Felipe Massa is reportedly under observation in Intensive Care unit following surgery for a damaged skull as a result of his accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session today.
A damper spring from Rubens Barrichelloâ€™s Brawn GP car struck Massa in the head at full speed during qualifying injuring the Brazilian and leaving him nose first in the retaining wall in a high-speed, violent crash.
The event galvanized viewers who just witnessed F2 driver Henry Surteesâ€™s fatal accident last week from eerily similar eventâ€”debris from another car striking the driver on the head.
The calls for more safety have already been issued by Rubens Barichello and others including the fans of F1 on twitter. The suggestion is that two identical, extremely rare situations in as many weeks is no coincidenceâ€”it is a sign that we must do something about the safety of exposed heads in racing.
I do not disagree that this should be looked at very closely but I am bereft of the solution other than enclosing the cockpit. I would like to take a contrary position to the critics of F1 at this point and argue that the safety in F1 is sole reason that Felipe is still alive.
The Schuberth helmet, while compromised, did its job. It handled the impact of a large, one pound (800 gram) metal object traveling at massive speeds. While there is skull damage and concussion, in any other situation the driver would be dead.
The HANS device most likely spared spinal/neck injury as Massa was more than likely unconscious or semiconscious when he hit the tire barrier at a high rate of speed causing a violent rate of G force throwing his head forward in what would otherwise be a fatal impact.
The Ferrari, after stopping, was at a high rate of revs presumably due to Felipeâ€™s foot on the accelerator. The safety measure is an auto-shut off when engine temps are too high or in case of an accident such as this. This may have spared any fires or other heat related issues for course workers and driver alike.
I understand the gravity of the Surtees death and the Massa accident. I agree that a close look at what can be done to help prevent serious head injuries should always be an initiative but I am going to argue that you can’t remove danger from the sport and in fact, the FIA regulations just saved Massa lifeâ€”including the medical staff and corner workers.
Let us hope Massa makes a speedy recovery and that there is no lingering issues with his injuries. Let us also thank the FIA, FOM, GPDA and teams for their diligence in saving lives and placing safety first.