Scary crash sends F1 driver Sainz to hospital at Russian GP practice

Course marshalls remove Carlos Sainz's damaged car after he crashed during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom in Sochi, Russia. 

SOCHI, Russia — A heavy crash for Carlos Sainz Jr. ended the final practice session at the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday with the Toro Rosso driver flown to hospital.

Sainz lost control of his car on a high-speed stretch heading into a steep right-hand corner, before scraping along the wall and crashing head on into the barriers.

The Spanish driver remained in the car, with part of the barriers covering the cockpit as the medical car arrived. Cranes were used to lift the barrier sections off the car before Sainz was placed into an ambulance on a stretcher. He was conscious and gave a thumbs-up sign.

"The driver is perfectly conscious and was able to talk to the extrication team," Toro Rosso said in a statement. "Once out of the car he was taken to the circuit Medical Centre, where he underwent an initial assessment of his condition. He has now been taken by air ambulance to the Sochi Hospital."

The team added that "investigations on the reasons for the accident will take place once the car is back in the team’s garage."

The session was red-flagged immediately after the crash with more than 20 minutes remaining and canceled shortly afterward.

Sainz crashed through impact-absorbing Tec-Pro barriers and buckled the metal barrier behind. The damage was so severe that a support race was canceled because of the time needed for repairs. However, the FIA said qualifying would start as scheduled Saturday afternoon.

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of the final practice session with a lap of 1 minute, 38.561 seconds, ahead of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

The shortened session was the first chance teams had to run their cars in the dry in Sochi this weekend, giving them little chance to find appropriate car setups for qualifying and race conditions.

Friday’s first session took place with much of the track wet due to efforts to clean up a fuel spill, while the second session was held in the rain.