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      02-07-2011, 11:40 AM   #21
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Robert Kubica was awakened from an induced coma as he began the first day of a lengthy rehabilitation period from serious injuries sustained in a rally crash.

Kubica, who suffered a partially severed right hand and fractures to his right arm and leg in a high-speed shunt on the Ronde di Andora Rally, was able to speak to medical staff for the first time following seven hours in surgery on Sunday evening.

The 26-year-old's Super 2000 Skoda Fabia left the road and collided with a church on the first special stage of the rally, with reports suggesting his injuries were caused by a crash barrier penetrating the driver's footwell. His co-driver, Jakub Gerber, was unhurt.

The head of the intensive care unit at the Santa Corona Hospital in Pietra Ligure, Dr Giorgio Barabino, shed some more light on the extent of the trauma suffered by the Pole, saying that several transfusions were required to stabilise his condition due to significant blood loss.

"Kubica is conscious, he talks and understands what has happened," said Dr Barabino.

"The first thing he thought about was his co-driver and was informed about his condition.

"Things are going well considering that there was substantial damage. There were huge difficulties we faced and the necessary measures were taken immediately.

"Kubica lost a lot of blood, that is why the first hour was critical.

"He was unconscious and could not be operated on when he arrived to the hospital. He needed many transfusions during the stabilising process as well as during the very long surgery."

The hospital's director of orthopaedics Dr Francesco Lanza confirmed that Kubica will require further surgery on his other injuries.

"The patient will have to undergo more surgery: not only on the parts already treated, but also for other problems and traumas he suffered, for which we couldn't work on because of the emergency," he told Il Vostro Giornale. "The important thing was to stabilise the patient and to pad the biggest wounds.

"For the fractures suffered on his leg, he will need at least three or four months to allow the bone to set back together."

Earlier, Kubica's manager Daniele Morelli said the Formula One driver had taken "important steps forward" in his recovery.

"He is suffering because of the lesions to his leg and arm but the brain activity is okay and we are certainly more relieved than with respect to 24 hours ago," said Morelli.

"The doctors have said he has taken important steps forward."

Professor Mario Igor Rossello, who operated on Kubica last night, has said the Lotus Renault driver will take a year to recover from his injuries, while more immediately it will take the best part of a week to determine whether the procedure to reconstruct his hand was a success.

Rossello, a specialist hand surgeon, said: "The hand is warm which means the surgery went well. It was a difficult operation.

"We will need six days to verify if the blood circulation in the limb responds as it should do."

Lotus Renault team principal Eric Boullier has defended the decision to allow Kubica to contest a rally so close to the start of the new F1 season.

"Robert is a true racer, his life is motor racing," Boullier told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It was agreed between us that he keep doing the rallies because it was part of his balance in his life.

"We knew the risks of doing the rally; he knew it as well. It was agreed together."

Boullier echoed Morelli's view that his driver's progress had been encouraging, and even refused to rule Kubica out of the whole of the coming F1 season despite the doctors' forecast of a year on the sidelines.

"This morning it was really fine - they needed 24 hours to make sure he recovered completely and it looks like this morning they are all happy," Boullier said.

"He is definitely out for a couple of months. The recovery will be quicker than one year, but it is a bit early to know exactly how long he will need."

The new F1 season gets under way in Bahrain on March 13 and Lotus Renault have a choice to make as to whether they turn to one of their reserve drivers to fill the void.

Brazilian Bruno Senna, who raced for Hispania last year, and Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who contested seven grands prix for Renault in 2009, are the men in the frame, although the team may yet seek a more experienced head, with both Nick Heidfeld and Vitantonio Liuzzi - both of whom are without a drive in 2011 - likely candidates.

"We are already starting to think and work on a contingency plan," Boullier added.

"We don't know yet, we are actually waiting to know how long it will take because [should it be] a short-term replacement we will take one of our reserve drivers.

"If he has to be longer we may have to consider different options."