Whose life is it anyway?
story supports his theory. Someone has to apply limits if we can’t do it ourselves. The seat-belt law is a case in point. People didn’t like being told what to do with their lives, but they have no idea of what really happens in an accident. They would undoubtedly change their view if they, or one of their loved ones, were to go through the windscreen.
Formula 1 used to be a blood sport. Drivers regularly died horribly violent deaths. This had to stop. I’d like to think it had to stop because we all felt it was morally untenable, not because we feared losing business through government regulation to restrict our freedom to kill ourselves in front of millions of people. But let’s suppose for a second that F1 was 100 per cent safe. Would it be worth watching? As someone who can’t watch those home videos of old ladies falling off swings without wincing, I happen to believe it would. But would it be as exciting to watch? That’s another question.
My father raced in the most bloody period of motorsport. It was grim. Not pretty at all. I also experienced the Imola tragedy rst-hand. If there was any way of bringing back those drivers, we would do it in a heartbeat. There is no benet to premature death. The pain it inicted and the shock to all involved in our sport, and indeed to the fans, was massive. I was a pallbearer at Ayrton’s funeral. When I see shots of this generation of drivers carrying Jules’ cofn I know how powerful that experience can be.
But here is the crux of the problem. The argument against losing risk says that if you take danger out of motorsport you change its fundamental nature, and in doing so you change its appeal. You get a different audience and you get different types of drivers, not daredevils, not free-spirits who want to spend their life living the way they want. The emphasis shifts to skill over bravery. And there is no issue in that. Most other sports involve skill only. But isn’t bravery also a kind of skill?
We marvel at those who can control fear. It is one of the greatest tests we can face as vulnerable mortal creatures. Do we not think that it is also part of our sport to let drivers show this skill of theirs? I think so. But anyone who thinks that sitting in a racing car, no matter how well protected, will not involve huge courage and skill does not understand what these guys do for their money. Even with protection, the risks will still be signicant.
The only important thing for me is that every driver getting into a racing car has understood and accepted the risks involved. Implicitly they do this by getting into their car at every race. But what might be better is if they make it clear to everyone that they have willingly chosen to do this thing, come what may, and that they fully understand the risks. This used to be a regular part of a driver’s weekend, explaining to journalists why they thought the risks were worth it. We should respect and admire them for choosing to race, but the audience should also be left in no doubt about what they are watching. Maybe our sport should carry a warning to viewers: ‘What you are about to see could involve injury or death. These drivers are extreme professionals who understand the consequences. Don’t try this yourself.’ It might even put a few more bums on seats.
• For more on the safety debate, turn to our feature about halos and canopies on 60
Is it morally wrong to deny protection once it has been shown to be viable, or is it up to the drivers to make their own choices?