Toyota driver Timo Glock was taken to hospital after crashing into a tire wall at high speed during qualifying and is in doubt for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The German driver sustained leg and back injuries on Saturday after spearing off front first into a tire wall at the top of the start-finish straight.
He remained in the car for almost 10 minutes, attended by medical staff as a screen was placed around the car, before he was carried on a stretcher to an ambulance and later taken to hospital by helicopter.
Glock waved as he was being put into the ambulance, indicating he was conscious.
Toyota team principal John Howett said scans had cleared Glock of any major damage.
A decision would be taken by early Sunday about Glock’s fitness to race, with Howett saying Toyota would sound out stewards as to whether reserve driver Kamui Kobayashi would be allowed to compete despite not having taken part in qualifying.
“There is a gray area there, whether or not he can,” Howett said. “The stewards can give us a force majeure to compete.”
Glock had earlier missed Friday’s official practice sessions, suffering from a heavy cold and fever.
Howett said telemetry data from the car indicated no problem to cause the crash, but stopped short of saying the accident was due to driver error.
“From our perspective, there is nothing wrong with the car,” Howett said. “You can see (on the replay) that physically he was not trying to turn the wheel.”
Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions were strewn with similar but less serious incidents.
Mark Webber, Heikki Kovalain, Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari also skated across gravel traps and into tire walls at the Degner Curve - a long right-hand bend in the middle section of the lap.
Buemi went off for a second time at the end of the second qualifying session, making several contacts with a wall after losing his front wing.
Of concern for drivers and race officials were that the collisions with the wall came after the cars crossed gravel traps that proved inadequate in their purpose of slowing cars before such contact.
The Suzuka circuit is being used for F1 for the first time in three years, with few drivers having experience of the demanding track. Friday’s practice sessions were rain affected and therefore run at a much slower pace than Saturday’s track action.
“It looked pretty scary and thankfully he is OK,” Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who took pole position for Sunday’s race, said of Glock’s accident. “The most important message is all the drivers are OK.”
About half the circuit had been resurfaced since its most recent F1 race, and constant rain Friday and into Saturday morning meant grip levels were below what they usually would be by the time of qualifying.
“It’s a very challenging circuit, one of the most challenging circuits we can find in the world,” Glock’s Toyota teammate Jarno Trulli said.
“We have seen today that you can’t afford any mistake because the run-off areas here are quite small.”