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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent