Massa mending well, doctors say

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa could leave hospital in the next 10 days, an official at AEK Hospital in Budapest, Hungary, said Tuesday.

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari.
Photo by xpb.cc.

While cautioning that the Brazilian's condition remains serious, the hospital's medical director, Peter Bazso, told Hungarian television station M1 that Massa continues to improve.

"My expectation is that he would walk out of the hospital on his own," Bazso said. "If his recovery continues at this pace, I would not rule out that he could leave within 10 days. He's spending more and more time awake talking to family and friends."

The driver was hit above his left eye Saturday by a spring from the rear suspension of Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP. Massa, who was doing an estimated 160 mph at the moment of impact, crashed heavily straight into a tire barrier. The accident happened during qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix of Hungary.

Massa, 28, suffered skull fracture and bruising around his left eye. He underwent emergency surgery Saturday and was placed in an induced coma. He was brought out of the coma Monday and taken off a ventilator that aided his breathing.

"I would like to point out that although he's recovering, this is not the end of the story," Bazso said. "He is still in a life-threatening condition. Of course, the danger is decreasing by the day."

Massa's family, including his parents and his pregnant wife, traveled from Brazil to be with him. His manager, NicolasTodt, is by his bedside as well. Teammate Kimi Rakkonen and compatriot Barrichello with Brawn GP owner Ross Brawn visited the hospital Sunday. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo arrived Monday, and team manager Stefano Domenicali and former Ferrari boss Jean Todt visited Tuesday.

Brazilian newspapers reported the senior Massa, Luiz Antonio, was considering moving his son to renowned Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris. The driver's rapid improvement could render such a move unnecessary.

Domenicali stated on Ferrari's website, "It's good to have comforting news. I spoke to Felipe and it was very emotional for me. He recognized me, and I brought him a message from everybody at Ferrari and from the fans from all over the world. I told him that his red car will wait for him until he's ready to race again. Now we've got to take it step by step and remain cautious, but it's really incredible to see all of this progress only three days after the accident."

Outside AEK Hospital on Tuesday, Domenicali told reporters, "He said that, in Italian, that he doesn't remember exactly what has happened," the Ferrari team boss said. "So this was very important for us, you know, when we say in Italian we are very, very happy, optimistic but this is really fantastic for all the team and we are happy for him."

Massa's personal physician, Dino Altmann, told reporters the eyesight of the Brazilian who nearly won last year's world driving championship was fine.

"Felipe is improving continuously," Altmann said. "He's more alert than he was before. He's answering three different languages, proper answers, and he knows exactly what's right and left. So his left eye has no problem. His eyesight is OK, so just good news today."

Concern for Massa's eyesight has captivated reporters who proclaim his driving career over if his vision is impaired. Aside from Altmann's remarks, doctors treating him have made no pronouncements.

Robert Cantu, chief of neurosurgery service and director of sports medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass., told motorsport.com that Massa can make a full recovery and return to driving. He said Massa having suffered a skull fracture indicates his helmet failed.

"Helmets normally do a superior job of preventing skull fracture from blunt impact," Cantu said. "The helmet had to have failed and the metal had to have hit him to produce those injuries. Without knowing, I assume he fractured the frontal bone when the visor failed. What's important is what happened. Did the skull pinch down hard on his brain or was there not much direct contact with the skull by the brain itself? A skull fracture in and of itself isn't necessarily ominous. The fact that he was conscious at the scene is hugely important."

Cantu, who said he is a motorsport fan, said he watched video replays of Massa waving from a stretcher as he was helped from his car to an ambulance.

"That he was awake after the accident is hugely positive,' Cantu said. "If he remained alert, there's a possibility he could have 100 percent recovery and return to driving in the future."

Cantu said doctors treating Massa won't release him to drive again until he is completely "asymptomatic" so the Brazilian would have no worry of so-called second-impact syndrome, which can affect concussion sufferers who return to action too soon.

Even as pundits worldwide attempt to replace Massa with former Ferrari ace Michael Schumacher or Fernando Alonso, whose Renault team at the moment are eliminated from competing at the next grand prix, in Valencia, Spain, on Aug. 23, Massa's father said his son improves not only day to day but hour to hour.

Schumacher's longtime publicist Sabine Kehm told BBC Sport the seven-time world titlist would consider stepping into an F1 car again on a temporary basis. Schumacher's agent Willi Weber and the former driver himself say the opposite.

"He could only damage his reputation if he stepped in," former F1 driver and current analyst Anthony Davidson said on BBC Radio 5 Live. "I really think Michael knows how hard the challenge could be. I doubt if it would happen."

Alonso's availability for the next race owes to his car losing a wheel during Sunday's Grand Prix of Hungary; the team was suspended for one race, an action under appeal. Reports indicate sponsorship conflict would not allow Alonso to race a Ferrari although the sport's commercial rights manager, Bernie Ecclestone, has backed a Ferrari drive by Alonso. The Spaniard, the only two-time world champion in F1 just now, is acknowledged as the biggest attraction for fans to a Spanish race. Newcomer Jaime Alguersuari of Barcelona, Spain, joined F1 in Hungary.