Following a freak accident during this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa is showing signs of recovery after two days of intensive medical care.
Massa, 28, was qualifying on Saturday when he was struck by debris at over 150 mph. A coiled spring, believed to have fallen from a Brawn GP car on an earlier pass, hit the front corner of Massa’s helmet, knocking him unconscious. Unable to control the car, Massa’s Ferrari then plowed through a corner and into a wall of tires.
The majority of Massa’s critical injuries stemmed not from the barrier, but the impact of the spring itself. The 1.5-pound coil ripped through the plexiglass shield of the helmet, tore his eye, and carried enough force to fracture his skull. Massa was airlifted to a hospital in Budapest, but doctors aren’t entirely certain of the extent of his injuries.
“We don’t know if he’ll be able to race again,” said Professor Robert Veres, a surgeon who operated on Massa at the AEK military hospital. “. It’s too early to say about his future as we don’t know the extent of the damage.”
Doctors have placed Massa in a sedative coma “to protect his brain,” and as such, the extent of damage to his cognitive functions is still unknown. Massa has been awoken from the coma several times to communicate with family members, and has reportedly both spoken and moved limbs around during his lucid moments.
In the meantime, F1 officials are cracking down on safety precautions, while Ferrari team leaders contemplate a stand-in for Massa’s. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has repeatedly expressed his compassion for the injured driver, but realizes a replacement driver may be needed.
“Our first priority is Felipe’s recovery,” said di Montezemolo. “Only at that moment, will we make a decision.”
The rumor mill has since been buzzing with speculation that anyone from Fernando Alonso to retired world champion Michael Schumacher may serve as an alternate in Massa’s place.