Formula 3 driver Sophia Florsch took a selfie with her father in hospital to reassure her family she was OK, after a “miracle” helped her survive a 170mph crash at the Macau Grand Prix.
Florsch, 18, fractured her spine after losing control of her car, which flew through the air before smashing into a fence and photographers’ bunker.
The German is hoping to become the first female Formula 1 world champion.
“It’s quite a big goal but I’m getting closer every year,” Florsch said.
Road to recovery
“I’m feeling good. It all happened like four weeks ago and I can nearly do everything – the pain is getting less day by day,” the German told BBC Sport.
“The last two weeks have been quite OK; I started with my rehab two weeks ago so you don’t lose any more muscles at the beginning, and so my body keeps working again.
“For me now, it’s just about finding the basics, to build up my strength and arms and legs, but I can do everything apart from using my back and my neck, so it’s been an OK couple of weeks.
“I had two broken bones in my spinal column, T3 which is still broken and C7, which was broken in three parts.
“That was actually the dangerous one, because one part of this bone went right into the thing where the nerves go and that was the reason why I had to have surgery the next day.
“I need to start everything slowly and build it up from there, so I’m building my training up, adding more weights each day and my goal is to be back in the car at the end of February or the beginning of March.
“It depends, of course, how the bone knits together again, but that’s the plan and I will try to be fit then again.”
‘I never thought it was going to be a really bad crash’
“It probably is a miracle, but that’s probably also the reason why I am happy and why I am normal,” said the teenager, who celebrated her 18th birthday less than two weeks after the crash.
“It happened quite fast – the top speed was 275kmph – but I can do nearly everything again so, for me, it’s just to be happy and to continue to be positive.
“I remember everything from the crash. It felt just completely different for me because it just happened so fast.
Speaking about the moment she realised everything had gone wrong, Florsch said: “[It was when] I didn’t have the control any more because I lost my two side wheels because of the other driver, then you’re just like ‘OK, this is going to be a crash’ but I never thought ‘this is going to be a really bad crash’.
“Even when I was in the hospital, for me, the crash wasn’t so horrible.
“When I saw the video for the first time, I was like ‘OK, this actually looks quite bad’.
“I watched it for the first time on the Friday after the crash, and of course I was also shocked because it doesn’t look nice at all. It’s really horrible.
“I didn’t expect it to look that bad because, in the car, it didn’t feel so horrible.
“So the flying [through the air] part, I remember, but it felt different. For me, it felt like sliding on the ground. I don’t know if it’s because it happened so fast, but it just felt the same.
“Of course, it was a little bit strange that I was landing on top of the barriers, but I didn’t get it together, so I also didn’t really think about what it happened.
“The video got quite big and a lot of people saw it. A lot of people texted me, especially F1 drivers like [Fernando] Alonso, [Nico] Rosberg and [Nico] Hulkenberg, but also F1 teams.
“It’s just unbelievable to see how close not just family stays and to have all those fans all over the world supporting you.”
‘When I was at the hospital, the first thing me and my dad did was take a selfie’
“My dad was at my car with me and my mum and little sister were at home. I think it was quite bad for all of them because the video looks horrible,” Sophia said.
“That was also one of my first thoughts, to tell the team over the radio that I’m OK and to please tell my family, but it didn’t work.
“When I was at the hospital, the first thing me and my dad did was take a selfie to send to my mum and my sister to tell them I’m OK.
“Even if I watched the video, I would not think that the person in there would be OK.
“It was just so much unluckiness coming together with luck to not make it a really bad one.”
Asked what her mother said after she revealed her intention to return to racing, Sophia said: “Actually, I think she never really asked me, it was more my grandmother and my aunts and uncles.
“When I explained why I still wanted to race, they actually understood it. I think all people who are really close to me and who know me already knew the answer before the question because they know that it’s just my life and I would continue even though this crash happened.”
‘Billy Monger is incredible’
Florsch also talked about her friendship with British racing driver Billy Monger, who received the Helen Rollason Award – given “for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity” – at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show.
“I’ve known Billy for a lot of years actually and we’ve been karting already together and we did Ginetta Juniors together one year,” she said.
The 19-year-old had both his legs amputated following a crash during a Formula 4 race at Donington Park in April 2017, before returning to racing in March 2018.
“He’s a super cool kid and also quite a good friend. What he had to go through is really hard and a lot of people would have said ‘OK, I want to stop’,” Florsch added.
“He was already so positive and a happy person before the crash and it’s incredibly nice to see that he didn’t change at all.
“He’s still this guy who loves racing, who is happy and enjoying life to the edge.
“He was an inspiration for so many people because his story is incredible. He has an incredible heart and he’s just taking the best out of it and that’s really nice.
“He text me after my crash and said he was sending best wishes which is nice to know.”
‘I want to be a Formula 1 world champion’
If Florsch’s nerve has not been affected by the crash, neither has her ambition.
“Of course I hope to be back behind the wheel,” she said. “The plans are to do the same series again as I did this year, the F3 European Championship which is now called Euromasters – so that’s going to be my plan.
“Hopefully it will be with Van Amersfoort, the team that I raced with this year, because they are an amazing team.
“I’ll see how it goes, but my goal is to get to F1 and have success there and maybe be world champion.
“It’s quite a big goal but I’m getting closer every year and I think it’s possible to be there, for sure, and to be a woman world champion.
“I just want to be the best driver. I think the woman part comes by itself.”