By Alan Baldwin
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Spanish Formula One driver Carlos Sainz was still hoping to race in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix despite missing qualifying and being kept in hospital overnight after a big crash in final practice.
The 21-year-old rookie was fortunate to escape serious injury after his Toro Rosso slammed into, and under, the energy absorbing Tecpro barriers at around 200kph in Saturday’s session.
The accident ended practice and forced organisers to cancel a following GP3 race while extensive repairs were made to the barriers.
Toro Rosso said Sainz, who was taken to the circuit medical centre and then by helicopter to hospital, would be kept under medical surveillance but did not rule out him returning to race.
“He wants to drive tomorrow but we have to wait and see what the FIA thinks about that,” his Dutch team mate Max Verstappen told Reuters.
Television images showed the Spaniard, strapped to a stretcher, giving a thumbs-up sign after being extracted from the wrecked car and taken to a waiting ambulance.
“The doctors checked him and there’s no fracture,” team principal Franz Tost told Reuters. “Now they are checking all the organs and everything but it looks quite positive.
“He is fully conscious, which he was also immediately after the accident. He switched off the engine and everything, he did all the procedures as he normally does when he stops the car.”
Replays showed the car snapping left and hitting a concrete wall, then skidding along in a cloud of debris at turn 13 with the front left wheel dangling on tethers in front of the driver.
“Is he OK? Because it looks like a big one,” Verstappen had asked over the team radio as the medical car sped to the scene of the impact and the paddock collectively held its breath.
Tost said the fact that the car went under the barriers was worrying.
“We must find a solution because that’s quite dangerous,” said the Austrian. “It reminds me of the (Luciano) Burti accident at Blanchimont at Spa.”
That 2001 crash, with Burti’s Prost penetrating the tyre wall at speed, left the Brazilian with serious bruising and concussion and ended his F1 racing career.
“I think the barriers should be more fixed or whatever,” said Tost. “I am not an expert in this but I am convinced the FIA will find a good solution for this.”
Verstappen, who crashed into similar barriers earlier in the season in Monaco, agreed.
“It was not good. It (the barrier) went up and it shouldn’t go up. In my crash in Monaco it all stayed flat and that’s how it should be because if it goes up it can hit your head so that’s a bit unsafe,” he said.
“Luckily nothing happened with it but for next time for sure they need to fix them.”
In an indication of the severity of the accident, race officials decided not to restart the practice session.
The red flags meant drivers had little time to set their cars up for the track after Friday’s two sessions were hit by a morning diesel spillage and afternoon bad weather.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)