Lewis Hamilton’s splendid and long-overdue first victory of 2009 for the McLaren team at Budapest on Sunday was well received by the F1 community, but it understandably took second place to the reassuring news this morning that Felipe Massa seems to be making the first tentative steps towards a recovery after suffering a fractured skull in that bizarre accident during Saturday’s qualifying session.
Massa is being treated by military hospital doctors and a spokesman for the Hungarian Defence Ministry said today that he can now “communicate actively” and is able to move his hands and legs.
Istvan Bocskai told Hungarian television that Massa, whose wife is expecting their first child, spent the night calmly and an ultrasound examination carried out in the past hours was "reassuring".
"He's woken up [from sedation] more and more often now and he's able to communicate actively, that is, he reacts when he's talked to. We are optimistic, in our hope a slow recovery is beginning."
Meanwhile the sport is bracing itself for a intense period of self-analysis at the end of a truly awful week which started with the tragic death of Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch the weekend before last.
“Of course, it is a terrible thing when something happens like this, and I want to get Sid Watkins [the respected neuro-surgeon who was formerly the FIA’s safety and medical delegate] to look at how Felipe was injured and see what can be done,” said Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 commercial rights holder.
“We need to look at helmet technology, what can be improved in what drivers wear and study the visors. We might be able to learn from other sports. Look at ice hockey, where the goalies have to be able to see clearly but still have a visor that is strong enough to withstand the impact of a puck going like a bullet.’
Wise words indeed. But Bernie is also shrewd enough to know that motor racing can be a cruelly unpredictable sport which can bite its participants when they are least expecting it and in the cruellest ways.
Just think what might have happened if the wheel that flew off Fernando Alonso’s Renault had ended up in a packed grandstand. It simply doesn’t bear thinking about.