x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Massa has surgery after horror crash

Ferrari's Brazilian driver undergoes surgery for damage to his skull and a brain concussion following a 200kph crash.

Marshals remove the Ferrari car driven by Felipe Massa after he crashed during the qualification session of the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit.
Marshals remove the Ferrari car driven by Felipe Massa after he crashed during the qualification session of the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit.

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa underwent surgery in a Budapest hospital for damage to his skull and a brain concussion following a 200kph horror crash during qualifying for today's Hungarian Grand Prix. Ferrari said Massa, 28, had undergone the emergency procedure after being airlifted to the AEK hospital, where he will remain "under observation in intensive care." The Italian team did not say for how long Massa would remain under observation. Less than a week after 18-year old Henry Surtees, the son of former Formula One champion John Surtees, was killed in a "freak" accident during a Formula Three race at Brands Hatch, the world of F1 held its collective breath as Massa went off the Hungaroring. With television pictures showing a piece of track debris - reportedly a section from the rear of fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP car - flip up and hit Massa's helmet, morbid memories of Aryton Senna and that infamous afternoon in San Marino in 1994 resurfaced. Indeed, as the Ferrari continued straight across a curb, over the track and through the gravel area alongside the circuit, Massa - like Senna 15 years previous - sat eerily motionless. However, just as the car hurtled towards a row of protective tyres lining the circuit wall, the winner of 11 career grands prix appeared to regain control. Instincts kicked in and Massa's front brakes seemed to lock agonisingly short of a violent impact. For what seemed like an eternity, the driver sat still.

The front of his Ferrari was shredded. Its front nose open, both front tyres absent. Movement in his arms then confirmed consciousness and no sickening repeat of that fateful race where Senna was killed. Following treatment from track-side medical teams, Massa was airlifted to hospital by helicopter, where doctors confirmed him as "stable." Barrichello initially told media he believed a rear bar or rear spring had fallen off - "something broke" - but made no mention of Massa's crash.

After visiting his countryman in the medical centre, he then told Brazilian TV: "He was very agitated. He had a cut in his head, which could have been from the part of my car that was on the track." Adding: "He was talking, was conscious, but they have to analyse the cut." Both Ferrari's team principal Stefano Domenicali and team spokesperson Luca Colajanni later confirmed Massa was out of the event. The accident caused the final session to be significantly delayed. In the end, Renault's Fernando Alonso grabbed a shock pole as Barrichello finished well down the order in 13th.

Jenson Button, the championship leader, qualified in eighth - a long way off the pace of his Red Bull championship rivals, Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel, second and third, respectively. Massa's Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, qualified seventh. In today's edition of The National, Massa - in one of his last interviews before travelling to Hungary - said not even the birth of his first child, due in November, would stop him racing in Formula One's Abu Dhabi curtain-call. "If he is born at the same time as the race, I won't miss it. Definitely not. It is a big moment in my life, but I am a professional; that's my job," he said.

emegson@thenational.ae