(CNN) — Felipe Massa has been woken successfully three times to make contact with his family, one of the surgeons who operated on the Brazilian Formula One star told CNN on Monday, after a horror crash in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix left the driver needing surgery on a fractured skull.
Felipe Massa after the crash at the Hungaroring.
Peter Bazso, the medical director of the AEK hospital in Budapest, confirmed that Massa’s injuries had been “life-threatening” after he careered off the Hungaroring at 200kph in his Ferrari, but that his condition was now “slightly improving.”
Bazso told CNN said he had watched the accident on television and his team, who specialize in brain injuries, was immediately put on standby to operate as Massa was airlifted to his hospital. Does safety need to be improved in Formula One?
Massa was hit on the helmet by a spring which had fallen off the rear of the Brawn GP car of compatriot Rubens Barichello.
The impact left Massa concussed and he lost control of his Ferrari on the high speed Turn Four before ploughing into a tire barrier. Felipe Massa’s crash in pictures. »
Bazko and his team performed a two-hour emergency operation shortly after Massa arrived at the hospital, which also caters for the Hungarian military.
He remains in a medically-induced coma in intensive care but Bazso said there were good signs of a recovery.
“We tried to wake him up three times so he could make contact with his family and each time we were successful,” he said.
Massa’s parents and his pregnant wife Anna Rafaela flew to Hungary to be at his bedside after the accident.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told their official Web site that he would be visiting the hospital on Monday to check on his driver’s condition and paid tribute to his teammate Kimi Raikkonen who finished second to Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s race.
“Compliments to Kimi for a great race and to the team, for working well and very concentrated despite these very difficult circumstances.”
Meanwhile, Basso added that they hoped to fully bring him out of the coma later today when they would better be able to assess his condition.
“He is definitely not worse, but his injuries were life-threatening,” he added.
Massa’s crash came less than a week after Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees, the son of former world champion John Surtees, was killed in similar circumstances, knocked unconscious by a tire which flew off another car in a race at Brands Hatch, before crashing.
Formula One’s safety record has improved dramatically in recent years, with the last fatality in 1994 when the legendary Brazilian Ayrton Senna crashed at Imola.