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Kovalainen Pays Tribute To Strong Car & Attentive Staff

Kovalainen Pays Tribute To Strong Car & Attentive Staff

Heikki Kovalainen is expected to leave hospital this evening, having undergone tests to ensure he hasn’t suffered any head injuries or bone damage. Although the Finnish driver was briefly knocked unconscious following his impact with tyre barrier at Circuit de Catalunya, he has said to be in high spirits and is looking forward to a quick recovery in time for the Turkish Grand Prix on May 11th. Heikki will have to pass a mandatory test prior to being allowed to race in Istanbul, but the team are confident their driver will be perfectly fine to continue competing in a fortnight.

I have a slight headache and a stiff neck, but apart from that I am feeling well and in good spirits. Heikki Kovalainen.

Considering Heikki impacted the barrier at what must have been close to 140mph, his injuries are impressively minor. Heikki was rested in hospital due to concussion, but a CT scan revealed no other damage to his head.

What is especially important is the fact that the monocoque withstood the heavy impact, so credit should also be given to everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for that. Heikki Kovalainen.

And looking at the photographs of the remains of Heikki’s MP4-23, the monocoque appears to have done its job perfectly. The entire front of the car was destroyed in the impact, but it is clear that the area from the footwell backwards remains visually intact, exactly where the life-cell begins.

The accident saw Kovalainen spear off the track at high speed and clout the tyre wall almost head-on. The accident is similar to that of Michael Schumacher’s at Silverstone in 1999. In that particular incident, the world champion’s Ferrari went straight on at Stowe corner at high speed and dug in deep into the tyre wall. Schumacher suffered multiple breaks in his legs which forced him to sit out the remainder of the season.

Kovalainen’s McLaren also penetrated the tyre wall deeply, and a photograph taking from the line of impact shows just how far into the wall the Finn went. Also visible from the photograph is the rise in the tyres, suggesting they lifted as the car went in, pretty much null-and voiding any measure of safety they are meant to provide. My memory is a little vague on the Schumacher incident, but I do remember the tyres not providing as much help to the German as we thought they were meant to.

Safety barriers aside though, it is good news that Heikki will eventually walk away from this scary crash, and I’m sure we all look forward to seeing his return in the McLaren in a week-and-a-halves time.

My focus is on getting better as soon as possible so I can pass the FIA medical inspection required to allow me to race in Turkey.

I don’t remember anything from the accident or what happened afterwards but would obviously like to thank all the circuit emergency staff, the FIA medical team at the track and the doctors at the hospital for all their efforts in looking after me. Heikki Kovalainen.

Heikki also insisted that while it was clearly a problem with the wheel that caused the accident, the team still don’t know exactly what happened and will wait until further analysis has been completed before specifying the reason for the tyre failure.

Oliver White

7 comments

  • I wonder if anything can be done to prevent tirewalls lifting out of the way like that. Seems like something that should at least be investigated, makes them ineffective exactly when they’re needed most.

    The obvious first-guess solution is to just dig them into the ground by a tire width or so, so the car can’t even get under the bottom tire, but there’s probably some reason why that doesn’t really work.

  • I don’t really know just yet what has changed, but the tyre walls definitely appear to not be working as effectively as in the past. It isn’t all that often a driver goes head-first into the them at any force like Heikki did, but I think, just from looking at the photo, they didn’t work as well we all perhaps thought. My initial guess is that the cars have changed, but the barriers haven’t. But the cars haven’t changed that much over the years. Not that significantly anyway!? I’m working on a post at the moment, so maybe I can uncover something or apply a bit of common sense to the matter.

  • not enough run-off on that corner, the gravel trap barely slowed him down. To make things worse, the wall was perpendicular to the track direction prior to the corner, so anybody going off would be meeting that wall at very high speeds. They should definitely provide more runoff on those corners at all circuits, and have the wall run parallel for as far as it can.

    Both the gravel and the tyres did not perform, and if Heikki was any worse off from the accident you could be sure that there would have been an in-depth investigation, but since he walked out (because of the high level of protection the cars now provide) everybody will probably forget about it and move on.

    The cars seem extremely safe for the drivers now, but they have compromised rear-view vision in favor of high sides in the cockpit. The poor vision has been responsible for a large number of collisions this year already.. so it would be good to get all tracks to a standard like Bahrain (in terms of safety) and perhaps take the cars back to more of a true and traditional open-wheel design.

  • I agree with Nik, the gravel trap at Barcelona was pretty ineffective in slowing Heikki’s car.

    As in past accidents, as with Michael Schumacher in 1999 and Luciano Burti in 2001, even larger gravel traps often fail to slow the cars down in time before hitting the wall.

    My other concern is the conveyor belts around the tyres, which as we all know, is designed

    to keep the rows of tyres together, and how easily that belt was penetrated by the McLaren.

    When I saw that the belt had gone up and over Heikki’s car, I got very concerned.

    The good points about the crash are obviously that Heikki survived and was relatively uninjured,

    yet again the cars have shown that they can take a hard lick and save the driver, and that the track safety people were well on the ball and behaved very well indeed.

    I think, as more and more new tracks are introduced, it is easy for us to take safety for granted. The older circuits, such as Barcelona, do not have the vast run off areas as say Bahrain or Turkey, and they are not tarmac runoffs.

    It is a classic case of ‘you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’ Nobody wants to see huge crashes like Heikki’s or Robert Kubica’s last year, but nobody wants to see the tracks

    ‘dumbed down’ to the extent that they are all identical and souless. Getting close to the armco and running tight, highspeed corners is what F1 is about, and we must never forget that.

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