Hakkinen recovering well from accident

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

Mika Hakkinen, the McLaren-Mercedes driver who crashed at more than 100mph during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, is making a steady recovery from the serious head injuries he suffered on Friday.

A statement issued yesterday by Professor Syd Watkins, of the sport's governing body, the FIA, and Dr Brendon Kearney, chief executive of the Royal Adelaide hospital, said: "There has been further significant improvement in Hakkinen's condition."

The statement said that Hakkinen was likely to be released from the hospital's intensive care unit within 24 hours, but he will need further treatment while he is recovering. He is expected to remain at the hospital for up to two weeks.

There were fears for Hakkinen's life when he crashed after 13 minutes of the first qualifying session. He was unconscious for almost 24 hours, but was sitting up and talking on Saturday afternoon.

Ron Dennis, the McLaren-Mercedes managing director, said the team's spirits had been lifted by news of Hakkinen's recovery. "The best news of the day for all of us is Mika's ever-improving condition," he said.

Dennis confirmed that he believed a tyre failure was the major contributing factor to the accident. He said: "There is absolutely no doubt that the left-hand rear tyre suffered a rapid deflation, as the result of a cut which was almost certainly caused by Mika running over some track debris."

Hakkinen's team-mate, Mark Blundell, finished fourth in the race but said he was more concerned about the Finn's welfare. "The team's thoughts go to the big improvement in Mika's condition, and I am very happy about that," Blundell said.

The Adelaide track is regarded as one of the safest on the Formula One circuit, but officials added extra tyre barriers before the race, which was notable for a series of accidents.