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F1 race winner Kovalainen recovering from open-heart surgery

Formula 1 race winner turned rally driver Heikki Kovalainen says he has the possibility of making a full recovery after undergoing open-heart surgery.

Heikki Kovalainen, JBXE

Photo by: Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

The former McLaren, Renault, Caterham and Lotus F1 driver announced in March that he would undergo an operation after being diagnosed with an ascending aortic aneurysm, a medical condition that affects the arteries.

As a result of the diagnosis, Kovalainen has halted any motorsport activities.

The Finn had been set to defend his Japanese Rally Championship title, driving a Toyota GR Yaris Rally2, alongside co-driver Sae Kitagawa, with whom he won back-to-back titles in 2022 and 2023.

Kovalainen has since offered an update on his condition, confirming that his operation “went well” and is now recovering at home.

“I was diagnosed with an ascending aortic aneurysm at the end of last year,” he said in a social media video.

“It’s a piece of the ascending aorta that has dilated quite a lot. This is obviously the reason why I haven't been able to join in rallies or any other activities over the winter. Over the last few months, I have been going through, with a team of doctors, my options.

Heikki Kovalainen, Skoda Fabia Evo Rally2

Heikki Kovalainen, Skoda Fabia Evo Rally2

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“We decided to have an operation. I was operated on last week at Tampere University Hospital, in the heart unit there. A wonderful team of doctors, nurses and assistants took care of me. It was open-heart surgery, so I have marks forever on my chest. But the surgery went well.

“We managed to do exactly what we set out to do. We cut out the diseased part of the ascending aorta and put an artificial graft in place. Everything went well. It was obviously a big operation. A couple of days after the operation I was feeling a bit rough, but things have improved a lot since then.

“I'm actually back at home and already recovering. The outlook is quite good. There is an opportunity to make a full recovery and regain full fitness, but of course, only time will tell how it all works out. So far, the estimation is pretty good, so I'm very pleased about it.

“In the meantime, I continue to recover and try to hopefully get out and little by little increase my activities. The main thing is obviously that the chest bone has time to heal. And once all of this is done, if things go well, I hope to be able to return to my normal routines. I hope to see you out soon again.”

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