SPANISH Formula One driver Carlos Sainz is hopeful of returning to action for today’s Russian Grand Prix after surviving a harrowing 200mph shunt in final practice.
Sainz, who is contesting his debut season in the sport, was airlifted to a nearby hospital in Sochi after the crash yesterday morning.
The 21-year-old lost control of his Toro Rosso as he approached turn 13 – the fastest section of the circuit which runs through Sochi’s Olympic Park. He then slammed into the nearside wall, destroying the front left of his car, before careering head-on into the tyre barrier still at high speed. The session was immediately red flagged, and subsequently abandoned, as medical crews took 20 minutes to extract Sainz from his cockpit.
There were worrying expressions on the faces of his team and throughout the paddock but as Sainz was put into the ambulance on the back of a stretcher he gave the thumbs-up.
His Toro Rosso team later confirmed he was conscious and talking to the medical team as he was removed from his car.
The driver, pictured, later tweeted a picture from his hospital bed accompanied by the words: “All OK! Nothing to worry about! Already thinking how to convince the doctors to (let me) be on the grid for tomorrow.”
Nico Rosberg will start from pole position after edging out Lewis Hamilton in qualifying.
The German, who is 48 points adrift of the Briton in the championship race, posted a best lap of one minute and 37.113 seconds to finish comfortably ahead of his Mercedes team-mate.
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas will start from third, with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel fourth on the grid.
Heading into the final five rounds of the championship, Rosberg had vowed not to give up his unlikely task of preventing Hamilton from clinching consecutive titles. And his second straight pole – only his third of the season – will give the German hope he can begin his fightback with victory here today.
Hamilton, who made a mistake on his final run, was out of his Mercedes cockpit before the session ended, and is likely to be alarmed by the three-tenths of a second gap to his team-mate.
The Briton, who finished each of the three qualifying sessions behind Rosberg, said: “I made a mistake at turn 13. It has been a difficult weekend for everyone and Nico did a great job on his lap and I was not quite happy with the balance I had.”
Rosberg started on pole last time out in Japan but was outmuscled by his team-mate through turns one and two.
He said: “I am very happy. It has been a difficult weekend because of the little running that we got, but qualifying worked out really well and we got a good balance on the car.”
Mercedes are set to seal back-to-back team championships today. They need to outscore Ferrari by three points. Vettel is fourth on the grid with his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in fifth.
Jenson Button, who has confirmed he will race on for McLaren in 2016, sealed his second-best qualifying result of what has been a miserable year for the Briton.
The 2009 world champion will start from 13th, but his team-mate Fernando Alonso will take little satisfaction from qualifying after he was knocked out at the first stage. That, coupled with a 35-place grid penalty following yet another engine change, will see the Spaniard drop to the back of the pack.