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Fastest in health and sickness

india Updated: Dec 21, 2011 02:09 IST
Dipak Ragav

Fitness and Formula One go hand in hand is a well known fact. However, to Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the 1997 world championship runner-up and winner of three Grands Prix, this rule doesn't always apply as illness seems to get the best out of him.

Frentzen crashed heavily while running second during the 1999 Canadian GP when his Jordan 199 suffered brake disc failure. The German was knocked unconscious. He had to be flown to the hospital with his left knee bleeding and was barely able to walk. Just 10 days later, he won the French GP in changing weather conditions enduring pain in his right leg and what he terms as “driving with a handicap.” He drove the entire race with a broken right leg, compromising his ability to hit the brake pedal properly.

“After the crash in Canada they took me to the hospital and did a complete scan but did not check my right leg as my left knee was only bleeding,” said Frentzen while speaking to HT “I had to limp to the podium.”

Frentzen recalled another incident during the 1998 Hungarian GP when he had a bout of food poisoning during the whole weekend but managed to finish fifth in the hot conditions. “I just had an egg on Friday morning and from that evening I was not feeling good at all,” he joked. “Whatever I ate did not stay in for long and during the weekend I was running to and from the restroom. “I had my best races when I was sick,” he said. “After the race I told my team if I can drive in that condition, don't ever talk to me about my fitness.”

Frentzen topped the two-hour test session held at the Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesday followed by Giancarlo Fisichella and Karun Chandhok. The session was held with the intention of allowing drivers to familiarize themselves with the Radical SR3 that will be used for the i1 Super Series.

The writer’s trip has been sponsored by Machdar Motorsports.