Dec.29 (GMM/Inautonews.com) On the one-year anniversary of his skiing crash, Michael Schumacher’s inner circle has hit back at the latest claims about the seven time world champion.

Former F1 driver Philippe Streiff, who was paralysed in a 1989 crash, told Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday that while the great German is still not able to speak, he is “starting to recognise those close to him”.

As for Schumacher’s future, Streiff added that “long term, he could hope one day to walk with crutches”.

Streiff said he had heard the news from Schumacher’s wife Corinna and the FIA-linked doctor Gerard Saillant.

But speaking to the French-language news agency AFP, Saillant hit back at Streiff’s claims.

“For a year, I have had no verbal, written or physical contact with Philippe Streiff,” he said through a FIA spokesman.

And Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm was quoted by the German newspaper Bild as also rejecting the report based on Streiff’s comments.

“I can only wonder about these statements of Philippe Streiff,” she said. “He certainly has no contact with Professor Saillant or with Corinna.

“Between Mr Streiff and Michael, there has also never been a friendship,” added Kehm.

As for Streiff’s comments suggesting Schumacher, 45, is making progress one year after his skiing accident, Kehm said: “We need a long time.

“It’s going to be a long time and a hard fight,” she told Reuters.

“He is making progress appropriate to the severity of the situation.”