Former F1 driver JJ Lehto will be interviewed by Finnish police once he is discharged from hospital for injuries suffered in the boat accident in which he was involved last weekend, which tragically resulted in the death of his friend who was with him in the boat.
Finnish police have confirmed that are investigating the boat accident that left the ex-F1 star requiring surgery for broken ribs and head injuries, with the belief that “some kind of offence” has allegedly occurred.
Lehto’s six-metre Searay 210 Fission speedboat collided with a road bridge support at 4am on Friday morning, killing the travelling companion. Lehto somehow survived the accident and managed to swim ashore to raise the alarm.
Finland’s Turun Sanomat is reporting that an eyewitness who treated him ashore described his demeanour as drunk, and the newspaper has also reported that the Finn failed a police alcohol breath test.
The nature of the accident would support speculation that the 300bhp boat was travelling well above the speed limit governed in the narrow channel at Jomalvik – located on the nation’s southern coast, west of the Finnish capital, Helsinki. This could leave the racer-cum-commentator potentially being charged if it was found he was at the helm of the boat when it collided with the bridge support.
“Some kind of offence is suspected, but I am not taking a position until it becomes clearer who did what,” Juha-Pekka Vuorinen – the police inspector leading the investigation – told Ilta-Sanomat.
He added to the HBL network: “We cannot interview someone who is still strongly medicated. The doctors say he could be discharged [from hospital] in a week, and then we will hear from him as soon as possible.”
National statistics report than an average of 55 people are killed yearly in boating accidents in Finland, with the principal contributors being excess alcohol consumption and an unwillingness to don lifejackets while on the water.
A hugely successful driver in the junior categories, Lehto’s F1 career began as a Ferrari test driver in 1989 before he was drafted into the Onyx team late in the season. His career of 70 Grands Prix participations were split with the likes of Dallara (for whom he achieved his sole podium finish at the 1991 San Marino GP), Sauber and Benetton until the end of the 1994 season. Subsequent years were spent in touring car, sports car and GT racing, and he won the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of a McLaren F1 GTR. Since 2001, he has been a mainstay of Finland’s MTV3 F1 commentary team.