Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher turned 49 on Wednesday. Friends and fans across the world were keen to send the star their best wishes for his birthday.

There were also expressions of hope and support for his continued recovery from serious injuries sustained in a skiing accident four years ago.

“Today Michael turns 49, our thoughts are always with him. #Keepfighting #ForzaMichael,” said Ferrari on their official Twitter page. Schumacher won five of his titles with the Scuderia between 200 and 2004.

“I never saw him angry,” his friend Sebastian Vettel told La Gazzetta dello Sport this week. “I never heard him say anything that did not make sense. He always had everything under control.

“It didn’t matter if he was in a kart, a buggy at the race of champions or in a Formula 1 car. You always had the impression that he was the master of his situation.”

At the request of the family, Schumacher’s current medical situation is a closely guarded secret.

A report in L’Equipe says that he is being cared for in a converted house near the main mansion at his ranch on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. He’s attended by 15 doctors and nurses, as well as his wife Corinna and the couple’s children Gina Maria and Mick.

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The family’s security staff has ensured that no one has gained unauthorised access to the grounds. However, some long distance photos have reportedly been taken.

“It’s our job to follow what is happening,” commented one photographer. “We have taken some pictures but decided not to add them to our database.

“Publishing pictures of a person in a situation like that would only damage the publisher’s image.”

A top German neurologist said that there was still cause for optimism over Schumacher’s condition. He said fans should not “give up hope” for their hero’s gradual recovery.

“According to a Swedish study, between 30 and 40 per cent of patients have regained consciousness within four years,” Professor Mark Obermann, Director of the Centre for Neurology at the Asklepios clinic in Seesen, Germany told the Daily Express.

“Many can come back to life and see how their children and grandchildren grow up, what plans they have or what else happens in the family or in the circle of friends.

“It is assumed that the patients are aware of more than we previously thought was possible,” he added.

In November, German media reported that Schumacher’s family and friends were holding out for a “medical miracle”.

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