As Formula 1 prepares for the official kick-off of its brave new world in Melbourne's Albert Park this weekend, Michael Schumacher's family today issued one of its increasingly rare statements about the health of the 45-year-old former multiple world champion who remains in a medically induced coma in hospital in Grenoble following his skiing accident in Meribel on December 29, some two-and-a-half months ago.
"We are and remain confident that Michael will pull through and will wake up," said the statement issued by Schumacher's personal assistant Sabine Kehm, who has refused to disclose further details of his medical progress.
"There sometimes are small, encouraging signs, but we also know that this is the time to be very patient. Michael has suffered severe injuries. It is very hard to comprehend for all of us that Michael, who had overcome a lot of precarious situations in the past, has been hurt so terribly in such a banal situation.
"It was clear from the start that this will be a long and hard fight for Michael. We are taking this fight on together with the team of doctors, whom we fully trust. The length of the process is not the important part for us.
"We try to channel all the energies we have toward Michael and we firmly believe that this will help him. And we believe that he will also win this fight."
The family's last statement came at the end of January when the process began to bring Schumacher out of his coma. The fact that this process was unsuccessful during February has been taken as a negative sign and the new statement is widely seen as the family putting a brave situation upon an increasingly grave situation which continues to overshadow the start of the new F1 season.
Career in Pictures: Michael Schumacher
Career in Pictures: Michael Schumacher
1/17 February 2006
Michael Schumacher is seen in the pits during a training session at the Ricardo Tormo racetrack in Cheste near Valencia in 2006
2/17 November 1994
Hugging two team mechanics in delight for becoming World Champion Driver after the Australian Grand Prix at the Adelaide circuit in November 1994
3/17 October 1995
Flavio Briatore carries a jubilant Michael after he wins the Pacific F1 Grand Prix at Aida in Japan, and wins his second World Drivers Championshp
4/17 February 1996
Schmacher pushes his Ferrari back to the pits after engine trouble left him stranded at the entrance of the pitlane during pre-season testing at Estoril, Portugal
5/17 March 1996
During the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne
6/17 March 1997
Michael Schumacher in the pit lane during the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia
7/17 October 2000
Celebrating on the podium after winning the formula one world championship at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Japan
8/17 July 2006
Michael Schumacher of Germany and Ferrari leads the pack into the first corner at the start of the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Nevers Magny-Cours Circuit
Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images
9/17 October 2010
Michael Schumacher drives during the Korean Formula One Grand Prix at the Korea International Circuit
Clive Mason/Getty Images
10/17 October 2011
Michael Schumacher and Mercedes GP waves to the crowd as he attends the drivers parade before the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit on October 30, 2011 in Noida, India
11/17 December 2011
Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher celebrate after winning the Nations Cup at day one of the race of champions event at the Esprit Arena
12/17 June 2012
Michael Schumacher drives at the Valencia Street Circuit on June 22, 2012 in Valencia during the first practice race of the European Formula One Grand Prix
13/17 September 2012
Michael Schumacher crashes into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne of France and Scuderia Toro Rosso during the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix in September 2012
14/17 November 2012
Schumacher drives in his last race during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
15/17 December 2013
Deputy director Jean Marc Grenier talks to media outside the CHU Nord hospital in Grenoble, French Alps
16/17 December 2013
Members of the staff are seen outside the emergency services at the CHU Nord hospital in Grenoble, French Alps; this is the hospital where retired seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is reported to be hospitalized after a ski accident
17/17 December 2013
A Scuderia Ferrari and Michael Schumacher fan waits, on December 29, in Grenoble, in front of the emergency department of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire hospital
It runs counter to considerable speculation among respected figures within the neurological profession that the longer it takes to bring him out of his induced coma the less likely are his chances of pulling through to make a successful recovery that would enable him to lead life to a satisfying and fulfilling level. Objective judgement, however, is impossible to make in such a difficult situation.
Schumacher's former team-mate in the Mercedes-Benz world sportscar championship team in 1990, Austrian Karl Wendlinger, suffered a serious head injury of his own after a crash in Monaco in 1994 weeks after the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna but was brought out of induced coma within 10 days and eventually recovered fully.
"My family was told every head injury is different in its characteristics," Wendlinger said. "So I think we should not compare the time in coma between people who have suffered one. Maybe they have to keep Michael a little bit longer quiet until they take him out of coma. For sure for the family it is a tough time. My wife and my parents told me that every report from the hospital or next meeting with the doctors was very difficult because you never know how good or bad the new informations are going to be."