumacher will ever be functional again.
“I think he’s in a vegetative state, which means he’s awake but not responding,” Riederer told TMC.
“He is breathing, his heart is beating, he can probably sit up and take baby steps with help, but no more.
“I think that’s the maximum for him. Is there any chance of seeing him like he was before his accident? I really don’t think so.”
Riederer's grim prognosis comes just days after FIA president Todt revealed details of a recent trip to visit the seven-time world champion.
The Frenchman oversaw five of Schumacher's seven world titles as team principal for Ferrari.
On the eve of the Italian constructor's 1000th race, Todt told the PA news agency: “I saw Michael last week. He is fighting.
“My God, we know he had a terrible and unfortunate skiing accident which has caused him a lot of problems.
“But he has an amazing wife next to him, he has his kids, his nurses, and we can only wish him the best and to wish the family the best, too.
“All I can do is to be close to them until I am able to do something, and then I will do it.”
Truth about 'horrible' Schumacher claims emerge
Another former Ferrari boss Ross Brawn recently lifted the lid on the truth about claims Schumacher was a “despicable, horrible character”.
Brawn was at the helm Schumacher’s period of dominance at Ferrari and says the German driver was a very different person off the track.
Schumacher gained a reputation as a ruthless driver on the track, which turned a number of fans and fellow drivers off.
The 51-year-old was accused of driving “dangerously” in a win-at-all-costs mentality, however Brawn says Schumacher changed people’s opinions once they met him away from the track.
“I don’t know if he quite enjoyed the impression he created because he was quite an intimidating character in many ways,” Brawn told Sky’s new docu-series ‘Race to Perfection’.
“But if you knew him personally he was quite the opposite, very engaging, very personal.
“So many times I introduced him to people who, before they met him, thought he was a despicable, horrible character and you introduce them, and once they got to know him they completely changed.
“I had that happen so many times because there was Michael the racing driver out on the track and there was Michael the human being away from the track.”
Brawn says everyone who knew Schumacher personally thought the world of him.
“I don’t know of anyone who worked with Michael who had a bad word to say about him,” Brawn said.
“Lots of people who raced against him had a different opinion but nobody I know who ever worked with Michael ever had a bad opinion about him because of his integrity, his commitment, his human side.”