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.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”