Confusion over Felipe Massa’s condition following “life threatening” injury claim

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Massa's condition is described as 'serious but stable'
Massa's condition is described as 'serious but stable'

Contradictory reports of Felipe Massa’s condition following his crash in qualifying today are causing a lot of confusion.

I’ve tried to collect some of the reports below in an effort to make sense of them and give as clear a picture as possible of what’s going on:

Rubens Barrichelo via Twitter, 7:10pm on Sunday:

Good news.Felipe had a good night and react ok when he saw his parents.For a better recovery they will keep him asleep

Jonathan Noble via Twitter, 11:24am Sunday:

Hospital officials say Felipe Massa will be kept in an artifical coma for the next 48 hours to help his recovery

Ferrari press release, 10am Sunday:

After undergoing an operation yesterday afternoon, Felipe Massa’s condition remains stable and there were no further complications through the night. He will be given another CT scan today, which will provide more precise information.

Post on, apparently coming via Rob Smedley’s wife Lucy, 9:45am Sunday:

OK folks….just spoken to Lucy on the phone….have to be careful what information I impart as I don’t want to get her in trouble with Ferrari. However….

The situation is not as grave as some news reports are making out, yes it is serious, but all the reports coming back from the hospital are extremely positive. At this stage it is hoped and believed he will make a full recovery.

Felipe was brought out of the induced coma this morning and was very confused, he has now been put back into the induced coma so they can carry out the necessary scans, his family will have just arrived this morning from Brazil and will be with him at the hospital now.

Obviously I have to be careful what I say, but all the signs from Lucy is that things are not as bad as some news reports are leading us to believe, and it is expected Felipe will be ok.

Jonathan Noble via Twitter, 8:43am Sunday:

Doctors are optimistic Massa will make a recovery from his injuries, although firm news will come only after tests

BBC News, 9:32pm:

The Associated Press news agency quoted a hospital spokesman as saying Massa’s condition was “life-threatening”. But Ferrari denied the reports, insisting the operation was “positive”.

Rubens Barrichello on Twitter, 9:01pm:

I just came back from the hospital.Felipe went trough a cirurgy which went very well.Now he is asleep waiting for a new scan tomorrow

James Allen on Twitter, 8:19pm:

Ignore reports on Sky/AP that Massa is in life threatening condition. He’s stable after an op and will be okay. Long recuperation though


Massa – who drives for Ferrari – was airlifted to hospital in Budapest where officials said he is in a “life-threatening but stable” condition after an operation on a skull fracture.

Several people are questioning the accuracy of the Sky story, similar versions of which have appeared on Planet F1, Yahoo, AP and others. Sky seem to have removed it from their F1 home page now.

If you have any further updates on the story please post them below or share them with me via Twitter.

All times BST

Other questions people are asking

Will Ferrari be able to field a third driver in tomorrow’s race? Not as I understand – see this article for more on the rules regarding driver changes at races.

Who will Ferrari use to replace Massa if he cannot race later this season? It looks like Massa will have a long recuperation. They could use either of their third drivers – Luca Badoer or Marc Gene, both of which have F1 experience. But they are not limited to just those drivers – they could use someone else.

What did Massa hit? According to Ross Brawn it was a spring from Barrichello’s car weighing around 800g.

If you have any further updates on the story please post them below or share them with me via Twitter.

143 comments on “Confusion over Felipe Massa’s condition following “life threatening” injury claim”

  1. carol treurnicht
    26th July 2009, 0:13

    Well said Keith
    on the other hand Rubens did report that something was wrong with his car- just unfortunate what happened after that. I don’t think Rubens or Brawn fully realised what had happened until later- and in this case no flag waving whaever the colour would have helped. Felipe was only 4 seconds behind Rubens…no time for anyone to react or warn anybody.Just totally tragic that after so many seasons where nothing happens at all we get two major incidents within one week……which just adds to the hysteria somewhat.

  2. By the way I didnt mean that Ruebens was in any way responsible for a spring falling off his car! Im also a Ruebens fan :-)

    1. carol treurnicht
      26th July 2009, 0:19

      @ Simone
      I can understand that- I am a Fernando fan but could I get excited over his pole after what happened- sorry no I could not.

  3. The sri lankan
    26th July 2009, 0:17

    I pray that Felipe Massa is ok. He is one of my favorite drivers if not the favourite. without him i wouldnt even look at Ferrari’s f1 team

  4. I cannot convey my frustration fully in this forum. Unexplained events happen all the time. We’ve all been there. I hope Massa will be okay especially for his family’s sake. Congrats on his expected baby. But once again, Barrichello + Brawn = Disaster. Poor preparation on Rubens car, again! Qualifying, down the drain. A life, threatened. Do the math.

    1. I understand your frustration, but “unexplained events” followed by hints that the bouncing bit of debris was due to Rubens/Brawn not preparing well enough surely contradicts this….

      (N.B. I don’t think this can be attributed to Brawn/Barichello in any way…)

  5. As a Lewis fan I have never liked massa’s attitude or driving, more as a threat than anything else, the fact that he was one of the guys that could taken the title that i wanted my guy to win. I was annoyed at his comments to algersuari this week as well.

    All this dislike turned to pity the instant I first saw his car buried in the wall revving its pants off! I knew at that point he was unconscious and really feared the worst for him.

    Regardless of which driver we favour, none of the drivers deserve to die. Just looking at the incident if he was taking a line which was 2-3 cm further left, I can’t imagine what would have happened.

    Personally I wish felipe a speed uncomplicated recovery, I hope he’s back driving soon battling with Lewis again.

    At the end of the day, whats watching your favourite driver without watching him have a battle with a good rival?

    1. good call. as much as we all like one driver or another, no one wants to see anyone get hurt.

      hopefully he recovers soon

    2. Massa wasn’t against young drivers, he was actually saying rookies should be allowed to test.

  6. All the best to Felipe and his family. That was one freak accident, haven’t ever seen anything like it.

  7. Not blaming Ross personally. But there were preparation issues when Barri’s car was red and Brawn was the race boss. Sometimes we need a change of enviroment to get a different result. Yes, it could’ve been worse.

  8. What a fate?It happen just a week after Henry was hit by that die which cost his life.& Keith had just wrote about cockpit safety just days ago.Hope he is OK.
    Meanwhile lets keep our finger crossed.

  9. I don’t know if this appropriate to say, but when I saw that car burried in the wall, the first thing I tried see was if the tire teathers had done their job, and from the looks of it, they had. The tires had nothing to do with Massa I know, but I really want to know why they didn’t do their job in the case of Surtees.

    1. speaking of tethers, isn’t there tethers on the helmet to stop the head going too far forward…

      when massa impacted with the tire wall his head went a long way forward…

      did the tethers break from the force of the spring impact? or was it just a heavy impact that gave the impression that his head went far forward?

      1. If you restrict too much head movement, you could end up having a driver with a broken neck. There must always be some head/body movement, the body has to slow down not come to a sudden stop.

      2. No, there are no tethers but there is HANS device that helps prevent head and neck trauma that was one of the most common driver injuries before it was introduced.

        1. That will have been his body moving forwards and his head moving, the hans device, as far as I am aware, stops the neck moving beyond its extremities. This may be why he has bone damage on his forehead as it transfers the force from the neck to the forehead (or the object could have caused this). In which case the hans has definitly done its job. Without hans i’m certain we would have been looking at a mortailty due to a basal skull fracture here.

  10. Luca Colojanni (pr person from Ferrari) went to media center and was very agry to AP about life treating comments.

    He forced AP to fix that comments and they did argue long time about what is “life threating conditition”

    Well..Media and truth is something what do not seem walk hand by hand. Same AP agents wrote week ago that because Kimi has been drunk in race , Ferrari can breake his contract and take Alonso in…

    I really hope that Massa will be fine and can continue his career. will he be like Niki Lauda and Mika Hakkinen or like J.J Lehto…future will tell. Oter thing is that what his wife will say about Massas future driving after this accident.

  11. Florida Mike
    26th July 2009, 2:43

    Sorry in advance for writing a book:

    Moments before the Massa incident, Steve Matchett on Speed TV was recounting a story about when he was an engineer for Ross Brawn and on the importance of weight reduction in F1. They were testing new bodywork and had inadvertantly not used all of the fasteners on the new pieces. When the engineers realized they had failed to install all of the fasteners the manager decided to complete the test to see if the missing pieces were needed, and after an uneventful test, they decided to eliminate the seemingly unneccessary component, and save the weight. Matchett used this as an example of the lengths F1 engineers go to get the most out of the least.

    I don’t want to be even close to implying that what seems to be a mechanical failure of one car was at all related to its engineer’s faulty designs or decisions. I just want to recognize that it doesn’t matter what new rules are put in place, or what safety devices are required; the whole idea of F1, IMHO, is to get the Most from the Least. And just like you can’t make “fool-proof” device (because there are some very smart or lucky fools), I don’t think you can make a perfectly safe F1 car. There will always be a situation that exceeds the limits the engineers “allowed” for.

    I hope there will always be a smart engineer trying to get closer to the limit, and to get more from less. Our road cars today are filled with technology pioneered by such endevours.

    All of our thoughts are with Felipe. I hope to see him on an F1 podium soon.

    1. Thanks for the update Mike…I was on a Yankee Stadium trip today and missed SPEED’s coverage. As a result, I was wondering what the team had to say about the events.

      All the best Felipe :)

  12. I didn’t wake up for quali today, and I’m glad… I hope he gets better real quick.

  13. GOD be with Massa and his family this day.

  14. Im really worried about Massa, i dont think James Allen is a Doctor and either is Ferrari, James Allen even told the drivers in the conference straight after he was ok before he even had any facts he just bases everything on hear say! the statement the hospital realeased states “he has a fracture on the base of the skull” this is not good at all that is a very serious and life threatening injury! it looks like the Hans device failed becuase in the replay his head the streering wheel which is exactly the type of g-force that would cause a base fracture but if the hans device did its job then the head should not jerk so far forward as it did.

    1. Prawn GP,
      thats an interesting observation you made here: his head shouldn’t be able to reach the steering wheel as the brief shots on BBC showed. The springs on the HANS device must have been broken.
      That alone should be an indication of how violent the impact must have been.

      However, the HANS device is built for strong decelerations at impact (that is for inertial forces keeping the head moving forward while the body/car decelerates). In this case the head & helmet received a big acceleration backwards where the HANS device doesn’t help diddle y squat.

      In fact Felipe’s brain was squashed against his forehead (as the head was pushed backwards) and then against his back head as the helmet hit the rear of the cockpit. A double whammy concussion.

      What worries me most is the expected brain swelling in such type of injuries. Hope the next 2-3 days go well.

    2. Prawn GP
      Your being pessimistic, the media are making Felipe’s injuries look worse than they actually are. There not “life threatening”, the media are only saying that to gain public interest. Massa will be racing again soon.

  15. What Marilia said is stated also on La Gazzatta dello Sport
    he is on induced coma, will take 2-3 days to complete scans/test to confirm if there are permanent brain damages to the brain or not.

  16. Bernification
    26th July 2009, 4:31

    I’m sure Felipe will manage this injury with the same strength and grace that he handled last years close cut battle for the title.

    Like a true, honest human being.

    Whatever the speculation, he will do his utmost. I’m sure

    We will see him back soon, racing for a world title.

    Get well soon mate.

    A fan.

  17. I was in New York City all day and got all the updates on my cell phone- thanks to Keith for quality updates all day.

    Surely when an injury of this magnitude occurs, information comes out in all shapes and sizes. It appears that Felipe is at least in stable condition, and while there is still a long road ahead of him, he’s at least won a few battles. My thoughts and prayers to him and his family for a speedy and safe recovery.

  18. this is very scary . our prayers with the wholef1 community are with you felipe.

    scary because the last time a brazilian got really in qualifying, someone died in the race. 15 years ago. i hope this not happen. if i was alonso i would not drive the nuts out of the car, i dont wanna be a senna on the race.

    best wishes massa!

  19. I think the confusion comes from what we Hungarians call serious or life threatening injuries. Here the most serious one is critical (aka. válságos) which means you can only hope recovery, but even doctors cannot predict anything. Life threatening and stable is less dramatic, but serious medical care in needed, with a fairly good chance of recovery if no complications occur. Serious is when you broke an arm or leg. The confusion comes from translations without checking medical conditions in relevance to each other.

    They want to awake Massa today morning, Bernie will be there again as well. In 1-3 days they will be able to say if he has any permanent injuries or brain damage.

  20. Head restrain.
    I was looking at the pictures of Massa still in his car.
    One eye open the other shut.
    The spring hit only few cm above his left eye.
    I asked myself: could he have miss the impact if his head cold move? a last second reaction before impact.
    The head restrains has saved many lives already, but the head of the driver is now a still target for any flying debris.
    Should the Head restrain be complemented with an overhead shield ?? (similar to the one use in powerboats).
    2 similar accidents in a week (one fatal)are one too many already.

    1. At the speed he was going at, it would have hit him before he’d have the chance to make any meaningful movement. If he had suspected it was going to hit him before that, he would have swerved.

      1. sorry, but I disagree; small debris cannot be seen at a reasonable distance to have time to swerve the car, but it is possible to move the head at the last sec.
        look at the clip
        stop it and move the time line to 0:11
        you can see the spring, move the time line back and forth between 9 & 11 and Massa head is moving to the right just before the spring hit him.

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