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Felipe Massa now speaking, moving his limbs

FORMULA One driver Felipe Massa was awake and talking to family members yesterday, making significant improvement after his high-speed crash two days earlier.

Lajos Zsiros, the chief surgeon at AEK hospital, said Massa is now breathing unassisted and moving his limbs. In addition, a drain from his skull wound has been removed.

The 28-year-old Brazilian is groggy but able to answer questions. Zsiros says further improvement can be expected.

"(Massa is) sleepy but he gives adequate answers to questions we ask him and he gives spontaneous answers to questions we ask him," Zsiros said. "Further improvement of his condition can be expected."

Zsiros said Massa didn't have a fever and remained in stable condition in the military AEK hospital's intensive care unit alongside family members.

Massa crashed into a protective tire barrier at 190 kilometers per hour (120 mph) Saturday during qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix and was near death for two days.

"Felipe is awake. He's very well and everyone is very happy with his condition," Massa's family doctor, Dino Altman, said. "He wants to know what happened to him and he answered some questions."

Altman ruled out Massa being transferred from Budapest, with doctors suggesting Massa would have to remain at least one week to 10 days.

Raffaela, Massa's wife who is six months pregnant with their first child, doesn't think he will have any long-term physical injuries and hopes he can return to racing.

"He is doing good," she told Brazil's Globo TV. "Soon he will be giving joy to all in his little red car on the speedway."

Massa's father, Luiz Antonio, told The Associated Press that he remained "very optimistic" following Massa's improvement.

Massa, who received multiple skull fractures in the accident, had experienced some brain swelling before the encouraging news.

Dr. Robert Veres, part of the three-man crew who performed the two-hour operation, said Massa would not be able to race again this season. The Brazilian's long-term career plans are also uncertain.

"I don't know (if he can return)," Veres said. "It's too early to say anything concerning his future."

Massa was struck by a loose part from another car that bounced up and hit him in the helmet, causing concussion. Several fragments of bone from the skull had to be removed during the operation, Veres said.

Doctors are concerned about injuries to Massa's left eye.

"(We don't) know the quality of this damage," Veres said.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemelo said his team's first priority was Massa's health.

"Felipe's been an important member of the Ferrari family for many years, since he arrived as a kid. We all hope that he can come back soon," Di Montezemelo said. "(Team principal Stefano) Domenicali has to think and make good proposals for the future. We don't want to wait too long for Felipe. First priority now is to find out about Felipe, only at that moment will we take a decision."

F1's governing body said Monday that it will investigate the accident. The report will also include conclusions from another debris-related incident following last week's death of an F2 driver who was struck in the head by a loose tire from another car.


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