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Panis back to hospital

OLIVIER PANIS flew from Japan to Canada where he went back to the Sacre Coeur Hospital in Montreal to undergo an operation to remove various metal pins and plates from his legs which were inserted after his crash during the Canadian GP in June 1997. The Frenchman will need a couple of months to recover from the operation which means that he will miss testing for Prost-Peugeot in the course of December. The work will be done by his team-mate Jarno Trulli and by the team's test driver Stephane Sarrazin.

Although Panis has made no public statements about having had problems with his legs, the fact that he has agreed to undergo another operation suggests that he has not been completely comfortable and this may help to explain why he has been overshadowed somewhat by Trulli.

After the crash Panis was out of action for only 10 weeks before he tested a Dallara Formula 3 car at Paul Ricard. He then went straight back into action with the Prost team. At the start of the year he was regularly able to outqualify the inexperienced Trulli but from the mid-season on he seemed to be struggling and ended up being outqualified by Trulli nine times in 16 races. While one or two drivers have returned to the same level of competitiveness after serious leg injuries many others over the years have found that they have lost a certain amount of movement or feel as a result of a crash.

Panis is expected to return to the Centre Reeducation et de Readaptation Sportive in the seaside resort of Treboul-Douarnenez, near Quimper in the Brittany region of north-western France for a rehabilitation program.

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