Gary Hartstein is highly critical of reports From Michael Schumacher's team about his latest progress
Michael Schumacher is starting to recognise his family, according to Philippe StreiffGetty

Michael Schumacher has begun communicating with close family using his eyes, according to claims made by a retired Formula One driver.

Philippe Streiff said he obtained the information after speaking with Schumacher's wife, Corinna, and Professor Gerard Saillant, the surgeon treating him.

"At least he is starting to recognise his family, his wife and children, but he has large memory problems," Streiff told Le Parisien newspaper. The Frenchman is himself wheelchair-bound since a 1989 crash in Brazil left him a quadriplegic.

"He is getting better but everything is relative. It's very difficult. He can't speak.

"Like me, he is in a wheelchair, paralysed. He has memory problems and speech problems."

But Saillant has denied being in contact with Streiff.

"For a year, I have never had any contact, verbal, written or physical with Phillippe Streiff," he said via his spokesman to AFP.

The Formula One champion is now recovering at home after being in hospital for eight months following his devastating skiing accident at the French resort of Meribel in December last year, which left him with life-threatening brain injuries.

When Streiff was asked if the ex-Formula One champion would be able to gain mobility one day, he said: "For now, it is very limited. Just moving from the bed to the wheelchair is already proving difficult for him. The body has to get used to being in a sitting position.

"It took me more than one year. Michael is beginning to work on it."

The German driver had won a record of 91 F1 races and retired from the sport in 2012.