As he prepared to fly home to Brazil from Hungary yesterday, Ferrari driver Felipe Massa thanked God and said that his primary aim was to get back into a racing car as soon as possible following the accident in qualifying for the recent Hungarian Grand Prix that left him with potentially life-threatening head injuries.
"I'm feeling much better now and I want to recover as soon as possible to get back behind the wheel of a Ferrari," Massa said as he gave his first interview since the accident.
"I want to thank God. Then I want to thank the doctors at the race track and at Budapest's AEK hospital, who have done a lot for me, and Dino Altmann [his personal doctor and head of the Brazilian Grand Prix's medical service], who came with my family from Brazil and who was extraordinary over the last days.
"But I also want to thank everybody who prayed and who wrote to me via my own and Ferrari's website, hoping that everything went well. So many people wrote to me, also many who aren't interested in Formula One, but had heard about what happened to me: thank you so much and I want to tell them that I'm praying also for them. I would have done the same if an accident had happened to another driver."
Massa, indeed, had sent a message of condolence to the former Ferrari driver John Surtees at the beginning of the week of his accident, following the death of his son Henry in a Formula Two accident at Brands Hatch.
In a similar accident the 28-year-old from Sao Paolo was hit on the left side of the head by a spring from fellow countryman Rubens Barrichello's Brawn, which was running four seconds ahead in the closing minutes of the second qualifying session on the Saturday. Stunned, Massa was unable to make a corner and crashed into a tyre wall.
His condition was listed initially as critical but stable in intensive care, and he lay in induced coma until doctors awakened him for the first time the following Monday. His injuries included heavy edema and two skull fractures, one on the left optical lobe and the other a basal injury that could have proved fatal but for a pad of rubber that had been inserted between the back of his helmet and the head and neck support device that is mandatory in major racing series.
Only nine days later, as the speed of his recovery continued to amaze doctors, Massa was able to walk, talk and function as normal as he prepared to fly home to continue his recovery. "They told me that I lost consciousness at the moment of the spring's impact on my helmet and I ran into the barriers," he said, "then I woke up in hospital two days later. I don't remember anything and that's why what the doctors did had to be explained to me. When I saw Rob [Smedley, his race engineer and close friend], he asked me if I remembered Rubens, but the last thing I remembered was when I was behind him at the end of my fast lap in Q2, and then it's blank."
He also gave his views about the proposal to have his former team-mate Michael Schumacher stand in for him in the next race in Valencia. "Michael doesn't need my advice," he said. "It was him who gave me many tips during my career when we were racing together. He knows how to win, he knows how to drive and he's great: it was the best choice handing over the car to such a fantastic person and I'm sure that everybody will be happy to see him back on the track again."
While the sport's governing body, the FIA, remains ambivalent about Schumacher bypassing testing restrictions by driving a customer's 2007 Ferrari at Mugello last week, in preparation for a possible comeback in the European Grand Prix in Valencia later this month, Mercedes-Benz sporting chief Norbert Haug said that rival teams would not be averse to him testing the latest Ferrari.
"Whatever we can do to support him we will do," Haug told Autosport. "I just think it is fair. His team-mate has thousands of kilometres in this car, and he has nothing. As we are fair players, why should he not get some testing?"
The plan has met a roadblock in the form of the Williams team, however, who argue that it contravenes regulations. Team principal Sir Frank Williams said: "While we welcome Michael Schumacher back to Formula One, the fact is that any form of in-season circuit testing is strictly prohibited; a regulation clearly laid out by the FIA and adhered to by all of the teams."
*Nelson Piquet fired a damning parting shot at Flavio Briatore after yesterday being released from his contract with Renault. After 28 grands prix, and notably 10 this season without scoring a point, Piquet unsurprisingly finds himself out of F1. Yet the Brazilian has chosen to hit out at Renault team principal Briatore, describing him as his "executioner".
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