Our duty to make F1 as safe as pos­si­ble

F1 Racing - - F1 INSIDER -

As the pres­i­dent of the FIA Driv­ers’ Com­mis­sion, I feel a great re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure we take the cor­rect ac­tion in the com­ing weeks to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again. We will be work­ing closely with Charlie Whit­ing, the FIA’s safety del­e­gate, to look at all the pro­ce­dures and re­con­sider ev­ery­thing.

This is no time for knee-jerk re­ac­tions. We must con­sider ev­ery an­gle, en­gage the cor­rect ex­per­tise, then take de­ci­sive ac­tion. Bianchi’s ac­ci­dent could have had even worse con­se­quences be­cause if his car had hit the other side of the trac­tor, where sev­eral mar­shals were work­ing to re­move Adrian Su­til’s car, they could also have been se­ri­ously in­jured. Mar­shals play a vi­tal role in on-track safety, and it’s im­por­tant that we con­sider their well­be­ing as we try to learn from this ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent. My per­sonal opin­ions are driven by my ex­pe­ri­ence of rac­ing in the USA, where if any­thing was dropped on the track – or if there was any­thing on the track other than rac­ing cars – the Safety Car would be de­ployed im­me­di­ately. Only then, with cars cir­cu­lat­ing at a much-re­duced (and care­fully con­trolled) speed, would res­cue teams and mar­shals be re­leased to work on the track. It’s in the cul­ture of rac­ing driv­ers to seek any ad­van­tage they can nd, and un­der lo­cal yel­low ags, most don’t slow down enough. It’s in our na­ture.

I also think we should nom­i­nate three or four se­nior driv­ers, with Charlie’s agree­ment, to re­port on track con­di­tions as the weather changes and have in­put into whether the Safety Car comes out. It’s very hard to see from the con­trol tower whether cars are aqua­plan­ing. And the driv­ers have said that the cur­rent specication of wet tyre has quite a nar­row op­er­at­ing win­dow, so to be com­pet­i­tive they have to switch to the in­ter­me­di­ate tyre as soon as pos­si­ble. That tyre dis­perses less wa­ter, in­creas­ing the risk of aqua­plan­ing. Un­less you’re sit­ting inside the cock­pit of an F1 car, you can­not ac­cu­rately judge how much wa­ter is on the track sur­face and how ef­fi­ciently the tyres dis­perse it. You cer­tainly can’t do it while watch­ing tele­vi­sion at home.

The Safety Car is also good for spec­ta­tors, be­cause it brings the cars back to­gether again and can make the race more ex­cit­ing – although ob­vi­ously the guy in the lead won’t think this way! But if the Safety Car is go­ing to be used more of­ten, it’s im­por­tant that the mar­shals are trained prop­erly so they can work quickly to re­solve any is­sues that bring it out. If a race is neu­tralised by a Safety Car for a long pe­riod, this is bor­ing for the fans. It can also mean the race nishes later, which is also risky with events that start in the af­ter­noon when there is not much day­light left. Mar­shals have much bet­ter train­ing now than they used to – I was be­hind Tom Pryce at Kyalami in 1977 when he hit a mar­shal who was cross­ing the track, and it was hor­ri­ble. I think mar­shals will be able to work more quickly and ef­fec­tively if they know they are safer. This is in all our in­ter­ests.

I won­der, too, if we should have another look at pit­lane safety. Hav­ing six guys on each side of the car, just so a wheel can be changed in two seconds, is a big risk in a crowded en­vi­ron­ment. Is this another ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen?

“Mo­tor rac­ing is much safer now, but what hap­pened to Jules demon­strates that the risks have not all been elim­i­nated”

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