Felipe Massa has vowed to return to Formula One racing. The Brazilian driver, who was in a coma after a horrifying accident during qualifying for last week's Hungarian Grand Prix said: "I know I am lucky to be alive, I don't remember anything of what happened but I will race again." Massa, who flew home to Sao Paulo today in a private jet, has surprised doctors in Hungary with the speed of his improvement since he was hit in the helmet by a loose part from another car and crashed at high speed into a protective tyre barrier. Massa left his Hungarian hospital and boarded his private jet today to return home to Brazil, an AFP photographer witnessed. He was accompanied by his wife Rafaela and his doctor Dino Altman. His jet flew out of the Hungarian capital Budapest and was expected to stop over in Dakar, Senegal before flying on to Sao Paulo. He will go to a Brazilian hospital for check-ups but is not going to be further hospitalised, his father Luiz Antonio Massa said earlier.
Massa was rushed to hospital in Budapest in a critical condition and underwent emergency surgery. He also spoke of his surprise to find himself in hospital, even insisting he would have won the race - which was instead claimed by Lewis Hamilton, the Briton who dramatically beat him to last year's drivers' title. "It was my race, so when I awoke from the coma I couldn't believe it when they told me Lewis had won and Kimi [Raikkonen] was second," he said.
"When I woke up I didn't know why I was in hospital, so I was asking 'why am I here?'. I was pulling all the tubes and Eduardo, my brother, tried to stop me - so we had a fight." Michael Schumacher, the seven-time world drivers' champion who will come out of retirement to replace Massa for the rest of this season, visited his Ferrari teammate in hospital on Saturday, and said he was delighted to see the progress he was making.
"Good that I finally made it to see Felipe, I feel better now," Schumacher wrote on his website. "I am surprised at his extreme positive condition, as the accident was only one week ago. We sat together for around three hours and were chatting with each other. I really feel [relieved] now." Schumacher will make his official return at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain, on August 23, and the 40-year-old German, who has remained as an official adviser to the Ferrari team since his retirement in 2006, has wasted little time in getting behind the wheel again.
With in-season testing banned, Schumacher is not allowed to drive the current Ferrari, but has been practising in a 2007 version of the team's F1 car and test drove it at an Italian track. "I have to say that today I feel muscles I was not even aware any more they exist," Schumacher said. "But then it was clear that you cannot test for a day after such a lot of time without feeling anything, and I am curious to see what will happen in the coming days."
Ferrari have asked for the German to be granted permission for a special one-day practice session in the current car. Dino Altmann, Massa's personal physician, declined to predict when Massa could get back to racing but he dismissed speculation that he had suffered an injury to an eye which could slow his return. "I'm not concerned about the eye, it's OK, it shouldn't be a problem," Altmann said. "He's doing very well in all aspects of his recovery."
* With agencies