Michael Schumacher set to be move to round-the-clock clinic in the US
But family reveals little of the state of the racer's health
In a rare statement on the eve of Michael Schumacher's 50th birthday, which was on Thursday, his wife Corinna said the family was "doing everything humanly possible" to help the seven-time Formula One champion in his struggle to recover from a devastating skiing accident in December 2013.
As Ferrari, with whom Schumacher won five consecutive titles from 2000, prepare to open an exhibition celebrating his career at their headquarters in Maranello in Italy, Corinna promised yesterday that the Schumachers would be toasting his "victories, records and jubilation" as he turned 50.
In keeping with her policy of keeping Schumacher's health private, she gave no substantive update on his condition but emphasised: "You can be sure that he is in the very best of hands."
In the message on Facebook, she added: "Please understand if we are following Michael's wishes and keeping such a sensitive subject as health, as it has always been, in privacy. We are very happy to celebrate Michael's 50th birthday tomorrow with you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts that we can do this together."
These were the first detailed remarks from Corinna in almost five years since her husband awoke from a coma and was taken to be cared for at his house in Gland, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Recently, there have been suggestions that Schumacher would soon be moved to a clinic in the US for round-the-clock treatment, but his representatives have refused to confirm or deny the idea.
The couple have been married for 24 years and have two children: Gina-Maria, 21, and Mick, 19, the European Formula Three champion, who graduates this season to Formula Two with Italian team Prema.
The family's decision to conceal medical specifics about Schumacher has been criticised, not least by his former manager, Willi Weber, who argues the issue is of compelling public interest.
But Ross Brawn, former technical director at Ferrari and among the family's closest confidants, said: "I am constantly in touch with Corinna, and I totally agree with their decision. Michael has always been a very private person. It's completely understandable that Corinna has wanted to maintain the same approach, even after the tragic event, and it's a decision we must all respect."
Meanwhile, everyone loves an underdog but Mercedes believe Formula One fans will still have plenty to cheer about next season even if the reigning champs dominate for a record-chasing sixth successive year.
Mercedes have won both titles ever since the V6 turbo hybrid era started in 2014, with Britain's Lewis Hamilton now a five times champion.
Hamilton has won 51 of the 100 races over that period, and only Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers have stood on top of the podium.
"I think it is in the nature of the fan that you cheer for the underdog," team boss and Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told Reuters in a recent interview. "Serial winners lose a little bit of appeal.
"What we are trying to do is to approach our sport and our participation with modesty and humility, not take anything for granted... we should never ever have a feeling of entitlement of winning.
"You can, to a certain degree, if you stay true to these values, continue to grow your fan following and continue to have the fans cheering for you although you have won a few times in a row," added the Austrian.
Last year, in which Mercedes presented themselves as underdogs to Ferrari for the first part of the F1 season, proved the best yet for the German manufacturer across the various motorsport series.
They won the German Touring Car championship and Formula Two with protege George Russell, while Michael Schumacher's son, Mick, took the European F3 crown for a Mercedes-powered team. Hamilton won 11 races and is now only 18 wins behind Schumacher's record 91, with a chance also of equalling eventually the German's seven world championships.
Wolff said such team targets would provide plenty of interest.
"You will have two groups; the ones that are cheering for our competitors, hoping that Mercedes are not going to achieve that, and then you will have a large group also that's going to say: 'Well, this is pretty exciting. Are Mercedes going to be able to top Ferrari's record? Is Lewis Hamilton going to be able to match Michael Schumacher's record?'
"It's another interesting angle of the Formula One narrative."
Only Ferrari and Mercedes have won drivers' and constructors' championships for five years in a row, with the Italians winning the team title six times in succession from 1999 to 2004.
"We are very motivated by having equalled the Ferrari all-time record of five consecutive double championships and there's a sixth one that is there," said Wolff.
The Austrian said discussions were ongoing with all staff to set team and personal objectives and that would continue until the end of January.
"This is a very honest, intimate and personal discussion that we are having among staff," said Wolff.
"It means trusting each other and laying out the struggles and the good sides of what we do."
The season starts in Australia on March 17...