Rome: Polish Formula One driver Robert Kubica underwent seven hours of surgery on Sunday after suffering multiple injuries in a high-speed rally crash which could cost him the use of his right hand and end his career.
The 26-year-old Lotus Renault driver was at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia, taking part in the Ronde di Andora Rally in Liguria in the north-west of Italy, when his vehicle left the road and crashed into a church wall.
He was airlifted to the Santa Corona hospital in nearby Pietra Ligure where he underwent surgery.
"Surgeons are trying to restore the functionality of his right hand," Kubica's manager Daniel Morelli told reporters outside the hospital.
"They have restarted the circulation of blood and repaired the bone structure. Now they have to think about the muscle functionality but Robert has a very strong character, he'll be OK."
Italian media later reported that surgeon Igor Rossello was satisfied with how the operation went.
Two teams of surgeons worked solidly for seven hours sharing shifts, but it will be several days before they know if Kubica will gain full use of his hand.
Kubica is reported to have taken a bend at speed when he lost control and hit a guard rail which broke down the drivers' door and bent the roll-bar.
His co-driver, Jacub Gerber, emerged from the wreck unhurt but Kubica remained inside.
"We were driving the first four kilometres of the first special stage," explained Gerber.
"I was looking at the notes and I didn't realise the car was skidding. It was only at the moment of impact that I saw Robert was holding his arm and after a few moments he lost consciousness.
"Robert is not just a great driver but also a friend, I hope he'll be back soon."
Kubica was said to have been conscious when emergency services removed him from the wreckage.
He was then transferred to hospital by helicopter suffering from multiple fractures and internal trauma.
With the start of the new F1 season just five weeks away, it's likely that reserve driver Bruno Senna will be called in to take Kubica's place at the Bahrain opener.
Lotus Renault team principal Eric Boullier said he was shocked by the accident.
"Robert is someone we like a lot. It is extremely sad. We are all really shocked," said Boullier.
"He has multiple fractures. His hand is injured. It is too early and impolite to think of a replacement driver. We are waiting for news of Robert and how long he will be out of action before we think of taking such a decision."
It is not the first time Kubica has been involved in a horror crash, after he hit a wall at 300kph during the Canadian Grand Prix in 2007.
Driving for Sauber, Kubica slid off the circuit and crashed into a wall, before rebounding across the track in a barrel roll and hitting another barrier.
Kubica, however, was not seriously injured, sustaining nothing more serious than a sprained ankle and slight concussion.
He missed only one Grand Prix after the incident.
Fellow drivers have been showing their support for Kubica.
Italian news agency Ansa said former world champion Fernando Alonso had arrived at the hospital to visit his friend.
Williams veteran Rubens Barrichello wrote on Twitter: "I would like to ask you for your best wishes to Kubica. He is being operated (on) right now. We all like him and he deserves all the best."