PARIS Seven-times Formula One motor racing world champion Michael Schumacher is making progress and showing signs of waking from an artificial coma after suffering serious head injuries in a skiing accident, his agent said on Friday.
"Michael is making progress on his way. He shows moments of consciousness and awakening," Sabine Kehm said in a statement.
Schumacher, 45, slammed his head on a rock while skiing off-piste in the French Alps resort of Meribel on December 29 last year.
The most successful Formula One champion of all time has been in a stable but critical condition since then in a hospital in the eastern French city of Grenoble.
Doctors started lowering the retired German racing driver's sedation at the end of January to wake him up from an artificial coma.
"We are on his side during his long and difficult fight, together with the team of the hospital in Grenoble, and we keep remaining confident," said the brief statement.
Schumacher, who won a record 91 Grand Prix victories, left the sport last year after a disappointing three-year comeback with Mercedes following an earlier retirement from Ferrari at the end of 2006.
The statement was welcomed by drivers taking part in practice for this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, a race Schumacher won on its first appearance on the calendar exactly 10 years ago.
The German now has a corner named after him at the Sakhir circuit.
"It was fantastic to hear some good news," said Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, Schumacher's former team mate and compatriot whose car has a message of support on the side.
"I'm very happy; everybody in the paddock is very happy about that. For sure they are going to be cautious before saying something good, so it must be a real positive step. It's great. I hope he continues to make progress."
Four-times world champion and compatriot Sebastian Vettel, a friend of Schumacher who was also one of his boyhood idols, was also encouraged.
"It is very good to hear it's going in the right direction," said the Red Bull driver. "Naturally he still has a long process ahead of him, but for sure we wish him the best."
(Reporting By Brian Love in Paris and Alan Baldwin in Manama, editing by Mark John, Andrew Callus and Julien Pretot)