Monday, April 28, 2008

Kovalainen 'OK' after horror smash

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen could return to action in time for the Turkish Grand Prix next weekend despite a horrifying crash in Barcelona that saw him airlifted to hospital.
The Finn, who was leading the race after both Ferraris and team mate Lewis Hamilton had pitted, speared straight into the tyre wall at speed on the 22nd of 66 laps with the car penetrating the barrier.
Circuit doctors attended to Kovalainen, who was extracted from the car before being taken away on a stretcher in a neck brace, while the safety car was deployed for the second time in the race.
"I extremely pleased to be able to report that he is safe and well," said McLaren chief Ron Dennis.
"Heikki was airlifted to the Hospital General de Catalunya in Sant Cugat del Valles, for precautionary checks, and will remain there overnight.
"However, he has no broken bones and CT scans performed at the hospital confirm that he has no head injuries and the team is optimistic that he will make a full recovery over the next few days.
"Subject to the results of an FIA medical examination we hope that he will be able to compete in the Turkish Grand Prix."
The Finn, who joined Mercedes-powered McLaren from Renault at the end of last season, gave a thumbs-up sign to spectators.
He was taken first to the circuit medical centre where officials said he was conscious and in a stable condition.
Television footage showed the McLaren's front left tyre suddenly deflated moments before the car left the track at speed with Kovalainen a helpless passenger.
The safety car had already been deployed after Sebastian Vettel's Toro Rosso and Force India's Adrian Sutil collided on the first lap.
"The precise cause or causes of his accident are not yet known," said Dennis.
"Our data shows evidence of a sudden tyre deflation shortly before the accident, but it is still too early to identify what triggered that deflation other than to say that it is likely to have been the result of a wheel rim failure.
"The impact was a relatively heavy one, but our car's passive safety devices, designed in compliance with the FIA's safety regulations, protected the driver in the way they were intended to do.
"Equally, I would like to pay tribute to the FIA Medical Team, whose work was both rapid and efficient. Finally, the local Spanish marshals also did an excellent job."


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