Stirling Moss: 'I came back too early once – Massa should take his time'

After fears he would never race again, Ferrari now hope the Brazilian can return in just weeks. Recalling his own crash, Stirling Moss tells David Tremayne why drivers should not rush their recoveries

Sir Stirling Moss has some clear advice for Felipe Massa as the young Brazilian fights to get back into the cockpit of his Ferrari following the serious accident that befell him in Hungary on 25 July: "Don't rush, take your time."

Moss, soon to be 80, was the greatest driver never to win the world championship, a king who did not need a crown. But his Formula One career came to an end after he sustained serious head injuries in a heavy accident at Goodwood on Easter Monday in 1962.

Years later Professor Sid Watkins, then the FIA's medical delegate at grand prix races, suggested that Moss should have taken more time before attempting a comeback after that accident. Moss, who recovered so quickly from a broken back in an accident in Belgium in 1960 that he was winning within six weeks, agrees.

At the time everybody wanted him back – and soon – as if his very return could somehow convince them of the indomitable strength of the human spirit. Photographers were even on standby at Goodwood in case he went testing in secret. There was tremendous, if benign, pressure upon him.

"In hindsight, I probably came back two years too early," he concedes. "It was stupid, but I came back because every week the press was saying, 'Are you going to race, are you going to drive?' I, of course, was telling myself, 'Yes, my God I'm going to, I want to'.

"It's the thing about being there at that time. We didn't have people around like the Prof. They didn't exist. When one looks back and one sees the whole picture, it's very easy to say this and that. But at the time we didn't have people like old Watkins. If there had been people like that in the sport, I'm sure that I would have listened to them. But there was nobody to listen to, really, except myself. The doctors said physically I was okay, and I knew that, but the concentration wasn't there. And because the people that I was with were not racing people, it was very much a different situation.

"Because there were all of these articles and so on, I felt that I had to make a decision. There was the pressure on me to make one, really. In the nicest possible way. So I went down to Goodwood the following year and my lap times were comparable with what I could do normally. I was just a tenth or two off. But I could see mentally that I didn't have the concentration to do it with the same sort of latitude for safety that I had. I was going into corners and I had to force myself to concentrate. Right, I'm going down the straight now, that's where you have to lift off... Everything was worked out, whereas normally when I'd race I'd get in the car and just drive. And I automatically would back off here and I automatically would do this to compensate that, and if it didn't work I'd be really surprised. Well, now I had to think of all these things. The automation had gone, and it was now a conscious effort. And so I thought that meant I had to get out."

In Sao Paulo, Massa is keeping fit in the way he did before the accident, but it will take time for any neurological and psychological issues to emerge.

A leading neurological surgeon questioned suggestions that Massa might return as soon as Monza in September, although the Brazilian himself has targeted his home grand prix the following month. "But it's not for me to say, it's for the doctors, and I have to show I can be ready for the grand prix," Massa said.

"Let's see: he has a skull fracture, two, actually, and those usually take six weeks to heal," Moss says. "So if I was his surgeon, I'd make sure that was well healed before letting him back into a car and risking another.

"His scan needs to be fully normalised. The contusions in the left frontal lobe were fairly severe, and these will take a bit of time to be fully resorbed. I would think that will take up to a month or so. Once those two issues are solved – and you see we're already some distance down the road – there is the issue of his neurologic functioning. These kind of lesions can leave subtle damage that needs a real expert to diagnose."

And the type of problems that can occur are, like Stirling says, specifically problems with judgement and reasoning, mood and attention. "These are obviously things you need to know about before putting someone at the helm of a high-performance car. I would think reasonably it will take at least two months for all the above criteria to be met."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable