Felipe Massa crashes after being struck by debris during qualifying

2009 Hungarian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa crashed heavily during the second part of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix after apparently being struck by a piece of debris.

The Ferrari driver went straight on at turn four of the Hungaroring. Replays suggested his crash helmet was hit by a piece of debris before he lost control.

For the latest on Massa’s condition see here: Confusion over Felipe Massa?s condition following reports of ??life threatening?? injury

The accident comes just six days after Formula Two racer Henry Surtees was killed after his helmet was struck by a stray tyre.

The start of the final part of qualifying was delayed by 20 minutes following the crash and teams of marshals sent around the circuit looking for further debris. Brawn confirmed that Rubens Barrichello’s car had lost parts from its rear suspension. Barrichello went to visit his countryman at the circuit medical centre.

Massa has been taken to hospital but his injuries are not though to be serious. He is, however, not expected to take part in the race. Ferrari will not be allowed to use a replacement driver unless the stewards agree they may do so under force majeure. Article 19.1 of the sporting regulations states:

During a season each team will be permitted to use four drivers. Changes may be made at any time before the start of the qualifying practice session provided any change proposed after 16.00 on the day of scrutineering receives the consent of the stewards.

Additional changes for reasons of force majeure will be considered separately.

Update: Massa’s injuries have been confirmed as bone damage to his skull and concussion. He will require an operation and is in intensive care. I hope he makes a rapid and full recovery.

Update 2: Massa is out of surgery and his condition is improving. A report on AP describing his condition as “life-threatening” is apparently inaccurate. BBC are reporting his condition is serious but stable. Rubens Barrichello wrote on Twitter: “Back from hospital. Felipe went through a surgery which went very well. Now he is asleep waiting for a new scan tomorrow.”

Read more: Closed cockpits aren?t a perfect solution – but they may be an improvement

Massa appears to have been struck by a piece of debris during qualifying
Massa appears to have been struck by a piece of debris during qualifying

181 comments on “Felipe Massa crashes after being struck by debris during qualifying”

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  1. Kenneth Sharp
    25th July 2009, 14:14

    2 accidents in a week with drivers getting hit on the head by debris!!!!

    Bizarre coincidence? My mother always used to say things came in threes :-(

      1. “Massa in life-threatening condition after surgery”


        1. From what I’ve seen on Twitter that report has been discredited.

          1. That’s the same report.

          2. Indeed Keith, however I don’t see any reason to discredit it just yet, these are hospital officials words apparently.

  2. Good luck Felipe. Such a freak accident… It’s hard to see where the debris came from, and the impact looked pretty heavy. It’s a testament to the design of the chassis that the nose of the Ferrari was left intact.

    1. Thank God we still live in the Era where the scuderias can spend a lot of cash. How would it be in case we had the 45 million limit?

      1. Sush Meerkat
        25th July 2009, 14:33

        Don’t moan about budget cuts Frere Noel when a dude gets hurt, let the Daily Mail do that sort of death mongering.

        Under no circumstances are they gonna put the safety of their drivers under fire in the budget cuts.

      2. Sush Meerkat
        25th July 2009, 14:35

        Don’t moan about budget cuts Frere Noel when a dude gets hurt, let the Daily Mail do that sort of death mongering.

        Under no circumstances are they gonna put the safety of their drivers under fire in the budget cuts.

        Thank God we still live in the Era where the scuderias can spend a lot of cash. How would it be in case we had the 45 million limit?

        Also the piece of debris is from a Brawn, not a Ferrari.

      3. Presumably it’d be no different – the same crash tests would probably apply so cars would have to be just as strong regardless of the budget limit.

        1. Sush Meerkat –

          I think you have missed the point of his post to be honest. I got them impression he is refering to the final crash impart with the barriers. Not to the source of the debris.

          To personally, driver safety is something that I have wondered about in all of this budget cap talk. Maybe now isn’t the right time to talk about it, but it’s certainly something that has room for discussion.

          Personally though, I imagine the same consideration for driver safety as now, will be employed under budget caps. After the last 7 days, probably more infact. :)

          1. Sush Meerkat
            25th July 2009, 19:43

            I think you have missed the point of his post to be honest. I got them impression he is refering to the final crash impart with the barriers. Not to the source of the debris

            I know, I was being facetious in response to his comment, using the accident Massa has had to bolster another argument, apologies Cameron.

            While the teams spend less, the FIA will still make them have cockpits that can withstand a huge amount of trauma.

  3. I’m not trying to make fun of the situation but the first thought that came into my head is that its an empty tin of baked beans.

  4. A close shave for the Brazilian!

  5. The Debris came from Barrichello’s Brawn Car.
    Massa is OK.

    Seriously F1 needs to revisit the base design of the cockpit. F1 should have covered tyres and a closed cockpit….I know it may sound too drastic but at least we may see some nice cars. A possibility when the cars look already so bad.

    1. And the the cockpit smashes, traps drivers, wheel covers fly off…. where does it stop?

    2. They’d just be LMP1 cars then, we already have those.

      1. NO they will not look like LMP1 cars. F1 cars have gone through many changes in the past…and they should go through changes now.

        No sport is worth any loss of life.

  6. It was Henry Surtees’ accident all over again in my head. I just hope the outcome this time is different. Hang on Felipe.

  7. People looking for closed cockpits really need to get a grip. Next we’ll have the cars driven by remote control because its too dangerous to be in the car at all.

    1. I can’t imagine how anyone can be so callous as to look at this accident and say people who ask if driver protection can be improved “need to get a grip”. This is people’s lives we’re talking about.

      1. Come on Keith, of course driver safety is important – but clearly not the most important factor. Otherwise they could simply reduce speeds to non lethal levels and everyone would be fine.

        If F1 drivers are to be completely encased in a protective bubble then why not MotoGP riders or equestrian competitors?

        Ever watched a Red Bull air race? Those pilots are completely enclosed but it’s just a matter of time before that 1st fatality.

        The most common risks to F1 drivers have been dealt with very well (thank you Mr Mosley). Serious injury from fire or high speed impact/deceleration has been virtually eliminated.

        This was a freak accident like we’ve never really seen before. Henry Surtees tragic accident was the result of another accident. This one appears to be the result of a random mechanical failure on another car. Both incidents completely different in nature.

        Let’s not have a freak response?

        1. I didn’t say it was the most important factor and it wasn’t a “freak response”. As I wrote earlier this week the debate over open cockpits is largely about trading off safety in one area against another I don’t believe there’s a perfect solution:


          Nor was it ‘a freak accident like we’ve never seen before’ – we’ve seen drivers’ helmets and cars hit by debris, stones, birds, tyres and others. If drivers are now at more danger from that sort of thing than being trapped in a car (the potential downside of enclosed cockpits) then they should look into it.

          1. Of course they’re more at risk of being hit by debris now than being stuck in the car, as they’re not currently covered. These ARE incidents that are coincidental, quite unlikely but also part of motorsport. You cannot remove all risk, the drivers sign up to the amount of risk and get paid handsomely for it. If the risks were so huge then surely it is for them to decide whether or not to drive. Lets not all blindly walk down the road of knee-jerk reactions to two similar incidents in a short time. When two planes crash within weeks of each other no-one bangs on about how maybe we should stop flying, do they?

            I have to agree, “get a grip” is the most appropriate response.

          2. It just now came to me, Keith, based on your remark:

            we’ve seen drivers’ helmets and cars hit by debris, stones, birds, tyres and others. If drivers are now at more danger from that sort of thing

            You are quite right, in recent memory, drivers have had all manner of things joining them in the cockpit. I know several drivers in other open wheel series that have complained of this.Though nothing like Surtees or Massa, of course. And thankfully.

            In the old days, drivers were much more exposed, and in truth I believe the incident of objects striking the helmet was lower. Can’t recall Stirling Moss or Fangio ever being hit by anything really substantial, and they were FAR more exposed than today’s drivers.

            After Senna’s death, over the years we have seen the cockpit get ever deeper, covering more of the driver’s body, and , was it last year? – recently, the bolsters to the side were raised, for better protection of the side of the helmet.

            I submit to you, the very precautions undertaken to protect the divers are actually contributing to a rise in incident of debris striking drivers.

            Aerodynamics. There is a “suck zone”, the area of lower pressure created just near a car’s body, as the air flows over it. And airflow, by body design, is directed in certain ways by the shape of the body. Currently, the suck zone is about eye-level to the driver. Any debris kicked up high enough to reach the upper side of the body is going to follow the ambient airflow right into the cockpit, and consequently, the driver’s face/head.

            If you could see the way the smoke flows over a car in a wind tunnel, you’d know immediately what I’m getting at. Perhaps you do know.

            So, a solution. Wouldn’t really take anything terribly strong, just something to screw up the airflow just before reaching the driver. Rather the way a rear diffuser makes dirty air to the following car. Disrupt the smooth airflow, you lose the suck zone in that small area, and debris and trash don’t fly into the drivers face. Or, a higher windscreen. Might even work better, takes the airflow above the driver’s head.

            Now, of course, this won’t stop heavy things like tires, or may not have had any effect on that spring that got Massa, but it certainly would cut out the smaller stuff.

            AS to the unfortunate incidents concerning Felipe and young Surtees, I’m of the opinion that they could really be called “freak” accidents, based on the circumstances. Something like it may not happen again for 20 years. Or, hopefully, never.

        2. What you think F1 should after this is not really relevant, now is it? Leave it to the drivers to decide what they think is needed. If you don’t like F1 after that, then go look at something else. You won’t be missed. But telling people to get a grip and not freak out when drivers are killed or hurt is just disgusting.

      2. I got a fright when I saw that.

        He’s really quite lucky to get away with that one. That spring hit him fairly hard.

        He’s very lucky to be concious enough to press the brake pedal.

        I had a bad feeling when I saw Massa in the cockpit and he wasn’t moving at all.

        Thank god he’ll be ok though.

        Hopefully he’ll be ok to race tomorrow.

      3. Pedro Carvalho
        25th July 2009, 15:09

        I agree with the poster, sorry Keith. This is the typical knee-jerk reaction that should be avoided when dealing with serious stuff. You could take about 50 things to change in F1 in order to improve safety, that doesn’t mean they are all great ideas. Closed cockpits would create just as much mess as open ones, there’s no denying it regardless on how you try to look at it, and would strongly reduce show.

        And please don’t tell me that safety comes before show, because everyone knows that ain’t true, you don’t want to see cars running at 30km/h, or anything of the sort.
        It’s a compromise between safety and show.

        Besides, even with closed-cockpit, I’m relatively sure that the spring(?) that hit Massa would have reached his helmet in pretty much the same way…

        You are in favour of closed cockpits, I respect that. But that doesn’t mean it’s a fact that closed cockpits are safer.

        My 2 cents.

        1. You are in favour of closed cockpits, I respect that.

          I didn’t say that – I said they are worth considering:

          “Closed cockpits aren’t a perfect solution but they may be an improvement”

          Whether or not they should be used depends on how they could be implemented technically.

          And please don’t tell me that safety comes before show

          I didn’t say that either.

          I fear that in a desire not to be seen as giving a “knee-jerk” response – which is understandable – some people are in danger of going to the other extreme and failing to notice that times have changed and drivers are now at greater risk from being hit by debris than being trapped in their cars.

          1. Pedro Carvalho
            25th July 2009, 15:35

            Ok, that was a good reply, from what I have read in your topic about the cockpits, I got the clear idea you were in favor of the closed ones.

            And I know times may be changing, because nowadays it is relatively rare that a driver gets stuck inside the car, but then again, I can’t remember the last time (other than this one, of course) a F1 car got hit by a flying debris with serious consequences – that would be a cool thing to track down.

            But I don’t think that for instance, in this case, it would have been any different. If tomorrow Piquet crashes (which is just the usual for him, ;)) and his car catches on fire, there will be those that will advocate for open cockpits and so on.

            Closed cockpits take away all a lot of personality in F1, and as of now, I strongly believe that not enough evidence exists to propose such a radical change in the cars: also, bearing in mind the way a F1 car is shaped, not really sure how cumberstone would it be when closed, and if visibility could be any good.

          2. The debate for closed or open cockpits can be continued.

            What is necessary and can be implemented without controversy is a thorough check-up of the cars itself.

            Cars should not have any components loosely fitted in the first place, that they may come off.

            Kimi’s exhaust came off at France last year, even that could have hurt someone.

            The cars need to be rigid. Head on crash tests are done to ensure that the bodywork is strong enough. But clearly, other components which cannot be tested by these crash tests are flying off cars randomly.

            If that is done away with, open vs closed debate won’t occur at all

          3. Well if we’re jumping between extremes let us hope we fall somewhere in the middle.
            But why are drivers suddenly more at risk at being hit by debris? Yes if we are to take the last seven days as a gauge. But overall only in comparison with other potential risks?

          4. Keith, I think what is more important in the safety of the drivers is to keep things from flying off of other cars and becoming 300kph obstacles to try and dodge. As small as that part was it will not be seen and is therefore a danger.
            If everyone is truly concerned about the safety then make the cars not fall apart.
            I think that other than that a cooler head and rational thought over the whole process must be considered. I bet if questioned the drivers dont want a closed cockpit and I wouldnt want them in F2.

      4. Sush Meerkat
        25th July 2009, 17:00

        I can’t imagine how anyone can be so callous as to look at this accident and say people who ask if driver protection can be improved “need to get a grip”. This is people’s lives we’re talking about.

        its a knee jerk reaction comment to F1 being sterilised, with a dash of contraversy with the remote control statement. Excellent reposte by the way.

        I agree with you Keith and the originator of the comment though. This is a very dangerous sport, a dude in a car going 200KPH is dangerous, its why its exciting. I go rock climbing and skiing to OWN a mountain, I don’t do it because its safe.

        Accidents will happen, they will be tragic, our heroes will be hurt, god forbid some will be lost, some have been lost.

        But at least they gave us who they are and what they do and by God do we love them for it, and for that, those hurt or worse are still alive.

        I hope Massa is OK.

        Instead of making knee jerk comments I think we should celebrate the fact that the Ferrari cockpit that Massa was cocooned in stayed in one piece and by proxy, Massa’s body is in one piece too.

        Well done Engineers of Formula 1, you’ve saved the life of one guy by creating such an engineering marve, we as fans of F1 should BE PROUD OF THAT.

        1. While many people in this discussion would call closed-cockpits a “knee-jerk” reaction, I would like to point out that drivers being hit on the head is a safety issue that has been decades in the making. What I would call for isn’t necessary a swift rule change to close off the cockpits. I would like to see some serious research and testing done to determine how much of an advantage a closed cockpit would be, compared to an open cockpit. The best way to settle this discussion is for somebody to build a canopy and shoot various objects at it at high speed. This is what the FIA should be doing instead of wasting time with politics.

          1. Sush Meerkat
            25th July 2009, 19:48

            While many people in this discussion would call closed-cockpits a “knee-jerk” reaction,

            I didn’t say that, I said his comment is a knee jerk reaction, having closed or open cockpits is not my choice.

            The way you reply to such a comment is the “knee jerk” reaction I’m talking about Steven.

        2. Mark Hitchcock
          25th July 2009, 18:11

          Presumably you use ropes when you go climbing? If so, that doesn’t add to the experience, it just makes you safe.
          Just like measures to protect drivers from debris would make them safer.

          1. Mark Hitchcock
            25th July 2009, 18:15

            For the record I’m neither for or against closed cockpits because they may not make things any safer.
            I just think that some thought needs to be put into safety in light of the two serious accidents caused by debris hitting drivers in the last week.

          2. perfect!

    2. My post said “people looking for closed cockpits” not “people looking for improved safety”. If you close the cockpit then its not a Formula 1 car anymore.

  8. Massa must have gone out when that piece hit. if you watch the graphs, the Brake goes full on, the throttle takes a dip… and then that goes full on too. not good. Not sure if closed cockpits would be the solution, as something the right shape and velocity would smash the cockpit. Possibly the support braces in the cockpit and the design of the helmet would be a better route to go down.

    1. I agree. Impact, pause, brake full on and throttle dip, and then the throttle comes back on.
      I’m not a fan of the closed cockpit idea, but I wonder if they could be given windscreens?

    2. Indeed, I noticed the same.

      Explains the front wheels locking up while the car still doesn’t seem to slow down. This would look like a rear brake failure that Coulthard recognised.

    3. Either knocked out or dazed. Hope he recovers completely and swiftly.

      The engine could not have been in too good a shape after taking a full throttle against a fully engaged brake.

  9. i want to c u back tommorow felipe.good luck

  10. It’s racing… These things happen. Look at motorcycle races… Their whole bodies are exposed.

    Racing is dangerous and they have to take as many safety precautions as possible, but accidents will happen.

    I’m a big Felipe Massa fan and hope dearly that he is well and good to race tomorrow.

  11. Notice how on the telemetry Felipe had his feet on both the gas pedal and the brake pedal after he got hit on the head…

  12. it was really freaky… hope, he will be alright. the spring is from Barrichello’s rear suspension, any info about what made the spring to detach from the suspension?

  13. Very unlucky for Massa. I sincerely hope he is ok and can continue for the rest of the race season?

    Now lets sit back and watch everyone’s knee jerk’s…

  14. Colaianni said on RAI (just after the pilots press conference) that Massa is not going to race tomorrow.

  15. What is with Brawn’s car?!

  16. Have to agree with Keith. People should save the ironic jokes, Massa’s condition hasn’t been fully established yet. I’ve just read one report that he was put into an induced coma before being taken to hospital. Head injuries have to be monitored carefully for some time after.

    1. Jokes are not malicious, they are a natural way of revealing tension. Have you ever been to a wake? (not saying that Massa is dead). I ends with people laughing and telling funny stories.

      1. Mark Hitchcock
        25th July 2009, 17:42

        Yeah, they don’t tell the jokes and funny stories right after the person dies (or in this case suffers serious injury).

  17. Aaron Shearer
    25th July 2009, 14:58

    It would have been a bit better if there was a gravel trap at that corner, it would have reduced the speed to an extent and presumably made it a bit safer for him?

    I pray that he is okay.

    1. And therein is another debate. Gravel vs asphalt in run off areas.

      Asphalt has been shown to the better choice as most off’s have the driver still in relative control and more able to control or slow down the car on asphalt.

      1. This accident shows the advantage of gravel run offs. ‘For Sure’ but it was not what injured Massa. think of Hami’s and Heikki’s tire wall incursions and you’d see that even with gravel traps tire walls are not necessarily harmfull.

      2. When Ralph Firman crashed there in 2003 there was a gravel run-off – unfortunately he missed it and went all the way to the barrier on the grass:

    2. Matt Fallon
      25th July 2009, 15:31

      Not really i’m afraid, gravel run offs tend to be good at stopping spinning cars, but just awful at stopping cars that are just going straight on…

      This is because, the car just skates over the top of the gravel and doesn’t lose speed, drivers at least have a chance to apply the brakes and attempt to slow the car on a tarmac run off…

      One of the things that contributed to making Schumachers similar looking accident so bad at Silverstone 99, was the fact that there was a gravel runoff, schumacher was braking and then touched the gravel run off, skated over the top of it and straight into the wall scrubbing off little speed on the way…

    3. It would have been a bit better if there was a gravel trap at that corner, it would have reduced the speed to an extent and presumably made it a bit safer for him?

      Or not being conscious and in control of the car? There is nothing wrong with the corner. Why not get rid of all corners then when the worst happens there is no wall to impact?

      Or maybe ban all racing. the safest option.


  19. Some graphic pictures doing the rounds on Twitter show a deep tear ripped in Massa’s crash helmet, the visor partly ripped off, and blood around his left eye. Hope there isn’t any damage to his eyesight.

    1. As I said on the live blog as i watched the reply… you could tell that the spring whacked his helmet at visor level. this picture is exactly what i feared.

      the helmet itself can withstand some serious hits, it’s the visor that is the weakest link in terms of safety of open wheel racing, and the event of debris hitting drivers.

      I really hope he is not permanently injured… and that he can get back in the saddle soon.

      1. The visor is almost bullet proof. But the mass equation of the spring probably almost exceeded its design limits. Lucky it didn’t meet the visor head on.

    1. Oh that really is a sorry sight. So sorry for Massa. Poor guy just looks full of fear.
      That eye injury looks debilitating for this race. Let’s hope there’s no permanent damage.

      1. Poor guy just looks full of fear.

        I can’t stop thinkin about it. I hope he’s ok. I think he’s possibly one of the best racers in F1 today.

        Get Well Soon Filipe.

    2. Wow, he was lucky he didn’t get hit with debris directly on a visor – this was really close.

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