Former Formula One driver and four-time Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi is in a “critical condition” after undergoing neurosurgery after being involved in a serious road accident in the Italian province of Siena on Friday while taking part in a race on his handbike.
The fifty-three-year-old was involved in a crash with a lorry in the town of Pienza on Friday and was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Siena, where he is on a ventilator in intensive care and “the neurological picture remains serious”.
His “neurosurgical and maxillo-facial” operation lasted almost three hours.
The accident according to Sky News Italy happened when Zanardi slipped into the opposite lane where a truck was passing at the time. From what is learned, the pilot reportedly suffered a polytrauma. He was transferred to the Le Scotte hospital in Siena where he arrived with the helicopter.
Zanardi was taking part in an event called the Obiettivo Tricolore, a journey that sees the participants riding across Italy on handbikes, cycles or wheelchairs.
Zanardi competed in forty-one Grands Prix in the 1990s and raced for four teams – Jordan, Minardi, Lotus and Williams. The Italian’s best result was a sixth-place finish in the 1993 Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Siena’s Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital said in a statement that the fifty-three-year-old Italian, who lost both legs and nearly his life in a 2001 Champ Car crash in Germany, was in a “very serious” condition.
A further statement in the early hours of Saturday morning said, “the Health Directorate of the Aou Senese informs that the patient, subjected to a delicate neurosurgical intervention on the evening of June 19.”
“Subsequently transferred to intensive care, has stable hemodynamic and metabolic parameters. He is intubated and supported by artificial ventilation while the neurological picture remains serious.”
The Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte Tweeted “You have never given up and with your extraordinary fortitude you have overcome a thousand difficulties. Come on Alex Zanardi, don’t give up. All of Italy is fighting with you.”
Zanardi is a leading Paralympic athlete, having won four gold medals on his handbike in the 2012 and 2016 games.