Hakkinen flies home

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

THE FINNISH racing driver Mika Hakkinen, who was critically hurt in a crash at last month's Australian Grand Prix, was discharged from hospital yesterday and headed home to Monaco.

Hakkinen left the Royal Adelaide Hospital with two doctors who will travel with him to Monaco. "He is steadily improving," the hospital spokesman David Walsh said. "He still has some rehabilitation to go, but the hospital staff are extremely happy with his progress."

Hakkinen left Adelaide airport with his girlfriend Erja Honkanen and his manager on a jet with special medical equipment.

Earlier, Hakkinen revealed that he had set his sights on returning for the opening round of the 1996 Formula One season next March. In his first interview since the accident, Hakkinen said he was still committed to racing, but feared aggravating his serious concussion. "The crash hasn't changed my mind about racing," he said, "but at the moment I'm scared: I'm scared of what might happen if I slip and bang my head again," said the McLaren driver.

"The next one to one and a half months is the critical time and the doctors tell me I shouldn't hit my head again. It is still sore and if I do too much sport my head aches. I'm very lucky to be in the situation I'm in at the moment. At least I can walk and do things normally and the doctors say I will make a full recovery."

Hakkinen crashed into a wall at 150mph during qualifying on Adelaide's street circuit before the final race of the season. He may make his return to racing in Melbourne, where the first grand prix of next season will be held. Assuming he is fit to drive, Hakkinen will assume equal status at McLaren with his new team-mate, David Coulthard.