Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has left a Swiss hospital and will continue his treatment at home after a devastating ski accident in December, his family said on Tuesday.
In a surprise announcement, a spokesperson for the family of the retired German racing star said he was being moved from a top-notch hospital in the Swiss city of Lausanne to his home in nearby Gland.
"Henceforth Michael's rehabilitation will take place at his home," Sabine Kehm said, stressing that "considering the severe injuries he suffered, progress has been made in the past weeks and months".
Asked when Schumacher had moved from the hospital, she told AFP in an email that "Michael is home since today (Tuesday)".
Kehm stressed though that the racing star was still facing "a long and difficult road ahead".
Schumacher's move should not be interpreted as a sign of massive changes in his health status, the statement said without providing further details.
The 45-year-old slammed his head on a rock while skiing with his son and friends at Meribel in the French Alps on December 29.
The seven-time world champion 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.
Schumacher, long a resident of Switzerland, emerged from the coma in June and was transferred from a French hospital to the University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV), renowned for it neurology experts.
"We would like extend our gratitude to the entire team at CHUV Lausanne for their thorough and competent work," Tuesday's statement said.
Respect family's privacy
"We ask that the privacy of Michael's family continue to be respected, and that speculations about his state of health are avoided," it added.
Amid a dearth of information about Schumacher's condition and prospects, media speculation has been rampant.
The former champion driver's move to Lausanne in June was marred by the theft of his medical file by an employee of the Swiss company organising the transfer.
The suspected thief, who attempted in vain to sell the documents to different media for 50,000 euros ($65,000), committed suicide in detention last month.
Tuesday's statement also dismissed Swiss media speculation that Schumacher's wife Corinne had their expansive property in Gland, idyllically set on the shores of Lake Geneva, adapted for Schumacher's care.
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 licence, 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.