Following emergency surgery on his fractured skull yesterday, Felipe Massa is due to be brought out of an induced coma to undergo a brain scan today (Sunday) to ascertain how much damage has been caused by his freak accident in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix – as reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton insisted the sport must learn from what has happened and strive to further improve safety standards.
Massa was struck on the front-left side of his helmet by a steel spring that had come off the rear suspension of the Brawn GP of compatriot and friend Rubens Barrichello in the closing stages of Q2, causing the Ferrari star to lose consciousness and head straight on across the turn four grass and into the Hungaroring tyre barriers at an estimated speed of 125mph.
Though it was a hefty impact – one in which the Brazilian hit his head on his steering wheel, albeit mitigated to some extent by his seemingly regaining consciousness sufficiently to be able to apply the brakes and slow his car down to a degree, with black tyre marks across the circuit – it was the initial blow that did the damage, leaving Massa concussed and with damage to his skull in two places.
His condition has since been variously described as 'serious', 'stable', 'satisfactory' and 'life-threatening' as he is looked after in the intensive care unit of the AEK military hospital in nearby Budapest – and further updates on the 28-year-old are expected throughout the course of the day.
“After undergoing an operation yesterday afternoon, Felipe Massa's condition remains stable and there were no further complications through the night,” read a Ferrari statement. “He will be given a CT scan today, which will provide more precise information.”
The top flight's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone paid a 15-minute trip to the hospital at 10:30pm local time, telling international news agency Reuters
that 'the doctors are happy with his condition', whilst a visibly shaken Barrichello had earlier gone to visit Massa at the track's medical centre, and in company with Hamilton underlined that safety must remain at the very top of F1's agenda.
“I wanted to see him myself because I've been in situations like that,” the São Paulista is quoted as having said by The Associated Press
. “We are Brazilians and sometimes we have a family, sometimes we don't, and when we wake up all we want to see is someone we know. I wanted to be there in case there was not anybody from the family there.
“Felipe had a cut on his head, which could have been from the part of my car that was on the track. He was talking, he was moving, he was conscious, but they have to analyse the cut. He was moving his arms and legs. He was very agitated with the fact that he had a cut on his head. With that, they sedated him for him to calm down, and then they moved him to hospital.”
“This is not nice,” Ecclestone is quoted as having said by the Daily Mail
. “I thought we had seen an end to all this sort of thing. It's mad. This is just a few days after one death, and it is very disturbing. Professor Sid Watkins (F1 medical chief) deals with this and I have spoken to him this evening. He is going to get on to it straightaway.”
“I believe things happen for a reason,” added McLaren-Mercedes star Hamilton, echoing Barrichello's earlier remarks [see separate story – click here
], “and for two incidents to happen in such a short period of time, we can't ignore it. I saw the crash. It's very scary. It has to be a big shock for any driver to have that happen, and very unfortunate because rarely do you see it. We've got to make sure we learn from it, and improve if we can.”
The accident happened less than a week on from that which tragically killed Henry Surtees – son of 1964 F1 World Champion and motorcycling legend John Surtees – in a Formula Two outing at Brands Hatch. The 18-year-old was hit on the helmet by a wheel that had flown off the car in front of him after its driver had crashed and bounced back onto the track, in what has been described as a 'freak' occurrence. Surtees sadly died later in hospital.