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.

F1 drivers split on new ‘shield’ protection

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One drivers are split over plans to test a new “shield” device to protect against flying debris.

The FIA will trial the transparent screen in the coming months for a potential introduction in 2018, as it pushes for greater head protection for drivers. Recent years have seen major head injuries in several motorsport series.

“I wouldn’t mind trying out the shield, seeing how is the visibility,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday. “In terms of safety it would be a good step compared to what we have now.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was another supporter, saying “we’ve still got to see a bit more, but first impressions seem OK.”

The FIA previously seemed to favor a metal frame known as the “halo,” which was designed to stop a flying wheel hitting a driver’s head but was criticized by some drivers on aesthetic grounds.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday he was “quite against” the shield and the halo. “The way Formula One should look should remain the same,” he added. “We have enough protection.”

Romain Grosjean of Haas voiced concern the “next step” would be completely closed cockpits.

Recent years have seen several high-profile head injuries, including the deaths of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees in 2009 when he was hit by a loose wheel and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was struck by debris, in 2015.

In Formula One, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season when a loose spring from another car hit his helmet, leaving him needing surgery.

Haas changes F1 brake supplier ahead of Russian Grand Prix

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Haas has switched from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in a bid to remedy its long-running braking issues in Formula 1.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation onto the F1 grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean scoring all 29 of its points through its debut season.

Grosjean and then-teammate Esteban Gutierrez had their efforts spurned on a number of occasions by brake issues which continued to arise through pre-season testing in 2017 and the early races.

Haas pushed to remedy the issue by testing new Carbon Industrie brakes in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, with Grosjean and new teammate Kevin Magnussen conducting running.

The team duly decided to fit the new Carbon Industrie brakes for this weekend’s race in Russia, with both VF-17 cars to run with them from Friday onwards.

“To be fair to Brembo, the last update in brakes we had that arrived in China were much better. It took a long time to get them,” Grosjean explained.

“So then I was not screaming to change to Carbone Industrie but it was in the pipeline, so we tried them, and both drivers were pretty pleased with them. We felt like we had more control under braking.

“I’m very sensitive to my left pedal, so I really need to get good brakes to get good confidence and push the car to its maximum limit. So we are going to run them here.

“There is still a little bit of work we need to be doing around the mapping and finding the solution around those brakes but I think yeah, definitely it’s going to help me a little bit to find the last few hundredths.”

NHRA: Chad Head to substitute for Alexis DeJoria in Charlotte

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Alexis DeJoria will miss this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, with her Kalitta Motorsports team confirming DeJoria will need to tend to a family matter.

Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports Director of Safety, will step into the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry this weekend. No timetable was given for DeJoria’s return; after Charlotte this weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues for its third consecutive race weekend next week in Atlanta.

This isn’t the first race DeJoria has had to miss recently, as she also was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the 2016 NHRA season finale in Pomona.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Following his victory in Bahrain two weeks ago, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel arrived in Russia on Thursday targeting a third win of the year to extend his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.

Not since 2004 has a Ferrari driver made such a good start to a season, putting Vettel in contention for a fifth world title this year – although with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton hot on his tail, it will have to be a hard-earned success.

The fourth round of the year sees F1 head to the Olympic city of Sochi, which hosted the winter games back in 2014. The Sochi Autodrom played host to its first grand prix the same year, and is now a key part of Russia’s post-Olympic legacy.

Bringing you all of the latest news and interviews ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Will Buxton brings you Paddock Pass.