Schumacher “slightly improved,” but doctors still cautious

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Tuesday’s latest update from the medical team of doctors at Grenoble University Hospital in France is that Michael Schumacher’s condition is “slightly improved,” but that his condition is still critical and his situation will still need to be monitored on an hourly basis.

A new CT scan was taken late Monday night and showed an improved status, so an option was presented to Schumacher’s family as to whether to do another operation to further reduce pressure on his brain. A two-hour procedure then began at 10 p.m. to evacuate a hematoma on the left side of his brain.

Schumacher is still in an artificial coma, but the operation went well. Further hematomas do still exist, but the one that was removed was large, easily accessible and could be removed without undue risk, according to doctors.

“We have effectively at the end of the afternoon, received a transitional improvement in the pressure on the brain for Michael Schumacher,” anesthesiologist professor Jean-Francois Payen explained, via a stream aired by the BBC. “This meant we could take a new scan without putting him at risk. This showed signs he is relatively stable. So there is no worsening of the initial lesions.

“In discussing this with my neurosurgeon colleagues, we decided that since there was an improvement, we should do this operation. We didn’t think to do so initially. In the evening, this operation would allow, to reduce further the pressure on the brain. We did this overnight, and with a relatively good result. So this morning we took some more pictures/scans. We have noticed to evacuate the hematoma further, the situation is better controlled than yesterday.”

Doctors would not use the word “optimistic,” yet, instead cautioning this remains an hour-by-hour process. But they did admit to feeling less anxious than at the time 24 hours ago.

They also said repeatedly they cannot forecast how Schumacher’s condition will change over the next hours. While it could improve, it could also get worse.

All decisions have been made in consultation with Schumacher’s family, who remain at his bedside. No transfer of hospital will occur at this time; a transfer has been ruled “too dangerous” by the doctors due to Schumacher’s delicate state.

Doctors ended the half-hour press conference saying they would ask that press conferences be the only form of updates, rather than one-on-one interviews, to allow the medical team to continue to do its job. They reiterated that the only difference between Schumacher and the hospital’s other patients in the presence of the press; that all patients receive the same level of care.

Further updates, then, will only come when there is a change in condition, via another press conference. Schumacher sustained the head injuries on Sunday and doctors said it was too early to provide a prognosis on Monday.

Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

More to follow.

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”

Force India’s Celis gets FP1 appearances in Austria, Hungary

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Force India youngster Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his first Formula 1 race weekend appearances of the season next month, taking part in first practice for the grands prix in Austria and Hungary.

Celis, 20, joined Force India as a development driver ahead of the 2016 season, enjoying six FP1 run-outs across the course of the year.

The Mexican driver returned for 2017, taking part in pre-season testing and the running following the Bahrain Grand Prix in April.

Force India confirmed on Wednesday that Celis will return for FP1 in Austria next week, before also featuring in practice in Hungary at the end of July.