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Massa's emotional Hungary return; Monaco handed 10-year deal

Felipe Massa says his horror accident in Hungary last year has given him a new perspective on life.
Felipe Massa says his horror accident in Hungary last year has given him a new perspective on life.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Felipe Massa returns to Hungary just over a year after he almost died in freak accident
  • Ferrari driver was hit in the head by a flying car part during qualifying in Budapest
  • He says he plans to thank the people who helped to save his life that day
  • Monaco Grand Prix will remain on F1 calendar for next 10 years after deal is agreed

(CNN) -- Formula One star Felipe Massa plans to thank the people who helped save his life a year ago as he makes an emotional return to Hungary this week.

The Ferrari driver suffered horrific head injuries after a freak accident during the second qualifying session for the 2009 race in Budapest, when a spring from another car smashed into his helmet.

The Brazilian was ruled out for the rest of the season, but has returned this year alongside new teammate Fernando Alonso.

"My first meeting when I arrive at the Hungaroring circuit will be with all the marshals and medical staff who did such a very good job of carefully getting me out of the cockpit," he told the F1 website on Wednesday.

The accident did change me. It made me value life much more than before, and I appreciate the ordinary things in life 10 times more
--Felipe Massa
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"I want to thank these people, with whom I now feel a special bond. I had to stay in hospital for a week after the accident and I got to know the staff, who all treated me so well -- and one unusual result of the whole unfortunate episode is that I know I now have a lot more fans in Hungary."

The 29-year-old was a close runner-up in the 2008 world championship to this year's leader Lewis Hamilton, but has had only two podium finishes on his return to the Italian team.

He finished second in the opening race of 2010 in Bahrain behind Alonso, and then repeated that result in Germany last weekend in controversial circumstances as he appeared to allow his teammate to pass him after receiving instructions on his radio.

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"Quite often this year, journalists ask me if I feel I am back to normal and if I am driving as well as before and my answer is always the same: Yes, in terms of my work, absolutely nothing has changed," Massa said.

"But as a person, the accident did change me. It made me value life much more than before, and I appreciate the ordinary things in life 10 times more, and it has put life and my health in perspective, not taking anything for granted and not just for me, but also for life in general and what it means to everyone.

"I know what it means now and I feel I am much more mature as a human being. However, on the professional front, nothing has changed, because once you shut the visor and go out on the race track, you just do everything as before, without thinking of the accident."

Massa hopes Ferrari can build on the Hockenheim performance at a circuit where he has never won.

"Bridgestone is bringing its super-soft and medium tires that have always suited the F10 very well, so maybe we can have another very competitive race," he said.

"Personally, I have never had a good result at this circuit, but that has simply been down to circumstances, as I do enjoying driving here a lot. In 2008 for example, the last time I actually raced here, I led for 60 laps until my engine failed."

Ferrari fined as Alonso denies Massa

Alonso, who moved to within 34 points of Hamilton with his second victory of the season, has better history at the venue -- though he failed to finish last year after starting from pole, with Hamilton the victor for McLaren.

"The Hungaroring is a special circuit for me. It was here in 2003 that I scored my first Formula One win," the Spaniard said.

"The track can almost be described as a go-kart track for Formula One cars. The corners follow on, one from the other, so there is nowhere for a driver to pause for breath, and it is vital to have a car that deals with the many bumps in the track surface and handles riding the kerbs.

"From the physical and mental point of view it is a pretty demanding race, so it is important not to get impetuous and overcook things, because any mistake is heavily penalized, especially in qualifying."

Meanwhile, the future of the Monaco Grand Prix has been assured after its organizers agreed a new 10-year deal with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Ecclestone met Automobile Club de Monaco president Michel Boeri in London on Wednesday to seal the agreement, the official F1 website reported.