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Formula One driver still in critical condition

Jules Bianchi suffered severe head injuries after his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

FILE: Marussia driver Jules Bianchi ahead of Kamui Kobayashi at the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on Sunday. Picture: AFP.

JAPAN - French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi remains in a critical condition after suffering severe head injuries in a Japanese Grand Prix crash on Sunday, with the sport praying for him to pull through.

The 25-year-old's Marussia team issued a statement on Monday giving no medical details but acknowledging a "huge outpouring of support and affection for Jules and the Team at this very difficult time".

They said any update about his condition would be guided by the wishes of his family.

"Together with Jules' care, they will remain our highest priority. Therefore, we would ask for patience and understanding with regard to further medical updates," added the British-based team.

French media said Bianchi remained critical and was under artificial respiration, contrary to reports on Sunday evening that suggested he was breathing unassisted after surgery.

Sky Sports television reported from the Mie General hospital in Yokkaichi, near Suzuka, that his family were expected to arrive from France shortly.

Bianchi suffered the injury when he aquaplaned off a wet track and hit the back of a recovery tractor that had been deployed to remove Adrian Sutil's crashed Sauber.

The race was then stopped, with his fellow drivers and teams in a state of shock.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton, who leads the championship for Mercedes, said he was praying for the Frenchman.

"Our first thoughts go to Jules -- it overshadows everything else when one of our colleagues is injured and we are praying for him. Next to this, the race result doesn't seem significant at all," the Briton said.

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said the driver had been extracted unconscious from the car and taken to hospital where a scan revealed a severe head injury. He underwent immediate surgery.

Marussia said senior team officials would stay at the hospital to support the driver, along with representatives of Ferrari.

While racing for a struggling tail-end team, for whom Bianchi scored their first ever points this season, the Frenchman also has a contract with Ferrari as a test driver.

Highly regarded and a popular figure in the paddock, the Nice-born driver finished an impressive ninth in Monaco last May and was tipped as a talent for the future -- possibly with Ferrari.

He is also managed by Nicolas Todt, son of FIA president and former Ferrari principal Jean, whose other drivers include Brazilian Felipe Massa and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.

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