By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – It hasn’t been a good year for Lewis Hamilton. After a brilliant season in 2008, which granted him the World Championship, the McLaren driver couldn’t win a single race in 2009 – until now.
Last Sunday, July 26, the Englishman finally ended the nine month and one week drought by winning the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.
The current World Champion’s comeback was overshadowed, however, by the life-threatening accident suffered by Brazilian driver Felipe Massa at Saturday’s qualifying race. The Ferrari racer was hit on his helmet by a spring that got loose from fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP vehicle. The collision caused Massa to crash his Ferrari against the tire wall at 280 kilometers per hour, leaving him unconscious.
Massa was taken to the Budapest Military Hospital, where doctors induced him into coma in order to perform surgery to remove shards from the damaged area. Massa’s condition is now stable. Medical reports released today confirm that he suffered a concussion, bone damage to his skull and a cut on his forehead.
Because of the accident, Massa couldn’t race and only nineteen of the twenty scheduled race cars disputed the Hungarian GP. Renault’s Fernando Alonso started in pole position, and kept the lead until the twelfth lap, when he went for his first pit stop, and a mistake by his team of mechanics caused a bizarre incident.
As soon as Alonso left the pit lane, he lost his wheel cover, and minutes later the whole wheel sprung off the rim and started bouncing freely on the track. Alonso was able to drag himself back to the pit and get another tire, but the wheel was already severely damaged. He abandoned the race in the seventeenth lap after struggling for five laps with the new tire.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikonnen was the second placer, giving Ferrari something to cheer about on a rather sad weekend. The third placer was RBR’s Mark Webber, who holds second place in the season. Hungary’s race narrows the gap between him and F1 leader Jenson Button to just 18.5 points. The Brawn GP racer finished seventh, his worst performance in the 2009 season to date.
The Brazilian drivers’ overall performance in Budapest was poor. While Felipe Massa couldn’t race, Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello was the best placed amongst them, and finished in tenth position. Rubens claimed he was unsettled because of Massa’s accident, and that this compromised his performance. Nelsinho Piquet, who drives for Renault, was twelfth.
The F1 Season is suspended for three weeks of summer holidays, in which teams cannot make changes to their vehicles. The next race in the season is the European Grand Prix, scheduled on August 23 in Valencia, Spain.