Saturday, July 25, 2009

Felipe Massa in Hospital after "Groundhoy Day" accident

Have you ever had one of those moments when something you’ve only just heard about suddenly comes up in a random conversation?

Maybe it’s just me.

But the same thing was only just avoided in the world of motorsport this weekend.

Six days after we lost F2 driver Henry Surtees after he was struck on the head by a loose wheel from a car that had hit the barriers ahead of him, we seem to have frighteningly close to a Groundhog Day like follow up in Formula 1.

In the final minutes of the second part of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix TV pictures cut away from showing the normal range of angles following drivers through the final corners, and over the finish line, to show a Ferrari embedded in a tyre wall, in an state similar to Heikki Kovalienen’s crash at Barcelona last year.

As marshalls poured over and round the wall to attend to the car, it became apparent that all was not well. One marshall signalled frantically for the medical car as it lapped the track at the end of the session.

Massa wasn’t out of the car.

One ambulance pulled up, then another. TV cameras focused in the normally unimportant scene of a track doctor walking down the pit lane.

No replays were being shown, everything was speculation. Just as motorsport was getting back to normal, fans were thinking the worse again.

Then, facts began to emerge. Massa had been struck on the head by a piece of debris.

Oh no, not again, we can’t do this again.

Track workers scoured the track walking in search lines as if searching for a murder weapon in a field.

Mass was out of the car, the pictures showed him moving. Rubens Barrichello, Massa’s countryman had spoken to him.

The fears abated.

However, Massa is possibly the luckiest man on the planet right now.

Disagree? Take a glance at the top picture on this Finnish website - , which despite my lack of Finnish language skills, at this point may be taken as genuine,

As you can see by the soft tissue (sorry, getting medical) damage the relatively thin visor appears to have afforded very little protection from the suspension spring that has been revealed as the culprit by TV replays.

If that spring had hit him in the centre of that visor, rather than a glancing blow to the side of the helmet, then. Well, I would be writing a totally different article right now.

By latest update, some three-and-a-half-hours after the event, while the official F1 website reports Massa as “safe” there are still some rather worrying words being used in updates. He remains in intensive care in a Budapest hospital, where he will be kept in for observation.

It is expected he will need surgery on the injury, which includes bone damage to the brain, and a serious concussion.

Thus he will not take the green flag tomorrow, while the rest of the his season is unclear, especially with F1 taking a month break before the next round.


  1. scariest thing I've seen in F1 in a good while, I was frozen in shock at how still he was in the cockpit and didn't let out a breath until they said he waved when he was taken away by ambulance.

  2. jbroomy and tez, you guys seem to be more knowledgable about F1 and open wheelers. Do you think this might lead to some talk of full cockpits (ie jet fighters) or something of that nature. People in Nascar seem to jump on the safety bandwagon real quick ala the Dega incident, I wonder if F1 may react that way as well.

  3. The driver is a open target from shoulders up from anything hitting them. It is crazy that they still are open to this. I just got done watching the Jaugure race at Brands hatch and even some of them didn't even have a roll bar, and others just the one behind there heads type and granted they are not going at a high rate of speed as NASCAR & F1 etc but enought to to roll the car.

    Now that is just crazy.

  4. Common sense would seem to dictate that a full cockpit is needed in F1. I hope F1 has full cockpits real soon vis a vis the Massa incident.

  5. here's my thought about it; the press will make a huge deal over it but, in reality, it was a freak incident....what are the odds that a spring would bounce like that? I don't see a whole lot changing.

  6. I don't mean to sound callous or anything but nothing was done over 'dega, nothing was done about kangaroos hitting cars at Bathurst...yes those are tin top cars but there is no such thing as a safe form of motorsport and there never will be.

  7. The difference it that NASCAR tends to make knee-jerk reactions when it changes the rules, including about safety.

    As Tez said both today's and last week Surtees crash are freak accidents. There is nothing now that makes a flying piece of debris hitting a driver more likely now than it was two, five, ten or even twenty years ago.

    There will be a few weeks, probably until the next F1 race, of the media coming up with ways to improve safety, but then nothing like this will happen for the rest of the year and it will be forgotten.

    As for closed cockpits - they present more problems than they solve. Will they slow down a driver's exit from a burning car?

    With the curvature that would be required to fit over a current F1 design a wiper would be near impossible to design and how thick would the material they were made from have to be to provide the kind of protection everyone seems to be clamering for.

  8. correction to my 1:29pm post; I don't think much will change *this* season....I wish you could edit messages, lol

  9. tez, i don't disagree with that statement. I am pretty sure drivers in any form of motorsports know the risk, everytime they strap in. Thats part of why we (or atleast I) enjoy motorsports. These guys, and gals know the risk yet still go out there every weekend.

  10. oh yes, it takes a certain type of person....aka; insane and/or missing some other key parts of the brain, LOL! want to do that every other weekend, stork ;)

  11. Wow - scary stuff but agree with you guys it seems to be a pretty freak accident when you take into account how many races go by with crap falling off the cars and not hitting the drivers with more frequency.

    Still a spring traveling at that speed hitting him in the head will definitely give him the injuries you describe broomy. Will likely be under intensive care observation for swelling in his brain after they remove the bone that was broken. Still good prognosis for injuries such as this.

    Thoughts are with him and his family!

  12. I just read an update and turns out he also broke bones in the back of his that potentially could be much more dangerous.

    Yikes! More thoughts and prayers heading his way.

  13. For those interested, there is a follow up post, about the problems of Closed Canopies, on my personal blog.

  14. It looks as though Massa will be okay, but most likely his season is done. From what I've read it sounds like the injury to his left eye could threaten his racing career ... but still too early to know the extent of the damage to his vision.

    F1 will remain open cockpits, there's just too many issues with a closed cockpit. Besides (as others have mentioned) this really was a freakish accident.

    I have to wonder if the incident made the FIA/stewards overreact against Renault? A race ban for a lose wheel nut? Wow, that seems awfully harsh.