F1: ‘We do our best for driver safety’

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

LON­DON — For­mula One is as safe as it has ever been but dan­ger will al­ways be part of the sport, com­mer­cial supremo Bernie Ec­cle­stone said on Sun­day af­ter the death of French driver Jules Bianchi in hos­pi­tal.

“If you were to choose to have an ac­ci­dent to­day in any­thing, you’d choose a For­mula One [car] be­cause it’s prob­a­bly the safest it’s ever been,” the 84-year-old Bri­ton told BBC ra­dio.

“What ac­tu­ally hap­pened to Jules was just very, very, very un­for­tu­nate.

“Of course it’s dan­ger­ous,” he added of the sport. “They have 20 races a year, so you see how many ac­ci­dents there are. We do our best, or al­ways have done our best, for driver safety.”

Bianchi (25) died in hos­pi­tal in Nice, south­ern France, on Fri­day af­ter nine months in a coma fol­low­ing his hor­rific ac­ci­dent at the Ja­panese Grand Prix last Oc­to­ber.

He was the first For­mula One driver to die of in­juries re­ceived in a race since Brazil­ian triple world cham­pion Ayr­ton Senna at Imola in 1994.

The Marus­sia driver, pop­u­lar and tipped for a stel­lar fu­ture af­ter com­ing through the Fer­rari academy, skid­ded off the track in wet con­di­tions and fad­ing light while yel­low warn­ing flags were be­ing waved to tell driv­ers to slow down.

He smashed into a re­cov­ery trac­tor that was re­mov­ing another crashed car.

“The trac­tor should never have been there,” said Ec­cle­stone, who started out in For­mula One in the 1950s and wit­nessed the sport at its dead­li­est over the next two decades.

“We’ve done an aw­ful lot of work to make sure that if a car does go off and hits some­thing, they hit the tyre bar­ri­ers or what­ever, then its all okay,” he added.

For­mula One’s gov­ern­ing body has in­tro­duced a num­ber of safety mea­sures af­ter the crash at Suzuka, in­clud­ing the use of a “vir­tual safety car” and mak­ing the area around the cock­pit stronger.

The Grand Prix Driv­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (GPDA) said Bianchi’s death was a re­minder that more could al­ways be done, how­ever.

“De­spite con­sid­er­able im­prove­ments we, the grand prix driv­ers, owe it to the rac­ing com­mu­nity to the lost ones and to Jules, his fam­ily and friends, to never re­lent in im­prov­ing safety,” the body said in a state­ment as the world of motorsport paid trib­ute to the French­man.

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