Tuesday, April 29, 2008
FIA doctor calls for safety changes; Kovalainen out of hospital
MADRID, Spain -- A founding member of the world auto racing body's safety division says it took too long to get McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen out of his car after his crash at the Spanish Grand Prix during the weekend.
Kovalainen was knocked unconscious Sunday after slamming his car into a tire wall while traveling at least 80 mph at Circuit de Catalunya following what is believed to be a wheel rim failure.
Kovalainen was discharged from a Barcelona hospital Monday with a concussion and minor injuries. He is hoping to pass FIA medical checks and race at the Turkish GP on May 11.
Dr. Stephen Olvey said Tuesday that Formula One needs to improve its safety measures because it took too long to free the 26-year-old Finn from his car.
"You don't have a lot of time and I think this accident will be investigated thoroughly to see if there's any way to gain access to the driver faster," Olvey told The Associated Press by telephone.
"That is a problem, because if you are unconscious and perhaps not breathing you don't have more than two or three minutes before you get some kind of significant damage. So, that's going to have to be looked into."
FIA, auto racing's world governing body, said Tuesday that it was investigating the accident.
"It's too early to comment on the incident other than to confirm that the FIA's safety experts have already begun a very detailed analysis of accident data," officials said.
Olvey, director of the neuroscience intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and a founding member of FIA's safety division, said Kovalainen is lucky to be alive.
"Ten or 12 years ago that could have been a fatal crash," he said. "Track safety is now that there is a lot of science in the tire barriers, and even though the car got buried into the tires, it was still a relatively minor injury considering the velocity and angle of the crash."
Olvey added: "It's not inconceivable that he could make the next race."