UPDATE: Formula One champion Michael Schumacher
was transferred from a French hospital to a facility in Switzerland on Monday after emerging from a coma
following his devastating ski accident in December.
In a surprise announcement, the retired German racing star's spokeswoman, Sabine Kehm, said Schumacher
had left hospital in the French Alpine city of Grenoble, where he had been treated since December 29th when he slammed his head on a rock while skiing with his son and friends.
The 45-year-old was transferred to a hospital in the Swiss city of Lausanne where he will be undergoing further treatment, hospital spokesman Darcy Christen told AFP.
Stressing the hospital's commitment to privacy, Christen said Schumacher's family was with him "in a space created especially to ensure their intimacy and to ensure the best possible care."
The Lausanne hospital has renowned neurology experts and Schumacher, his wife Corinna and two children live nearby in the small town of Gland.
Dozens of journalists were parked in front of the facility, but in a country that fiercely respects privacy, the crowd was far smaller than it was in December when news of his accident in the French skiing resort of Meribel attracted throngs of media and fans to the Grenoble hospital. Current condition unknown
In a statement, the seven-time world champion's spokeswoman Kehm said his family wanted to "thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months."
"For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye," she said.
She gave no further details about Schumacher's condition, which has been kept under a tight lid since his accident.
The racing star underwent two operations to remove life-threatening blood clots after the freak accident that shocked the world, before being plunged into a medically induced coma
His family announced at the end of January that drugs used to keep him in the coma were being reduced with a view to bringing him back to consciousness.
Since then, Kehm had said the former Ferrari driver was showing short moments of consciousness, but few other details have filtered out and it is still unclear as to what the future holds for the man who cheated death countless times on the racing track.
Doctors say some patients only show signs of improvement several years after their accident, and in an April interview with German broadcaster ARD, Kehm said that "a medical prognosis is not possible" due to the nature of his brain injury.
PHOTO GALLERY: Schumacher's career in pictures
The news was welcomed across the sporting spectrum. Schumacher's former Formula One team tweeted their support.
His friend and German international footballer Lukas Podolski wrote on Twitter: "What great news!!! I'm so glad."
Former Formula One driver Nick Heidfeld wrote: "I'm so happy."
'Red Baron' of Formula One
Known as the "Red Baron" in reference to an ace World War I German fighter pilot, Schumacher made his debut in 1991 and dominated Formula One not long after.
A ruthless and at times controversial competitor, the German won an unprecedented 91 races, and seven world titles including five in a row with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004.
He first retired aged 37 but was unable to resist the lure of the track. In 2010, he came out of retirement but failed to re-enact his previous performances, and he quit for good in 2012.
Retirement did not dull his relish for adrenaline, however, and he kept pursuing thrill-seeking hobbies as the holder of a pilot's license, an accomplished motorbike rider, parachutist, skier and mountain climber.
He survived a motorbike accident in Spain in 2009, during which he suffered head and neck injuries but was released from hospital after just five hours - a far cry from his December skiing crash.
In her statement on Monday, Kehm said Schumacher's family wanted "to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes".
"We are sure it helped him," she added.
Timeline of treatment
December 29th, 2013: Schumacher slams his head during a fall in a boulder-strewn section of the French Alpine ski resort of Meribel. He is wearing a helmet but it smashes in two.
He is evacuated by helicopter to the French city of Grenoble where doctors operate and place him in a coma, with a body temperature lowered to between 34-35 degrees C (93.2-95 F) to limit the consequences of "serious brain trauma".
His spokeswoman later says the former race-car driver was skiing with friends and his teenage son, and he was not going fast at the time of the accident.
December 30th: Schumacher is said to be in a "life-threatening" condition and has a second operation to treat bleeding in the brain.
January 1st, 2014: A day before Schumacher turns 45, his spokeswoman describes his condition as "stable".
February 17th: French officials close a criminal investigation into the accident, concluding it was not due to safety breaches. Investigators ruled out faulty skis, inadequate signage or excessive speed as possible causes of the fall - based in part on footage from a camera mounted on Schumacher's helmet.
April 13th: Schumacher is said to be "showing small signs of progress."
June 16th: Schumacher's spokeswoman says he has left the Grenoble hospital to "continue his long phase of rehabilitation. He is not in a coma anymore."
SEE ALSO: Schumacher shows 'small signs of progress'