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Doctor says F1 racer Massa's life no longer in danger

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Associated Press
July 27, 2009
— The neurosurgeon who operated on Felipe Massa said Monday his condition was no longer considered life-threatening, although damage to his eye and other injuries could prevent him from returning to Formula One.

Robert Veres said Massa was in stable condition and remained sedated "to protect his brain," which had experienced some swelling. Massa has been woken up from time to time for tests, and his motor skills seemed to be functioning properly, Veres said.


However, he said Massa would definitely not return to the track this season, and that his long-term future in the sport was in doubt.


"I don't know (if he can return)," Veres said. "It's too early to say anything concerning his future, regarding the race."


Veres was one of three surgeons who operated on Massa's multiple skull fractures Saturday, following his high-speed crash during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Massa was struck by a loose part from another car that bounced up and hit him in the helmet, giving him a concussion and sending his car into the protective tire barrier.


Several fragments of bone from the skull had to be removed during the operation, Veres said.


Doctors were particularly concerned about injuries to the 28-year-old Brazilian's left eye, but Veres said they didn't yet "know the quality of this damage."


"We don't know exactly because without operation it's very hard to evaluate function," Veres told reporters from the AEK military hospital, where Ferrari president Luca di Montezemelo was also visiting Monday.


Veres said no more operations were planned at the moment, but couldn't rule out further surgery if his condition deteriorates.


"Anytime can be worse because of the complications, the nature of these injuries," he said. "He has a brain contusion. It's fine now. A focal contusion because of the impact of the metal piece."


Veres remained hopeful that Massa would walk again, as he was slowly recovering his motor skills and responding to doctors requests to move limbs. He remained on a respirator and would be sedated until his condition improved further.


Di Montezemelo said that Ferrari's first priority was Massa's health, but that the Italian team doesn't "want to wait too long" to decide on finding a driving replacement.


"Our first priority is Felipe's recovery, Felipe's progress and so on," said di Montezemelo, who was accompanied by team principal Stefano Domenicali, hospital director general Istvan Szilvasy and chief surgeon Lajos Zsiros. "Felipe's been an important member of the Ferrari family for many years, since he arrived as a kid. We all hope that he can come back soon."


Di Montezemelo said that Domenicali would remain with Massa and his family which included pregnant wife Anna Rafaela on Tuesday.


"Domenicali has to think and make good proposals for the future," Di Montezemelo said. "We don't want to wait too long for Felipe. First priority now is to find out about Felipe, only at that moment will we take a decision."


Massa will remain in Budapest for at least several days, although he could be moved within a week depending on his progress.


F1's governing body is investigating the crash, which comes amid a string of safety mishaps, including the death of an F2 driver last weekend after he was struck in the head by a loose tire from another car and crashed into a barrier.


No F1 driver has died on the track since Ayrton Senna's crash at Imola 15 years ago. The three-time champion died from head injuries after a violent crash.


Associated Press Writer Pablo Gorondi contributed to this report.

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