The wife of Michael Schumacher has spoken publicly for the first time about her husband's skiing accident, saying that the former formula one champion is slowly "getting better" after emerging from a medically induced coma last month.
Corinna Schumacher, 45, told the German magazine Neue Post that she was encouraged by the progress her husband had made since his transfer from hospital in France to a Swiss rehabilitation clinic.
"It's getting better. Slowly, certainly, but better at any rate," she told the weekly women's magazine during a horse-riding event.
Schumacher, 45, suffered serious brain injuries when his head struck a rock in the French Alpine resort of Meribel in December.
The seven-time F1 champion was transferred from Grenoble University hospital to a rehabilitation clinic in the Swiss city of Lausanne in mid-June. At the time, his manager, Sabine Kehm, said the driver was "no longer in a coma" but had begun a long process of rehabilitation.
Schumacher was reported to have lost an estimated 20 kilograms.
There were several unconfirmed reports that he was able to respond to his wife's voice. During his transfer by ambulance from Grenoble to Lausanne, Schumacher was said to have kept his eyes open for long periods and to have responded with nods to doctors and the ambulance crew.
One of the reasons for his transfer to Lausanne was its proximity to the home he shares with his wife and two children in a village 40 kilometres away.
Corinna Schumacher has maintained a near constant vigil at her husband's bedside over the past six months.
She has declined to be interviewed and only allowed herself to be photographed by the media earlier this month. Germany's mass-circulation Bild newspaper published pictures of her smiling outside her husband's clinic.
Several medical experts have suggested that the driver will never make a full recovery.
Last week, former F1 physician Gary Hartstein told Germany's Bunte magazine: "Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that things will develop with Michael in the way we hope.
"It is realistic to say that Corinna can make contact with him in some form. Anything more than that would be a miracle."
Erich Riederer, a Zurich-based neurologist who has experience with coma patients, said Schumacher was unlikely to make a full recovery.
"He will remain an invalid all his life and will always remain dependent on the help of others," he told Swiss online news site 20 Minuten.
Last month, a confidential hospital report on Schumacher's medical condition was stolen and offered for sale to the media for 60,000 Swiss francs ($72,000).
Police have been trying to find the culprits.
Last week, the Swiss air rescue service, Rega, said it was taking legal action to counter allegations that one of its employees might have been involved in the theft and attempted sale.