BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Five years after a freak Hungarian Grand Prix accident that left him in a coma with near-fatal head injuries, Felipe Massa returns this weekend looking to put much more recent crashes behind him.
The 33-year-old Brazilian remembers nothing of that 2009 drama, when he was hit on the helmet - on the corner of the visor - by a bouncing spring shed from compatriot Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn in front during qualifying.
He was saved that day by a few millimeters.
That incident and the former Ferrari driver’s remarkable recovery will always be a talking point in his career but Massa, now with resurgent Williams, is much more focused on the here and now.
So much so that asked on Thursday about 2009, the Brazilian assumed the question related to his first corner collision in Germany last Sunday.
“Yeah, I feel the accident and it was really a shame to be honest. To have an accident like that on the first corner was really a shame, but we need to think forward, about this weekend,” he said.
“I hope none of these things happen and we can be competitive (here).”
Mercedes-powered Williams are third overall in the constructors’ championship, with their sights on champions Red Bull in second place after emerging as the main challengers to the dominant Mercedes works team in recent races.
But Massa, who qualified in third place at Hockenheim last weekend and started on pole in Austria in June, has had a troubled season.
He has been involved in three big crashes in the last four races - while team mate Valtteri Bottas has been on the podium in the last three.
At Silverstone Massa was caught up in the wreckage of Kimi Raikkonen’s first lap crash while in Canada he and Force India’s Sergio Perez collided on the last lap while fighting for position.
In Germany, he was pitched out in a coming together with McLaren’s Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen as both raced into the first corner.
The Williams flipped, skidding along upside down with sparks flying, before righting itself.
Even though Massa was the only one of the two summoned to stewards afterwards, with the officials declaring it a racing incident, the Brazilian remained adamant that Magnussen was the guilty party.
And in a tetchy exchange with reporters on Thursday, he questioned the stewards’ actions in questioning only him.
“So you see there is a lot to improve, even in the FIA...if the stewards are thinking like that, I don’t know who they are taking to be stewards,” he said.
The Brazilian, also dumped out of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix through no fault of his own by Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi at the start, hoped Hungary would bring a change of luck.
“I have a very great feeling when I come to this country. I have a lot of fans, people really like to support me everywhere I go, in the hotel, airport,” said the veteran, who has not won a race since 2008 when he was overall runner-up.
“It’s really nice to be here, it’s a very special place for me, so I hope we can use all of this for good energy to have a good weekend.”
The events of five years ago, with the world of motorsport holding its breath as he lay in hospital for days in a critical condition, belonged to the distant past.
“I don’t remember anyway from the (2009) accident,” said the Brazilian.
“I‘m always in contact with the doctor who did the operations. We have a very good relationship, for sure I’ll see him this weekend.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis