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Hospital bed to Aussie win: Sainz comeback kick-starts career

Hospital bed to Aussie win: Sainz comeback kick-starts career

MELBOURNE, Australia — Little more than two weeks ago, Carlos Sainz was laid up in a hospital bed in Saudi Arabia. An appendicitis diagnosis the morning of qualifying in Jeddah had seen him undergo emergency surgery and, in the process, forced him to miss the second round of what could prove to be the most important racing season of his Formula One career.

At that moment, a return to the cockpit of his Ferrari seemed distant. A return to the top step of the podium seemed like pure fantasy.

Fast forward to Lap 2 of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix and Sainz, just 16 days later, was passing reigning champion Max Verstappen for the lead. The Red Bull’s right rear brake was sticking — to the point that it would catch fire and result in the championship leader’s retirement two laps later — but that made Sainz’s journey from hospital bed to victory no less remarkable.

For just the second time in 11 months, someone other than Verstappen was going to win a race. And just as it was in Singapore last September, it was going to be Sainz.

A remarkable recovery

In the aftermath of his surgery in Saudi Arabia, Sainz scoured the internet for the contact details of doctors who might be able to help him make the quickest possible return to an F1 car. There were examples of other athletes who had made surprisingly quick recoveries in similar time frames — including Williams driver Alex Albon, who raced three weeks after complications during his surgery to remove his appendix in 2022 — but there were no guarantees he’d be able to travel to Australia and race.

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“The reason why athletes recover faster is because you can dedicate 24 hours per day for seven days to recovery. And that’s exactly what I did,” Sainz said on Sunday. “I started going to hyperbaric chambers twice a day for one hour, taking an Indiba machine, that is electromagnetic thing for the wounds.

“I was programming my time in bed, my time to go for a walk, my time to eat, the kind of food that you have to recover. Just everything is centered around recovery to try to be ready for Australia.”

Progress in the first week was frustratingly slow, with long periods in bed and limited movement. Even with nine days to go before Sunday’s race, Sainz struggled to lift himself out of bed in order to go to the airport and board his 24-hour flight…

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