F1 » 9 September 2009
Massa: I was one millimetre from blindness
Injured Ferrari star Felipe Massa has revealed that the blow he received in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix back in July was a mere millimetre away from leaving him blinded – as doctors claim the Brazilian will return to Formula 1 'even stronger than before'.
After undergoing successful cosmetic surgery to his left eye socket earlier this week, Massa is continuing to recover at home in São Paulo as he awaits another operation to have a titanium infused plate implanted into his head. He contends that it is '100 per cent sure' that he will return to the grid at the start of next season – even if he admits that it would be 'a dream' to be able to rejoin the fray for the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale at the beginning of November, two weeks on from his home outing at Interlagos which he hopes to attend as a spectator.
Acknowledging that he was unlucky in the extreme to have been the victim of such a freak yet horrific accident – whilst travelling at around 200mph, he was struck on the head by an 800g, metal suspension spring that had flown off the rear of the Brawn GP of compatriot Rubens Barrichello during Q2 at the Hungaroring, piercing his helmet and leaving him with eye damage and a fractured skull that required emergency surgery – Massa has since confirmed that he was indisputably just as lucky the outcome was not substantially more serious still.
“You need to think about luck in different ways,” the 28-year-old told British newspaper The Guardian. “Everything in life has significance, and when something bad happens it's because you need to learn and grow. I think my accident happened for a reason, even if I don't know what that reason was.
“My life has been difficult; it hasn't been easy to get to where I am in my professional career now. Many times, in different categories, I knew that if I didn't win I wouldn't be able to get to the next race for a lack of funding. That helped me to become stronger.
“I was actually very unlucky with the spring in my face, but I was very lucky as well. Every doctor said the same – if the spring had gone one millimetre to the right, I would have lost my sight. One millimetre to the left and who knows? I could have been brain damaged. I was very lucky, and this is more important because it is my life.
“Actually, I am okay. The only problem is I need surgery to close a bone in my head that they took away because it was completely damaged. A normal guy can live like this without any problem, but for a driver, if you have an accident and you have this problem, the recovery is more difficult. I'm going to Europe to use the simulator and drive some go-karts, and then I will know very well if I'm 100 per cent.”
One thing that clearly is '100 per cent' is Massa's determination and commitment to return to active competition, and despite a similar blow to the head from a flying wheel that tragically killed rising Formula Two star Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch earlier in the same month, he is adamant that he has never had any doubts in his mind about coming back – even if he does acknowledge the necessity to continually focus upon improving safety in what has always been and will likely always be a very dangerous sport.
“We need to look for improvements,” the São Paulista stressed. “I'm not saying we need to cover [the cockpit] completely, but maybe there are some other things we can do to the car to stop a wheel from hitting your head. When I come back this is something I want to discuss with (F1 race director) Charlie Whiting, the FIA and the drivers – because we all need to work together.
Tagged as: Ferrari , Brawn GP , Felipe Massa , Rubens Barrichello , accident , injury , Adelaide , Brands Hatch , Hungarian Grand Prix , Hungaroring , Henry Surtees , Interlagos , skull , Mika Hakkinen , Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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