F1 Gold | How a single spring almost maimed Felipe Massa's face in 2009

Felipe Massa's Ferrari is taken away on a flatbed truck following his accident during qualifying for the Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Image: Paul Gilham / Getty Images
Felipe Massa's Ferrari is taken away on a flatbed truck following his accident during qualifying for the Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Image: Paul Gilham / Getty Images

Just thinking about the 2009 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix brings back memories of shock and horror. The reason for it is a simple one: Felipe Massa almost became the first driver to die during a Grand Prix weekend since Ayrton Senna in 1994.

But it was not to be, as the Brazilian driver came away with his life.

What happened?

During qualifying, Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP) was on a quick lap, but after the first couple of corners, his rear suspension failed. A spring came loose and veered onto the racing line.

Massa, who was just a few seconds behind his fellow Brazilian, came charging down the straight at over 260km/h and right into the path of the 1kg spring. It hit him on the helmet, just above his left eye - immediately knocking him out.

The Ferrari driver had no control over his car and drove straight into the tyre barrier, generating a force of 5Gs. The session was suspended immediately, and the Ferrari driver taken to the medical facility. Massa would go on to make a full recovery, but he was never the same driver again.

Career overview

Massa, like many Brazilians, idolised Ayrton Senna, which played a massive role in his uptake of F1. He joined the sport in 2002, and by 2006 he replaced Barrichello, also a Brazilian, at Ferrari to partner the great Michael Schumacher.

2008 was Massa's best chance at winning the F1 drivers' championship, but a slew of errors throughout the year meant that he had to bow the knee to then-McLaren-Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton. Massa was champion for about 30 seconds after taking victory at the season-ending Brazilian GP.

2009 was a challenging year for both Ferrari and Massa, but for the driver, it culminated during the Hungarian GP. Massa would be out for the rest of the year but made a full return to the sport in 2010. He remained with Ferrari until the end of the 2013 season, and then switched to Williams to partner Valtteri Bottas.

READ: F1 Gold - Brawn GP's 2009 success, a vision only one man believed in

After three seasons at Williams, Massa announced his retirement from the sport. The 2016 Brazilian GP would be remembered as Massa's final race in the sport, accompanied by many tears and memories. But Bottas' sudden announcement that he'd be racing for the Mercedes team in 2017 left Williams in a difficult spot. The team could ill afford two new drivers as it struggles for pace, which meant that Massa postponed his retirement by a year.

The second retirement did not have the same emotional charge as the first, though. Still, Felipe Massa will be remembered as the most successful Brazilian F1 driver after his idol and countryman, Ayrton Senna.

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Felipe Massa. Image: Getty Images

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