By Alan Baldwin
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton pointed to Alex Zanardi as a beacon of hope as Formula One teams and drivers showed support on Friday for British teenager Billy Monger, who lost his legs in a Formula Four accident.
Drivers and teams attached stickers for “Billy Whizz” on cars and helmets in Russian Grand Prix practice, with an online fundraising campaign for the 17-year-old’s recovery reaching 768,000 pounds ($993,254.40).
“I think I was affected more by Billy’s incident than I probably have been by most, with the exception of what happened in Formula One…” said Hamilton, whose boyhood hero was the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna who died in 1994.
“Just to see a kid…I’ve been there, been in that position of racing, he was doing well fighting to get to Formula One and then such a horrific incident. It really hit home,” added the Briton.
“My mind just shines onto Zanardi and showing what he was able to do. I have all the belief, or hope, that Billy will be able to do something similar.”
Zanardi, an ex-Formula One driver, had his legs amputated above the knee after a ChampCar crash at the Lausitzring in Germany on Sept. 15, 2001.
The Italian, a two times champion in the U.S.-based series, lost all but a liter of the blood in his body but returned to racing a year and a half after the accident and competed in the world touring car championship.
He then took up hand-cycling and won three Paralympic gold medals.
Monger, who collided with a stationary car that was unsighted ahead of him during the race at Donington Park on April 16, has had multiple operations since the crash but has already said he hopes to race again.
“His answer to it was ‘we’ll sort that’, it was as simple as that,” his JHR team boss Steven Hunter told the BBC.
“He’s a very, very positive young lad. The first thing he started to do was work out how he would use a clutch with his hands.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)