Zanardi, 53, who lost his two legs after a motor racing accident almost 20 years ago, lost control of his hand bike while competing in the “ Obiettivo tricolore ” relay race in Tuscany, Italy, Friday.
According to several reports, he crossed the white line in the path of an oncoming track, who could not avoid it.
After the accident, the Italian was flown to the Santa Maria alle Scott hospital in Siena, where he underwent three hours of emergency neurological surgery for head injuries to the face.
A press release issued by the hospital indicates that Zanardi is in a “stable” state in intensive care after his operation.
“He is incubated and supported by artificial ventilation while the neurological image remains serious,” he said.
Zanardi’s fate was captured in the headlines of all the major Italian sports newspapers as word of the severity of his accident spread.
“No Alex, no!” Corrierre dello Sport said, while Italian Prime Minister Giusseppe Conte wrote on Twitter: “Come on Alex # Zanardi, don’t give up. All of Italy is fighting with you.”
Zanardi raced for Jordan, Minardi and Lotus in F1 before successfully competing in CART races in the United States where he was series champion in 1997 and 1998.
He returned to F1 with Williams for a season in 1999 before returning to the CART series.
It was in this formula that he suffered his infamous 320 km / h accident at Lausitzring in Germany in September 2001, escaping with his life, but losing his two legs.
In an incredible display of determination and wit, Zanardi adapted to his prosthetic legs and returned to participate in the European Touring Car Championship in 2003, driving BMW.
But it is for his exploits on a hand bike that the man of Bologna became the best known of a world audience, winning several medals at the Paralympic Games and at the 2012 and 2016 world championships.
He was training for this year’s Tokyo Paralympics, hoping to add to his impressive tally of gold medals until he was postponed.
Zanardi also competed in grueling Ironman triathlon races, establishing a new better world for a Paralympic athlete during a race in Italy last September, while continuing to race specially adapted BMWs at various endurance motorsport events. .
Support messages have poured in from the sports world, with former F1 world champion and Indy Car legend Mario Andretti: “I’m so anxious and scared about Alex Zanardi that I hold my breath I am his fan, I am his friend.
“Please do what I do and pray, pray for this wonderful man,” he tweeted.
“Alex is one of the truly inspiring people in life and as we all know, an end-to-end fighter. Stay strong and Forza Alex,” his former Williams team posted on Twitter.
“Fight as you know, Alex. You are a very big man, courage,” said Charles Leclerc, Ferrari star in Italian, tweeted.