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Massa out of GP but lucky to be alive
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Massa out of GP but lucky to be alive
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Jul 2009   |  3:28 pm GMT  |  55 comments

Felipe Massa will not race tomorrow in the Hungarian Grand Prix after he suffered a heavy accident having been hit in the head by a spring, from Rubens Barrichello’s car.

Mass cut2

Massa was travelling at around 175mph on the run down to Turn 4 when a spring from the Brawn’s rear suspension bounced up and hit him on the helmet, ripping one corner of his visor off and cutting Massa’a eye.

The Brazilian remained conscious but had to be heavily sedated and was sent off for examination at the Budapest central Hospital.

I’ve spoken to someone who has held the spring in question and it is around five inches long, coiled metal and quite heavy. Massa is incredibly lucky to have survived an impact like that with only light injuries.

The incident comes less than a week after Henry Surtees was struck on the head by a wheel and killed at Brands Hatch in a Formula 2 race and the mood in the F1 paddock is quite sombre at the moment.

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55 Comments
  1. Eric says:

    Oh no. :( Is his vision OK?

  2. John says:

    That is scary! But I hope that it doesn’t cause an over-reaction. The idea of F1 cars getting cockpits is nonsense. Hope that Massa is fit for Valencia in four weeks time.

  3. Roberto says:

    Massa is lucky to be alive, a few centimeters to the left and could have been disastrous.

    Although he braked a bit before hitting the walls, it is impressive how the car was merely damaged.

    I hope he can recover soon and come back stregthen and ready to assaut the champiomship on 2010

  4. Alun says:

    WOW – that’s such a graphic image – makes your realise how a small piece of anything can have a huge impact at high speed – I’m quite worried that his left eye might be affected?

  5. ByTor says:

    That picture…crikey! What a freak accident. That must have been like being shot at point blank range. He is indeed lucky and it is a reminder that F1 one still a dangerous sport no matter what the safety improvements over the years. These drivers are brave and committed. That he didn’t suffer more serious injuries from the subsequent collision is a testament to the strength of the modern cars and the safety harness/HANS device etc.

    Best wishes to Felipe and hope he recovers fully soon.

  6. Nick says:

    Seems a bit more to it. He’s apparently undergoing surgery and will miss the race..

    Can they get Schumi to fly down and take his place? MS racing again from the back of the grid! Bet he’d still score a few points!

  7. Rich says:

    Poor Felipe it was terrible bad luck to collect that spring coil full on the helmet. I hope Lady Luck looks favorably on him as they operate on the bone fractures. I not sure how other people feel but I think the photograph is inappropriate given the circumstance and parallels to events last Sunday.

  8. Dan says:

    The latest news are telling us that Felipe is suffering from concussions. This can be life threatening as we learned from the sad story of poor Natasha Richardson’s. Luckily for Felipe he was taken care of very quickly by experts fully aware of such potential outcome so should be OK as they will know what to do. Our thoughts are with Felipe and his family.

  9. BAR4Ever says:

    What questions are being asked about HOW this happened?

    - How is it that such a part broke free from RB’s car?
    - Why was it RB’s car that this happened to?

    Is it so much of a stretch to postulate that Felipe has been an unfortunate casualty in the actions of a disgruntled mechanic?

    1. Sam says:

      Personally I think that’s a ridiculous and highly inappropriate “stretch”. I’m sure there are many questions being asked about “how” and I suspect Ross Brawn and the entire team will be devastated at both the incident and the involvement of one of their cars. But to suggest a mechanic would sabotage Ruben’s car is unfathomable and no doubt an insult to the cameraderie that exists between competitors of the highest standards.

    2. David Turnedge says:

      It was an accident. Reading anything into this other than chance is really not helpful.

  10. Sam says:

    Here’s hoping for a full and speedy recovery – although I fear this injury is more serious than initial reports suggest. A great driver and a very likeable chap who’s done more than enough over the last couple of years to deserve his place on the grid, hopefully fighting for the Championship again next year.

  11. That was an absolutely cringe-worthy incident. I felt hurt just watching the spring hit his head and was immediately afraid that he was gone. I have no idea how in the world he survived the impact of that spring. Just looking at the photo of him, he looks like he had to have sustained heavy head injuries from that hit. His helmet is severly damaged, and his left eye is sealed shut with blood with what looks like a skull crack.

    I’m very happy that he survived, and hopefully he’ll get through this and make a full and speedy recovery. He’s a great driver and an even more beautiful and humble person, and a demonstration that hard work pays off.

  12. Jammin says:

    Wow, that was a pretty serious shunt. You could tell he was woozy right after the impact from the spring cause he didn’t even lift his hands from the steering wheel before going into the wall.
    I hope it’s not too serious. Good thing we have a month off after this weekend. Hopefully he makes it to Valencia.

  13. Jake says:

    What do you know James. Whats going on????

  14. Matt W says:

    Get well soon Felipe. The picture is truly awful and makes you realise how close life and death is in motor racing! Cant wait to see you back in the car mate!

  15. Ross Dixon says:

    Im sure Massa was knocked out during the first Impact. He would have steered the car on track if he had been concious but instead his car went straight across grass. While it looked like he braked as there were marks on the road, I have read that this was due to the speed at which he crossed the high abrasion asphalt.
    That picture of his helmet indicates that he is indeed one very very lucky boy.

  16. Sam says:

    Hi James,

    I just read that Massa suffers skull damage and brain concussion. This is very very worrying and I hope it is not as serious as it sounds. Please update us as soon as possible regarding this matter.

    I feel that Motor sport is experiencing some ill-fortune these days and I hope it ends here.

  17. Jason says:

    What are the possible ramifications for Brawn? Is it possible that the FIA go over Brawn’s suspension tonight and potentially require them to implement safety modifications?

  18. Scott says:

    James,

    The detailed update is of course appreciated. However, I find the image inappropriate. If it must be displayed, please put this under a cut with a warning that it will link to a graphic image.

    Scott

  19. Fuller says:

    From that picture it could well by a zygomatic fracture, (the cheek bone where it goes up around the side of the eye). I had one of these once and now have metal plates but have made a full recovery with no loss of eyesight at all, so fingers crossed he will be ok too. I can’t speak much for the concussion side of things but as he was airlifted to hossie I’m sure they’ll sort it!

  20. Ed says:

    Surely, if there was any bnoe damage to the skull, Felipe racing at Valencia would be too soon.

    However freak this accident was, another big shunt for him could be fatal if the wounds are fully healed. I would expect Felipe to miss a couple races.

    I have no idea how Ferrari would play this mind.

    Whilst being a Jenson Fan first and foremost, the way Felipe handled the defeat in Brazil last year meant he has my respect and support forever.

    My thoughts are with him, and his family during this crucial period.

    On the subject of putting a cockpit on a F1 car, what is the point? Racing is dangerous and everybody knows that when they sign up, that is the risk.

    However hard the two incidents have been last week, Henry Surtees unfortunately won’t be the last to die in a racing car. It is sad, but also life.

    Lets pray hard for Felipe!

  21. Sami says:

    He will be a father in November. Lets hope God is with him in his moment of need.

  22. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Scary, scary, scary. I hope he recovers well, and this doesn’t end a blossoming career. He really has emerged as the leader of the Ferrari team.

    Just don’t try to rush back FM; getting well is the most important thing. We’re all pulling for you.

  23. Jamie Giles says:

    Our Best wishes go out to Felipe and all of his family.

    May he return even stronger and in a championship winning car.

  24. Santhosh LG says:

    Dear James,

    To continue from the post above, I am very concerned about Felipe’s condition being an ardent fan of his. I also hear rumors that he is likely to sit out the rest of the season because of the seriousness of the injury. I hope he gets well soon and any more information about his condition will be greatly appreciated.

    PS: This might sound like an awkward time to mention this, but your post race interviews are tops! Keep it up! Miss your voice on TV!

  25. Joel Heaton says:

    I hope Felipe is okay, that was a pretty nasty accident and another example of how freak accidents can occur at any time in motorsports. I felt dreadful seeing it happen as it brought back horrible memories from last weekend :(

    Here’s to hoping that Felipe makes a good recovery quite quickly.

  26. Yasser Almansour says:

    I was letirally shaking when I first saw his head not moving at all
    it’s weird how your priorities can easily change within second,from wanting a good position for your team driver in the beginning of the race to just hoping he can walk up again.
    After thanking god,we shouldn’t forget the amazing job done by the ppl that made those helmets andcars to ensure the drivers safety
    hope he gets up soon
    imagine how hard it was for his brother

  27. rpaco says:

    Motor racing will always be dangerous, that’s why some of the drivers do it, if there were no danger, they would just push and push until it became dangerous again.

    Massa may well be prevented from taking part the rest of this season, he may even retire if it affects him badly mentally, it was one of those unforeseeable accidents, lets hope he recovers quickly.

    From an engineering point of view, it is almost impossible to FMEA (Failure Mode Effect Analyse) the whole car, however it should be possible to look at all suspension, drivetrain, and aero components to see if there is any way of preventing escape from the vehicle in the event of the various failure modes; However I think it will be almost impossible to retain all broken parts without very radical, expensive and unacceptable, changes to the formula. For instance take the wheel tethers, while a good idea, they often fail, as they did today on Massa’s car; simply because the strain they are subject to exceeds the spec of the tethers. With new materials banned they cannot be made safer. Maybe the exotic materials ban should not apply to safety components.

    With a coil spring you can stick a tether down the centre of it in a loop back to the tub/engine/chassis, but nothing will prevent the broken half of a spring unwinding itself off of the tether, possibly at great speed.

    Remember the days of exploding gearboxes leaving a trail of oil cogs, selector forks and shafts on the track, that never happens now. We often get bits of front wing assy on the track though, it could just as easily have been one of those that Massa ran over and got flicked up into his head area.

    Huge progress has been made in making the cars immensely strong, able to withstand high impact forces and containing the fuel during a crash. (Problem next year) 20 years ago Massa would have been killed no question. But however strong you make the cars, there will always arise an unpredictable string of circumstances that will defeat even the most stringent and comprehensive safety system.

  28. ZR Leigh says:

    I hope that Massa is ok. It makes you realise how vulnerable the drivers are inside the cockpit!
    I wish him a speedy recovery

  29. rpaco says:

    So much for Eddie Jordan’s invisible source!
    (a bang on the chin but he’s ok) Not to be trusted in future.

    BTW Where is Ant Dave today? We had (a very welcome) Johnny Herbert instead on the 5live commentary.

    1. James Allen says:

      He’s racing in the Spa 24 hrs

      1. rpaco says:

        Thanks James
        Good luck to him then, he deserves some success.

  30. Richard Dre says:

    I hope Massa is back on the grid before the end of the season, he won a lot of fans in England last year and that’s hard to do when we’re all cheering on Hamilton. A genuine guy who deserves another shot at the title.

    I agree with other comments that the photo on the homepage should not be there, especially when we do not know for sure Massa’s condition. The closeness of the cut to his eye is terrifying.

    To Yasser Almansour, I don’t think we should thank God before the paramedics, shouldn’t he have been on hand to stop the debris flying into Massa’s path in the first place?

    I hope Massa gets to watch the grand prix from his hospital bed and watch an entertaining grand prix, something the hungaroring rarely provides… but judging by qualifying, tomorrow should be different!

  31. Roberto says:

    I find Ferrari press release very conflicting, they only said the surgery was “positive”, what does that mean?. The doctor said he was in serious but stable condition and is in induced coma, could someone tell us what is realy happening?.

    JA please don’t stop twitting updates.

    Hope God is with him and he makes a full recovery, specially for his wife and baby which is coming in november.

  32. Tim Lamkin says:

    Pray…everyone…he is not out of this yet..

  33. Richard Dre says:

    Prayer has never been scientifically proven to help in any medical situation. I hope he will be fine, hope is all we have. Where was God when Surtees Jr was tragically killed? Why look to the heavens when we need to look at the reality around us.

  34. James,

    In light of how serious the accident is I find that image objectionable and I would like to ask you if you could remove it…

    This last week has been awful and today I had the same horrible emotions as May 1st, 1994. We can call both accidents ‘freaks’ but the fact is there is a serious weak point in driver safety by having the head exposed and something needs to be done about it…

  35. Kevin says:

    Looking at the replay it appears that he turned his head to look in his right hand mirror and was busy turning it back when the spring hit him.

    A very lucky man, get well soon Felipe.

    Will Ferrari have two cars in the race?

  36. Ben Cooper says:

    Everything crossed that FM comes out of this OK, as others have said he won a lot of respect last year with the way he dealt with the having the WDC taken out of his hands.

    Can anybody tell me who the Ferrari spare driver is? And will he be racing tomorrow?

  37. Silas Denyer says:

    It is worth looking back at the course of Richard Hammond’s injuries and treatment for a well-documented example of the path back from a major bang to the head, even without surgical intervention.

  38. Barry Butters says:

    Hope and prey Felipe makes a full and speady recovery from what can only be described as a freak accident. I was travelling at 40 mph behind a tipper when a stone fell from the back of it and it shattered the windscreen, God only knows what the poor guy thought when he saw that thing hurtling towards him at a horrendous pace. Brave is not too much of a word. Good luck for now and your future. Barry Butters, North Wales.

  39. Peter Lage says:

    This is very serious, I trust he will be OK but he’s not out of the woods yet. I believe he maybe out (racing)for an extended period of time.

    Good Luck Felipe……….We’re all thinking about you…..

  40. eric tuanqui says:

    I heard and based on what i’ve seen during qualifying James that the track is very bouncy because of the kerbs, could this be the reason why that part in ruben’s car fell off.

  41. The Limit says:

    Its hard to say someone is ‘lucky’ when you see the injuries to Felipe Massa’s head, but he is very lucky to be alive.
    I would be very surprised if Ferrari run him in a race this season, but they did just that ten years ago with Michael Schumacher so anything is possible.
    Such a bizarre incident, coming so close to Henry Surtees being killed in simular circumstances. Poor old Rubens Barrichello must be feeling it, even though it was not his fault, for it to be someone he knows as well as Massa it must be tough.
    Take 2009 off Felipe and get better, we’ll ride with you in 2010 and see you win the title.

  42. Bob Massey says:

    I’m as shocked as everybody else at this accident and my best wishes go out to Felipe Massa and his family.
    However this incident and the image in this blog only reinforce my opinion that the media should not have access to cockpit images.
    Had these visual feeds been available fifteen years ago then doubtless there would have been pictures available of Ayrton Senna at the moment of his death.

  43. Buttoneer says:

    Does anyone else now agree that Raikkonen should have been black flagged for his loose exhaust at France last year?

    1. Chris says:

      Buttoneer.

      Absolutely. Raikkonen should have been black flagged. I watched that race with disbelief.

      The Stewards normally do an absolutely fantastic job on race weekends, but in this case, their decision to leave the exhaust flapping around, waiting to come off and cause serious damage or injury, was a dangerous joke.

      It needn’t have hit another driver physically – running over it would have likely caused damage and possibly a crash.

  44. Chris says:

    I’m still reeling from the shock at what has happened to Felipe Massa. It was a terrible incident, and all our thoughts are with him and his family right now, and we wish him a speedy and full recovery.

    It is very uncomfortable viewing, but I have yet to see a full and credible description of what happened during his horrible incident. The footage clearly shows the spring hit his helmet just as he returned his head to face forwards after looking in the right mirror. Judging from his quickly weakened grip on the steering wheel and the decelerating engine note, this rendered him almost instantly unconscious. I believe that relaxed legs in a Formula 1 cockpit would leave the feet resting quite firmly on the throttle and the brake pedals (though not 100%) and this seems to be what happened as the footage shows he was both braking (the front wheels were skidding, but not locked) and applying throttle (the engine revs reduce somewhat before impact due to braking, but remain high after impact).

    His lack of consciousness at impact seems to have contributed to the reported basal skull fracture to happen (a very serious injury – poor Felipe was very, very lucky to escape this) as he would not have braced his neck muscles for impact. I’m not sure what part the HANS device played (it is designed to minimise this type of cranial-extensional injury) but surely the FIA will need to look again at the efficacy of this device in the inquiry.

    Finally, the graphic image of the helmet shot above illustrates the sheer force of the spring which collapsed the helmet around Felipe’s left eye socket, and the massive force of impact of the 800g spring was able to fracture the fragile bones in this area.

    I echo the sentiments of a previous poster who stated how much safer the sport is, and we all know that F1 will never be 100% safe, but let’s hope a solution to errant track debris can be found.

    We all hope to see you racing again very soon, Felipe.

    Best regards.

  45. rpaco says:

    Watching the bbc footage frame by frame from Massa’s car again, I see now that the spring was indeed bouncing, whereas at the time it looked like it went under the front left wheel and was thrown upwards.

    I am wondering if the infamous Brawn rear diffuser, played a major part in this, blowing the spring higher in the air.

    If the spring “dropped” from Ruben’s car it would take less than a second to hit the ground, if it merely “fell”; so it must have been propelled either up or down to still be airborne some 4 seconds later.

    I suspect it was ejected with considerable force and after bouncing off the inside of the body and possibly the rear wing it then finally bounced off the track. The timing must indicate that it bounced several times before being released on to the track. OR it was thrown into a high arc, some other spectator videos could verify if this was the case, although the fact that it remained in the same path along the track would lessen the chance of this. (“It’s the time loss factor Scully” as Mulder would say)

    1. Chris says:

      rpaco

      If you look at the airflow of an F1 car – you can see, particularly visible in the wet – that a massive updraft of air is created in its wake. These massive ‘rooster tails’ of air currents would have projected the spring regardless of the novel system of rear diffuser that Brawn currently use.

      Let’s not forget that the ground beneath Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn car was moving at circa 100 miles per hour at the time the spring came off.

      The effect on a spring from the rapid movement of the ground from *any* car travelling at this speed would translate that kinetic energy into the spring (which, after all, is designed for storing and re-translating kinetic energy) with ease.

      I think the Brawn diffusers can be considered to be almost irrelevant to the situation.

      The real question is – how can an object weighing almost 1kg have made its way off the mechanism of the car and out of the back into the path of a following car. Was the failure due to structural loading on a material with inherent flaws, or were the build standards not adhered to when putting this section of the car together for the race?

      1. rpaco says:

        Yes you are quite right in some respects. The maths are interesting, the spring hitting the track at speed receives energy as an impact (force x time) into the spring, effectively partially compressing it, the spring’s own weight then becomes a factor as the heavier the spring the more energy will be imparted, but his will be cancelled out on the release because of the higher inertia of the spring.
        The impact on the track is unlikely to have slowed the movement of the spring along the track by very much since the friction of such an impact would be applied for a fraction of a second. True it is not an aerodynamic shape and would be slowed by the air resistance, but this same factor would increase the influence of the updraught.
        Whilst one cannot argue that there is a huge updraught behind the car, the double diffuser greatly increases the updraught in the centre immediately behind the engine/gearbox assy. The Rear wing creates a negative pressure behind the car which the flow from the rear diffuser fills, hopefully far enough behind the car not to affect the rear wing.
        Having not been privy to the wind tunnel data I could of course be talking total bollocks.

        “The real question is – how can an object weighing almost 1kg have made its way off the mechanism of the car and out of the back into the path of a following car.” Here the mass of the object is irrelevant, if it breaks, it either falls off or is retained by being secured at the other unbroken end. The spring end cones normally retain the spring by an interference fit when at rest. But under compression the spring tends to unwind and lessen it’s grip on the end cones,

        In the brawn design if either crank pivot had broken this would have freed the spring at that end, the continuing movement of the crank still attached, would shake it violently until it fell off.

        You can only test a crank pin’s breaking point by breaking it, ok you can xray and ultrasound it, but I doubt that is done to turned parts I would guess it is reserved for cast parts only.

        BUT as I said in another thread you can’t FMEA the whole car to an infinite level; or you would end up with armour plated boxes with just the wheels sticking out, totally enclosed cockpits bulletproof runflat tyres and airbags, lots of airbags. On the slightest impapct the whole car turns into a bouncy castle.

        It was a fluke, we must not act like a local council health and safety officer eager to prevent themselves being sued for all known hazards to anybody even though there is no risk record . Or we will end up not only with all our local fêtes and carnivals banned but with all motor racing banned as well in this our free country.

      2. Chris says:

        rPaco.

        I agree with your comments. I didn’t mean to come across like a local council… perhaps a senate committe meeting? ;-)

        I think we are all agreed that racing under a litigious climate, such as is present in Italy would be unworkable. Hopefully the investigation into the accident will shore up the safety features to an even greater extent.

        A reduction as much as humanly possible of these horrible events is all we are after.

  46. rpaco says:

    Yes, agree, we do not want another McLaren type persecution, oops prosecution! Like after Senna’s accident, which dragged on and on in the courts in Italy.

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