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Kovalainen's quick recovery testament to F1 safety standards 09 May 2008

(L to R): Dr. Jacques Tropenat, FIA Medical Car Driver with Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren and Jean-Charles Piette, FIA Medical Delegate.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Mclaren MP4-23 is tended by the medics following his big crash and removed on a stretcher. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 27 April 2008

The fact that Heikki Kovalainen was cleared on Thursday to race in Turkey this weekend is testament to the progress the FIA and their individual safety delegates have made since the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola 14 years ago.

Kovalainen was in good form, raring to get back into a new McLaren MP4-23, and described the steps he went through to prove to the FIA doctors that he was fully fit. Unlike Robert Kubica, after his heavy shunt in Canada last year, he had two weeks in which to recover fully.

“It was basically a test all the drivers have to go through when they start their career in F1. When I started last year in Australia I did the baseline test. It is a combination of tests and calculations. Basically they check how your brain and body is working and the reactions. I redid the test this morning and improved the score, so the impact seems to have a good effect!”

The Finn said that he had a bit of a headache on the Monday morning after the Spanish race, “But since then it has improved quite rapidly. It was on Thursday when I got out of Spain and on Saturday I started normal training in Finland. I went to a sports institute that is doing work with McLaren and together with our team doctor I went over there and started to prepare for this race. Since then everything has been normal and I am looking forward to hopefully a strong weekend and to getting back in the car and I feel 100 percent.

“I have seen it (the accident) on television afterwards. It was a serious accident I managed to walk away from. I think I was a little bit lucky but also must stress that all the safety standards that the FIA has been pushing for worked very well there. The chassis took the impact reasonably well as did the barriers. The FIA medical team and the marshals did a fantastic job to get me out of there quickly and in a short period of time I am able to make a recovery without any injuries in my body. I think it is something that we must still keep working on but the work paid off that day.”

Kubica himself said that he was not really surprised by the speed of Kovalainen’s recover. “He said he was lucky he only had headache the day after. It was a bit similar with me. I didn't have headache but I had a pain in my ankle. But I was one week later in America and I could not race, but I think we are all happy that he is back. I think if he does a good weekend everyone will say he is stronger after the accident, which was the case with me, but which was completely not right.”

“I don't think I lost consciousness at any point,” Kovalainen continued. “The first people who arrived at the scene reported me being awake and assisting getting myself out of there but I don't have any idea, I don't remember that. But after such a hit on the head, I think it's a bit of a shutdown by the body to protect your brain and your organs. I don't have any issues with that. It would be good if one day the whole image came back into my head. I don't think I would have any problem with that, but at the moment all that I can talk about is what I saw on the video.

“I haven't had a black-out before. I've had a couple of serious accidents before but I never knocked myself out like that and therefore it's got to be the most serious accident so far. I remember being in intensive care in the hospital in the city, a lot of people around me. I was a bit confused what had happened, so I asked my team doctor, Aki Hintsa: ‘What are we doing here?' and he explained what happened and then after that, the memory has been normal and I was aware of everything after that. That's where I got back on track.

“I was awake all the time assisting the people helping me, I told them to take my crash helmet off, I assisted them by telling them I had no injuries, I was okay, just that the brain was confused and I didn't record anything on my hard drive, if you like. Then, when things calmed down a bit and the brain started working again, that was back in the hospital in the town and since then it's all been okay. But it's good for you if I waved, and I guess I felt everything was fine.”

Meanwhile, team mate Lewis Hamilton says he is feeling confident McLaren will push Ferrari hard here.

“This weekend I feel very optimistic. I feel fit, I feel happy and I think we can do the job. There's not really any updates (on the car), but just analysing our last race. We have a lot of information about it, and there's lot of things we can improve on, not just with the car, but in the way we do qualifying and the way we do practice, and even in the race. This weekend obviously I want to get points, but I want to win. I miss winning, so that's my plan.

“I think what's good is that over the weekend [in Spain] we got faster and faster. We went into the race and throughout it we were quicker the whole way and the great thing is we were able to push them [Ferrari] the whole race. So definitely it was, I wouldn't say a relief, but it boosted our confidence for the whole team, including myself, that we do have a very strong package and it is very, very close.”

David Tremayne