F1

McLaren's Kovalainen to leave hospital

McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen was expected to leave hospital Monday in Sant Cugat del Valles, a village west of Barcelona, Spain. Kovalainen, 26, was taken there Sunday after crashing heavily while leading the Spanish Grand Prix. He...

McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen was expected to leave hospital Monday in Sant Cugat del Valles, a village west of Barcelona, Spain. Kovalainen, 26, was taken there Sunday after crashing heavily while leading the Spanish Grand Prix. He was held overnight for observation.

The Finn underwent a CT (computed tomography) scan to establish he did not suffer head injuries or broken bones. He underwent further tests Monday morning.

Kovalainen lost consciousness upon impact with a tire barrier but revived and signaled he was OK to nearby fans by the time he was stretchered to the medical car. He said he remembers nothing of the crash.

"I don't remember anything from the accident or what happened afterwards but would obviously like to thank all the circuit emergency staff, the FIA medical team at the track, and the doctors at the hospital for all their efforts in looking after me," he said. He also thanked well-wishers who sent messages. "They all mean a lot," he said.

Kovalainen said he had "a slight headache and a stiff neck" but felt well otherwise and was in good spirits.

McLaren won't confirm the cause of the crash until it tests the car's components. A rim failure of the left front wheel is suspected. The tire deflated. Kovalainen left the track at nearly 145 mph and hit the barrier at nearly 80 mph. The team said the driver experienced deceleration at 27 g.

McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh said the impact lasted nearly 100 milliseconds. He said 20 to 30 milliseconds is typical. The MP4-23 wedged under the barrier, which required 10 minutes of effort for emergency workers to extract Kovalainen. Whitmarsh said the chassis is a write-off.

"The car absorbed a massive amount of energy," Whitmarsh said. "Heikki received no physical injuries and the circuit emergency staff and the FIA medical team at the track did an absolutely fantastic job in getting him out of the car safely and then looking after him thereafter."

Kovalainen will stay in Spain for a few days before returning to England, where he lives in Oxford, and resuming physical training. "My focus is on getting better as soon as possible so I can pass the FIA medical inspection required to allow me to race in Turkey," he said. The Turkish Grand Prix is scheduled for May 11.

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