Zanardi, 53, who had both legs amputated after a car accident nearly 20 years ago, lost control of his motorcycle in his hand as he competed in the ‘Obiettivo tricolore’ relay in Tuscany, Italy on Friday.
According to several reports, he crossed the white line on the trail of the oncoming trail, which failed to avoid him.
After the accident, the Italian was transferred to Santa Maria alle Scott Hospital in Siena, where he underwent three hours of emergency neurological surgery due to a head injury to his face.
A statement released by the hospital says Zanardi is in a “stable” condition in intensive care after surgery.
“It is incubated and supported by artificial ventilation, while the neurological picture remains serious,” the text reads.
Zanardi was caught in the headlines of all the major Italian sports newspapers as the news spread the seriousness of his accident.
“No Alex, no!” said Corrierre dello Sport, while Italian Prime Minister Giusseppe Conte wrote on Twitter: “Come on Alex # Zanardi, don’t give up. The whole of Italy is fighting you.”
Zanardi raced for Jordan, Minardi and Lotus in F1 before successfully transitioning to CART racing in the US where he was champion in the 1997 and 1998 series.
He returned to F1 with Williams one season in 1999 before returning to the CART series.
It was in this formula that he suffered his infamous 320kmh collision at the Lausitzring in Germany in September 2001, escaped life but lost both legs.
In an incredible display of determination and spirit, Zanardi adapted to his prosthetic legs and returned to compete in the 2003 European Touring Car Championship, driving a BMW.
But precisely because of his feats on the hand bike, the man from Bologna became the most famous to the world audience, winning more medals at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics and world championships.
He was in training for this year’s Tokyo Paralympics, hoping to add his impressive sum of gold medals until it is postponed.
Zanardi also competed in strenuous Ironman triathlon races, setting a new world for the best Paralympic athlete at the race in Italy last September, as well as in continuing races of specially tailored BMWs in various endurance motorcycle editions.
Messages of support flooded the world of sports, and former F1 world champion and Indy Car legend Mario Andretti wrote: “I am so worried and scared about Alex Zanardi that I hold my breath. I’m a fan of his. his friend.
“Please do what I do and pray, pray for this wonderful man,” he tweeted.
“Alex is one of the truly inspiring people and as we all know, a fighter through and beyond. Stay strong and Forza Alex,” his former Williams team posted on Twitter.
“Fight as you know, Alex. You are a very great man, courage,” tweeted in Italian Ferrari star Charles Leclerc.