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Since 2000, 40 drivers have died in auto racing accidents... None in F1. Should safety be increased?


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#1 Jackmancer

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 15:37

This isn't a popular subject, but I do it in great respect. Last night I was watching tribute videos of 'fallen heroe's, so to say, and reading up on them on Wikipedia, reading old articles and interviews. With a great deal of sadness, I have to say.

Such tragic stories, about Paletti, who crashed in only his first real F1 start, or about Pironi, who died in a speedboat accident, but his wife, after his death, gave birth to his two sons, and named them Didier and Gilles, a great testament to their bitter rivalry. Also non-F1, such as Marco Simoncelli - I'm still gutted about that... and the son of John Surtees, the legend who lived through the most dangerous years of motorsport, but his son Henry was killed in an F2 race.

I came across more deaths. I never realised Ove Anderson had died in a rally, or Michele Alboreto in a testing accident.

Since 2000, 50 drivers have died in auto racing accidents.

Ove Andersson
Bob Akin
Michele Alboreto
Blaise Alexander
Scott Baker
Tom Baldwin
Ryan Bard
Jorg Bastuck
John III Blewett
Peter Bourne
Peter Brock
Dennis Brooks
Fred Brownfield
Ralph Chandler Bruning Jr.
Jeff Clinton
Ashley Cooper
Paul Dana
Dale Earnhardt
Mike Gagliardo
Frits Glatz
Shane Hammond
Michelle Howard
Irwin Kenny Jr
Scott Kalitta
Billy Kimmel
Steve King
Ron Laney
John Lingenfelter
Mark Lovell
Eric Martin
Tyler Morr
Stewart McColl
Eric Medlen
Mark Niver
Senkichi Omura
Carlos Pardo
Michael Park
Neal Parker
Stan Perry
Adam Petty
Wanda Phillips
Mark Porter
Joe Rebman
Tony Renna
Tony Roper
Darrell Russel
John Shoemaker
Rafel Sperafico
Henry Surtees
Dan Wheldon
Nolan White

This list doesn't even include motorbike racing (14 since 2000, in Dakar another 6 and a staggering 42 in Isle of Man TT alone), or rally accidents (only 3 since 2000, which I could find). Then there where deaths of many marshals as well, but this is a bit more difficult to find, cause sadly, these don't get remotely the attention drivers get.




But, my question to you is this;
Will there ever be another fatal incident in F1?
It's unthinkable, but right now, it's over 18 years ago since that tragic weekend in Imola, and it's the longest period in Grand Prix racing without a fatal accident.

Yet the real question is this;
Do you think safety should continue to be increased?

A small introduction on why:
After the deaths of Paolo Ghislimberti at the 2000 Italian Grand Prix, and Graham Beveridge at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, tyres must be attached to steel cables, so they didn't come off as easily. HANS was introduced in 2003, cockpits where heightened in 2008, after this crash between Coulthard and Wurz, - and I believed later they got heightened again. - but apart from that, where there any real safety improvements?

I suppose there where. Minor, to helmets and such, and to the tracks themselves - with the advent of inventions like the Tecpro barrier.

Shouldn't it be time for another safety improvement? Some time ago (after Surtees' and Massa's accident), there was the discussion for driver cockpit, but these might be dangerous in case of a fire. I also heard (way back in 2000 I think), suggestions about water instead of gravel traps.

Question:
Should driver safety be increased? And if so, how?




Sorry if I made any typo's in names. I have a lot of respect for all of them.

Edited by Jackmancer, 12 November 2012 - 15:48.


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#2 Absulute

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 15:40

Dan Wheldon?

#3 Jackmancer

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 15:49

Dan Wheldon?


Ah, I'm sorry :( Yes :(
I missed a few names :(

#4 Fox1

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 15:50

Yes!

#5 teejay

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 15:57

There has been massive improvements -

safer barriers, hans devices, wheel tethers, more stringent cockpit tests, but you will NEVER eliminate deaths from motorsport.

If you took the number of kms covered by the number of drivers of a global scale since 2000, the death rate is pretty damn good for something so high risk.

Still, it never makes a death easy.

#6 SpaMaster

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 15:57

Yes, yes, always. A motorsport can never be too safe. One should always think ahead, anticipated and strive to improve safety. One thing that crossed my mind is: (I sort of compared the F1 and non-F1 numbers). Is the same urgency and uncompromising attitude prevalent on other series as well? For eg, I feel NASCAR can be a bit more safe. I sometimes wonder about non-penetrating body for WRC cars.

#7 Collective

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 15:59

Yes, it should always improve. The problem with safety is that you don't need it until you need it, and then it's too late.

#8 nordschleife

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 16:12

Whether an incident results in a fatality often, perhaps usually, depends on random circumstances which can be cruel or benign. Classic example of the former: Senna; of the latter: Schumacher/Abu Dhabi 2010.

Also, numerous protections helped Alonso's chances at La Source this year. Still, it could have been tragic.

Edited by nordschleife, 12 November 2012 - 16:31.


#9 Jim Thurman

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 16:33

A couple of quick corrections. Fred Brownfield did not die as a driver. He had retired and was working as a track official. And it's Kenny Irwin Jr.

Sadly, you can add Tyler Wolf now too.

The thing is, if you took the 11-12 year period prior to 2000, the list would be greater. 11-12 years prior to that, larger still.

So, it might not seem like it, but improvements have been made each decade and dramatically so.

As a youngster, I saw races where cars had no roll cages and cars had no fuel cells and drivers wore t-shirts!

#10 Fatgadget

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 17:15

<snip>
As a youngster, I saw races where cars had no roll cages and cars had no fuel cells and drivers wore t-shirts!

^^ :eek:
Scary isn't it just..
We are all more risk averse these days.I remember my old man remarking that he was a better driver after a few shots of VAT69 had taken effect :stoned:

#11 rhukkas

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 17:28

There are only 20 F1 races in a year and only 24 drivers in them... so odds are very very very low

#12 Andrew Hope

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 17:41

Someone is bound to die sooner or later in F1. Racing is dangerous, and that's all there is to it. I'm happy the sport is as safe as it is now, but I think in most areas it's as good as it needs to be, and in some areas, it's gone too far the other way. If the cars are safe enough, then the tracks don't necessarily need to be, but this doesn't stop the slaughter of classic circuits with miles of runoff.

What people need to realize is that we can't just look at it from a racing perspective when a driver is killed in a crash. Of course it sucks, because we're racing fans. We can empathize and understand better than if we're just one of those chumps who knows nothing about racing beyond the occasional crash (like IndyCar's 2011 finale) that is sufficiently-horrible for the mainstream news to show that night. Some of us may have even met a driver who was later killed in a crash.

But do we feel the same way when there's some dead skydiver on the news? Alpine skiier? Well no, we don't, but why not? Racing is just as much of a pointless adrenaline rush from the driver's perspective as other "sports", so we can hardly claim it's tragic when a driver is killed but not when some other speed freak in a different discipline heads to the great spawn screen in the sky. "Accident" is a tricky word to use, because what is accidental about a fatal crash, really? The driver didn't just happen to be there (and for that matter, neither did any marshals or spectators) and there really is no "wrong place, wrong time". Accepting the risks doesn't make it any less horrible, but it doesn't make it any more unfair. No one on that list accidentally became a racing driver. Sometimes, horrible shit will happen to you. Anyone with a list of names and an internet connection can find more than enough video and photo evidence of the kind of ridiculous risks you're taking, to be a willing participant in a sport with a vivid history of decapitating, dismembering, barbecuing, disfiguring, suffocating and on occasional just plain disintegrating it's athletes. Racing is 99.9% positive, but the God awful truth is a lot of nasty things can happen to you, and every racing driver who is competing at a high enough level for us to be talking about him here has had years to reconsider if he wants to continue racing.

Look how close Moreno Soeprapto came to just about the worst way to go, and only timely intervention from fellow driver James Winslow allowed him to... continue racing to this day.



I would find racing difficult to watch if this was still the 60s and 70s. I don't know if I would have had the stomach for it. I am extremely happy that the sport as a whole has gotten so safe that half the reason we find things like Wheldon/Simoncelli so shocking is because they're rare now. The feeling today is "How could this happen?", when 40 years ago, it was "There goes another friend". If it has to be one or the other, anyone in their right mind would take today's racing over that of 40 years ago from the standpoint of safety. If it has to be one or the other, I'd rather it be "too safe", then "not safe enough". But there has to be a happy medium. These aren't children, they're grown adults. If their adult decision is to accept the risks, good on them. Note that they also have ability to decide not to race as well. Of course, if their decision is to make the sport safer, it's really none of the fan's business to say no, but these threads tend to go in the direction that anyone who doesn't immediately ask for everything to be sunshine and butterflies just wants to see crashes, which sounds suspiciously to me like the kind of logic that if you have nothing to hide, you have no reason to be private. Stupid logic, in other words.

Logic almost as stupid as the suggestions of things like cockpits for single seaters, fenders for open-wheelers, and God knows what else gets brought up every time we see a big accident. I can't speak for anyone else, but my thoughts are that there is nothing wrong with pursuing ways to minimize the likelihood of injury or death to a racing driver: but, I also think there are situations where the risk removed is so minimal, that the collective bullshit caused by the safety improvement is not worth it, just to possibly save one or two drivers in the next decade (again, drivers who chose to be there). This is how I look at cockpits for F1 cars, which could certainly prevent an injury or a death here and there, but seem at every curve in the road to be a massive overreaction. One death and one injury in the last ten seasons is not an epidemic desperately in need of a cure, specifically if that cure is lock drivers into cars that every season wind up inevitably upside down, on fire, stuck under barriers, and at more tracks than is really necessary, come within 30 feet of God damn lakes.

Here is a good reason not to have canopies in F1:

Posted Image

A little-known fact is that Heidfeld was quoted after the accident as saying "I didn't think those Autosport forummers wanted Senna in the car this badly".

I'm not sure which race that was, as Heidfeld was nearly barbecued twice in that season (interestingly, that's two times as many incidents in a season where a canopy could've caused a death to a driver who clearly had no problem at all surviving the incidents unscathed, compared to the one time in the previous ten seasons a canopy might have saved a driver (Massa), who as it turns out didn't need saving as he returned to racing the next year, continues to race to this day, and as far as I'm aware, has so far not once asked for cockpits in F1 cars).

A lot of the problems I have with this safety chase is that so much of it is just people running in circles, like a dog chasing their tail. Every single safety improvement ever made in F1 has had unintended consequences, whether positive or negative. Here is a quick story to demonstrate this point: In 1970, barely any tracks had Armco barriers. Racing drivers, particularly in F1, found themselves needing a change of overalls more often than they should have, due to a distressing habit of their cars to end up hundreds of feet off the track due to lack of barriers. One simple mistake could land you upside down in a ravine, stuck in a tree, crashed into a building, or any other number of a dozen places racing cars generally shouldn't be. Bear in mind as well, that this was an era when often the only way to know there was an accident, is when your driver's car stopped showing up at the start line every lap. This usually was followed by clouds of smoke appearing through the trees. So, let's install Armco barriers. That will make the tracks safer. And indeed it did - no one can say for sure how many lives Armco saved, but undoubtedly there's plenty on the list over the past 40 or 50 years. Job well done?

Well, from the 1970 to 1975 Formula One seasons, Armco barriers also did this:

1970 Italy: Jochen Rindt hits armco barrier, is killed.
1973 Holland: Roger Williamson's car is overturned by poorly-installed Armco. Williamson burns to death in the resulting fire, unable to escape.
1973 USA: Francois Cevert is cut in half when his car pierces through an Armco barrier.
1974 South Africa: Peter Revson is killed in a collision with Armco
1974 USA: Helmuth Koenigg is decapitated when his car slides under Armco in an otherwise minor incident.
1975 Spain: 5 spectators are killed when Armco barriers launch Rolf Stommelen into the crowd.

This does not include countless other incidents (for example, Gerry Birrell) where Armco played a pivotal roll in causing a casualty. I'm not blaming a safety improvement for being the opposite: for all any of us know, the Armco prevented more casualties in those accidents by protecting spectators and marshals. But no one can deny that a safety feature that was pushed for to be installed at all tracks played a critical part in several awful accidents. No one can deny that something the drivers themselves specifically asked for played a part in the deaths of a lot of people.

I know that makes for grim reading, but we have to remember that fact. There is absolutely nothing you can do to a racing car or a racing track that will only do exactly what you meant it to: everything will have side-effects, unintended consequences, and while I've got no problem experimenting and finding ways to minimize those consequences (innovation is a beautiful thing), we cannot pretend that it would only be a positive to have cockpits, or to have this or that. I've long thought, for instance, that higher cockpit sides may do a wonderful job preventing head injuries, but that they also may cause more accidents than otherwise would have happened due to their impact on peripheral vision. If Nico Hulkenberg gets into an accident this weekend because he couldn't see a car beside him, and is then saved by the high walls of the cockpit during the resulting crash, is that "safer"? I'm not saying I'm right about any of this but it's something we need to be thinking about.

During IndyCar's trip to Mid Ohio last year Justin Wilson broke his back in what looked like a minor crash. I was listening to Radio Le Mans and they were talking about possible changes to the track for next season. Again, tail-chasing. It does no good to change it after the damage has been done.

"Well, we have to get rid of that gravel trap, it flipped a car. Let's pave it all".
Then a car has a stuck throttle, and what was once gravel (stuck throttle antidote) but now asphalt results in a leg-breaking crash.
"Shit, better put the gravel back for next year".
Then a car flips instead of just calmly returning to the circuit, completely fine.
"Okay, let's pave it, but lay down some speed bumps".
Then a car is launched over the barriers and into the trees.
"Damn, better put more barriers".
Then a car crashes into the barriers and it takes half an hour to extricate the critically-injured driver.
"Fine, let's make it a chicane".
Then the much harder breaking zone and trickier section causes five accidents in the next race, and countless break failures elsewhere on the track.
"Screw it, let's just go to Laguna Seca".

I hope someone can at least see what I'm getting at with this. It's not anti-safety or anti-improvement, but we can't pretend anything is the be-all and end-all. As long as there is racing, there is a chance something bad will happen. There is a big, big difference from someone saying "Let's change the tracks every opportunity, and sucks to the consequences" than someone saying "You know, maybe putting that fireworks factory, gas station and oil refinery at the end of the main straight was a bad idea". I know this. I watch a hundred races a year, and I'd trade a kidney for a chance to race cars for a living (hell, I'll trade both kidneys for a ride in F1). And I'm just a dumbass watching racing on TV. I understand that there is a chance something bad will happen. I was sitting here shooting the breeze with many of you when Dan Wheldon's crash happened. I saw Greg Moore and Dale Earnhardt die live, when I was 8 and 9 years old respectively. I don't want to have to ever see anything like that again, but the risk of it happening, that element of danger, has to remain. At least some of it does. It's as much a part of racing as wheels and engines. Half the charm of karting when I raced was how exciting it was to be doing something dangerous. I'd be sitting in the pits waiting to go out and think about how all week I just sat on my fat lazy ass doing nothing but waiting for the time next week to roll around where I could do something exciting for a change. And I was just a moron in a go-kart, not sending a car into Turn 1 at Indianapolis at 200mph. And it's so easy to be overwhelmed when a driver you were just watching battling for 3rd place one lap a go is now dead at the side of the track. So easy to be overwhelmed and forget the thousands of hours of happiness racing brings you and me every year. In other words, there is a difference between something needing all our energy dedicated to preventing it happening, compared to something we should just try and make impossible, and then hope it doesn't happen too often. Can't speak for anyone else, but I think racing is just about as safe as it needs to be and I'd rather see more work done to consolidate and re-enforce what we already have, to make sure where we are with safety right now is as thoughtful as it can be, than to worry about gimmicky cockpits and potentially open up a whole new batch of problems. And I know if I was a driver (and to that small, embarrassingly-insignificant few years karting, I was), I knew the risk of injury for the rush and lifestyle was a reasonable price to pay, and that's what I'd be telling people now if I was one of the guys we all spend our time on this forum arguing about.

When things are going good, we talk about racing drivers like heroic combatants. When a crash happens, we talk about them like innocent victims. It's probably somewhere in the middle.

And if you disagree with everything I've said here, don't worry. Racing will continue to get safer and safer. 40 years from now, our grandkids will probably be arguing over the wireless chips implanted in their brains about whether force fields to keep cars from leaving the circuit need to be implemented, when that trusty old Acme super glue we put along the track boundaries that stops a car from 200mph to 0 in a quarter of a second seems to be doing just fine. Maybe they'll talk about today's drivers the same way we look at those in the "dangerous" 70s and 80s. When we say "Gilles Villeneuve, now there was a brave guy", maybe in 2050 people will be watching Youtube footage of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and think "Damn, that Rosberg was a lunatic. Him and Karthikeyan, now that's when drivers were really men". All I can say is that when it comes to improving safety, it takes very little time to lose some of the charm of racing. A tightrope walker suspended a perilous two feet over a giant trampoline with medics on hand in case of rug burn isn't my idea of an exciting sport to follow, and while we are definitely not so nancy-stated in racing that we're there yet, I can't help but admit to being a little disheartened when that seems to be the direction we're headed. At a safe speed, hopefully.

Edited by Andrew Hope, 12 November 2012 - 18:00.


#13 BackmarkerUK

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 18:00

Let's not forget that 2 marshalls have been killed at Formula One events in the same period, and for F1 drivers we've had one very near miss - Massa. Massa's accident was such a freak occurrence that it seems largely unnecessary to guard against it. Wheel tethers have hopefully reduced the chance of loose wheels hitting other drivers, marshalls and spectators. I am unconvinced that the safety benefits of a canopy/other head cover outweigh costs of increased difficulty of driver extraction and reduced vision. I do have worries about pitlane safety, I think more could be done to protect the crew. But pitlane limiters and stricter rules on pit release have shown improvements.

#14 MrAerodynamicist

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 18:07

Motorsport Memorial has recorded about 39 deaths this year.
http://www.motorspor...h...year&n=2012

#15 SpaMaster

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 18:10

Points well made, Andrew Hope. :up: :up:

#16 Jackmancer

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 18:36

and there really is no "wrong place, wrong time"



Tell that to John Surtees, or Felipe Massa.

But yes, very well point, a delight to read (even though it's a very sad subject). Thanks so much for contributing that, you raise a very good point.

#17 Jim Thurman

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 19:32

Motorsport Memorial has recorded about 39 deaths this year.
http://www.motorspor...h...year&n=2012

Keep in mind some of those will be heart attacks and not as a result of racing accidents.

I've seen highway crashes, airplane crashes and even cancer deaths of race drivers listed as "died in racing accidents" :rolleyes:

#18 Jim Thurman

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 19:44

Anyone with a list of names and an internet connection can find more than enough video and photo evidence of the kind of ridiculous risks you're taking, to be a willing participant in a sport with a vivid history of decapitating, dismembering, barbecuing, disfiguring, suffocating and on occasional just plain disintegrating it's athletes. Racing is 99.9% positive, but the God awful truth is a lot of nasty things can happen to you, and every racing driver who is competing at a high enough level for us to be talking about him here has had years to reconsider if he wants to continue racing.

Wow, Andrew, I didn't know you had it in you :) Even though I don't agree with some of it, very well done :up:

I actually do feel badly when I hear about a competitor in any sport dying while competing, alpine skiiers, cyclists, etc.

One other thing. Perhaps you've used the internet connection a bit much as far as the "vivid history of decapitating, dismembering...disintegrating." While those events have happened, there is a level of mythology and folklore, seemingly fostered greatly by internet twits (or the fellow who wrote the Phil Hill-Wolfgang von Trips book) far beyond the realities :mad: Suffice to say, 90+% of those you've read that about are false. The ones where it actually did happen are virtually unknown and not quoted. Perhaps because the same "there on the door was a HOOK" folks don't even know about those drivers.

I won't argue the burn related fatalities, because, sadly, there was a period when that was all too true. Although the use of terminology is straight out of the over-the-top from the Hill-von Trips book.

Another point, I did follow racing in the 60's and 70's, and it was sad, but the safety simply hadn't caught up. I'm not one of those folks who needs the risk of fatality for racing to appeal. Never did and never will. I truly don't understand those who do, and wish they'd find something else to follow.

Again, well done sir :up:

Edited by Jim Thurman, 12 November 2012 - 20:40.


#19 Clatter

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 20:10

Let's not forget that 2 marshalls have been killed at Formula One events in the same period, and for F1 drivers we've had one very near miss - Massa. Massa's accident was such a freak occurrence that it seems largely unnecessary to guard against it. Wheel tethers have hopefully reduced the chance of loose wheels hitting other drivers, marshalls and spectators. I am unconvinced that the safety benefits of a canopy/other head cover outweigh costs of increased difficulty of driver extraction and reduced vision. I do have worries about pitlane safety, I think more could be done to protect the crew. But pitlane limiters and stricter rules on pit release have shown improvements.


You need to do a recount. We have had at least 2 close calls this season alone.

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#20 ConsiderAndGo

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 20:18

Someone is bound to die sooner or later in F1. Racing is dangerous, and that's all there is to it. I'm happy the sport is as safe as it is now, but I think in most areas it's as good as it needs to be, and in some areas, it's gone too far the other way. If the cars are safe enough, then the tracks don't necessarily need to be, but this doesn't stop the slaughter of classic circuits with miles of runoff.

What people need to realize is that we can't just look at it from a racing perspective when a driver is killed in a crash. Of course it sucks, because we're racing fans. We can empathize and understand better than if we're just one of those chumps who knows nothing about racing beyond the occasional crash (like IndyCar's 2011 finale) that is sufficiently-horrible for the mainstream news to show that night. Some of us may have even met a driver who was later killed in a crash.

But do we feel the same way when there's some dead skydiver on the news? Alpine skiier? Well no, we don't, but why not? Racing is just as much of a pointless adrenaline rush from the driver's perspective as other "sports", so we can hardly claim it's tragic when a driver is killed but not when some other speed freak in a different discipline heads to the great spawn screen in the sky. "Accident" is a tricky word to use, because what is accidental about a fatal crash, really? The driver didn't just happen to be there (and for that matter, neither did any marshals or spectators) and there really is no "wrong place, wrong time". Accepting the risks doesn't make it any less horrible, but it doesn't make it any more unfair. No one on that list accidentally became a racing driver. Sometimes, horrible shit will happen to you. Anyone with a list of names and an internet connection can find more than enough video and photo evidence of the kind of ridiculous risks you're taking, to be a willing participant in a sport with a vivid history of decapitating, dismembering, barbecuing, disfiguring, suffocating and on occasional just plain disintegrating it's athletes. Racing is 99.9% positive, but the God awful truth is a lot of nasty things can happen to you, and every racing driver who is competing at a high enough level for us to be talking about him here has had years to reconsider if he wants to continue racing.

Look how close Moreno Soeprapto came to just about the worst way to go, and only timely intervention from fellow driver James Winslow allowed him to... continue racing to this day.



I would find racing difficult to watch if this was still the 60s and 70s. I don't know if I would have had the stomach for it. I am extremely happy that the sport as a whole has gotten so safe that half the reason we find things like Wheldon/Simoncelli so shocking is because they're rare now. The feeling today is "How could this happen?", when 40 years ago, it was "There goes another friend". If it has to be one or the other, anyone in their right mind would take today's racing over that of 40 years ago from the standpoint of safety. If it has to be one or the other, I'd rather it be "too safe", then "not safe enough". But there has to be a happy medium. These aren't children, they're grown adults. If their adult decision is to accept the risks, good on them. Note that they also have ability to decide not to race as well. Of course, if their decision is to make the sport safer, it's really none of the fan's business to say no, but these threads tend to go in the direction that anyone who doesn't immediately ask for everything to be sunshine and butterflies just wants to see crashes, which sounds suspiciously to me like the kind of logic that if you have nothing to hide, you have no reason to be private. Stupid logic, in other words.

Logic almost as stupid as the suggestions of things like cockpits for single seaters, fenders for open-wheelers, and God knows what else gets brought up every time we see a big accident. I can't speak for anyone else, but my thoughts are that there is nothing wrong with pursuing ways to minimize the likelihood of injury or death to a racing driver: but, I also think there are situations where the risk removed is so minimal, that the collective bullshit caused by the safety improvement is not worth it, just to possibly save one or two drivers in the next decade (again, drivers who chose to be there). This is how I look at cockpits for F1 cars, which could certainly prevent an injury or a death here and there, but seem at every curve in the road to be a massive overreaction. One death and one injury in the last ten seasons is not an epidemic desperately in need of a cure, specifically if that cure is lock drivers into cars that every season wind up inevitably upside down, on fire, stuck under barriers, and at more tracks than is really necessary, come within 30 feet of God damn lakes.

Here is a good reason not to have canopies in F1:

Posted Image

A little-known fact is that Heidfeld was quoted after the accident as saying "I didn't think those Autosport forummers wanted Senna in the car this badly".

I'm not sure which race that was, as Heidfeld was nearly barbecued twice in that season (interestingly, that's two times as many incidents in a season where a canopy could've caused a death to a driver who clearly had no problem at all surviving the incidents unscathed, compared to the one time in the previous ten seasons a canopy might have saved a driver (Massa), who as it turns out didn't need saving as he returned to racing the next year, continues to race to this day, and as far as I'm aware, has so far not once asked for cockpits in F1 cars).

A lot of the problems I have with this safety chase is that so much of it is just people running in circles, like a dog chasing their tail. Every single safety improvement ever made in F1 has had unintended consequences, whether positive or negative. Here is a quick story to demonstrate this point: In 1970, barely any tracks had Armco barriers. Racing drivers, particularly in F1, found themselves needing a change of overalls more often than they should have, due to a distressing habit of their cars to end up hundreds of feet off the track due to lack of barriers. One simple mistake could land you upside down in a ravine, stuck in a tree, crashed into a building, or any other number of a dozen places racing cars generally shouldn't be. Bear in mind as well, that this was an era when often the only way to know there was an accident, is when your driver's car stopped showing up at the start line every lap. This usually was followed by clouds of smoke appearing through the trees. So, let's install Armco barriers. That will make the tracks safer. And indeed it did - no one can say for sure how many lives Armco saved, but undoubtedly there's plenty on the list over the past 40 or 50 years. Job well done?

Well, from the 1970 to 1975 Formula One seasons, Armco barriers also did this:

1970 Italy: Jochen Rindt hits armco barrier, is killed.
1973 Holland: Roger Williamson's car is overturned by poorly-installed Armco. Williamson burns to death in the resulting fire, unable to escape.
1973 USA: Francois Cevert is cut in half when his car pierces through an Armco barrier.
1974 South Africa: Peter Revson is killed in a collision with Armco
1974 USA: Helmuth Koenigg is decapitated when his car slides under Armco in an otherwise minor incident.
1975 Spain: 5 spectators are killed when Armco barriers launch Rolf Stommelen into the crowd.

This does not include countless other incidents (for example, Gerry Birrell) where Armco played a pivotal roll in causing a casualty. I'm not blaming a safety improvement for being the opposite: for all any of us know, the Armco prevented more casualties in those accidents by protecting spectators and marshals. But no one can deny that a safety feature that was pushed for to be installed at all tracks played a critical part in several awful accidents. No one can deny that something the drivers themselves specifically asked for played a part in the deaths of a lot of people.

I know that makes for grim reading, but we have to remember that fact. There is absolutely nothing you can do to a racing car or a racing track that will only do exactly what you meant it to: everything will have side-effects, unintended consequences, and while I've got no problem experimenting and finding ways to minimize those consequences (innovation is a beautiful thing), we cannot pretend that it would only be a positive to have cockpits, or to have this or that. I've long thought, for instance, that higher cockpit sides may do a wonderful job preventing head injuries, but that they also may cause more accidents than otherwise would have happened due to their impact on peripheral vision. If Nico Hulkenberg gets into an accident this weekend because he couldn't see a car beside him, and is then saved by the high walls of the cockpit during the resulting crash, is that "safer"? I'm not saying I'm right about any of this but it's something we need to be thinking about.

During IndyCar's trip to Mid Ohio last year Justin Wilson broke his back in what looked like a minor crash. I was listening to Radio Le Mans and they were talking about possible changes to the track for next season. Again, tail-chasing. It does no good to change it after the damage has been done.

"Well, we have to get rid of that gravel trap, it flipped a car. Let's pave it all".
Then a car has a stuck throttle, and what was once gravel (stuck throttle antidote) but now asphalt results in a leg-breaking crash.
"Shit, better put the gravel back for next year".
Then a car flips instead of just calmly returning to the circuit, completely fine.
"Okay, let's pave it, but lay down some speed bumps".
Then a car is launched over the barriers and into the trees.
"Damn, better put more barriers".
Then a car crashes into the barriers and it takes half an hour to extricate the critically-injured driver.
"Fine, let's make it a chicane".
Then the much harder breaking zone and trickier section causes five accidents in the next race, and countless break failures elsewhere on the track.
"Screw it, let's just go to Laguna Seca".

I hope someone can at least see what I'm getting at with this. It's not anti-safety or anti-improvement, but we can't pretend anything is the be-all and end-all. As long as there is racing, there is a chance something bad will happen. There is a big, big difference from someone saying "Let's change the tracks every opportunity, and sucks to the consequences" than someone saying "You know, maybe putting that fireworks factory, gas station and oil refinery at the end of the main straight was a bad idea". I know this. I watch a hundred races a year, and I'd trade a kidney for a chance to race cars for a living (hell, I'll trade both kidneys for a ride in F1). And I'm just a dumbass watching racing on TV. I understand that there is a chance something bad will happen. I was sitting here shooting the breeze with many of you when Dan Wheldon's crash happened. I saw Greg Moore and Dale Earnhardt die live, when I was 8 and 9 years old respectively. I don't want to have to ever see anything like that again, but the risk of it happening, that element of danger, has to remain. At least some of it does. It's as much a part of racing as wheels and engines. Half the charm of karting when I raced was how exciting it was to be doing something dangerous. I'd be sitting in the pits waiting to go out and think about how all week I just sat on my fat lazy ass doing nothing but waiting for the time next week to roll around where I could do something exciting for a change. And I was just a moron in a go-kart, not sending a car into Turn 1 at Indianapolis at 200mph. And it's so easy to be overwhelmed when a driver you were just watching battling for 3rd place one lap a go is now dead at the side of the track. So easy to be overwhelmed and forget the thousands of hours of happiness racing brings you and me every year. In other words, there is a difference between something needing all our energy dedicated to preventing it happening, compared to something we should just try and make impossible, and then hope it doesn't happen too often. Can't speak for anyone else, but I think racing is just about as safe as it needs to be and I'd rather see more work done to consolidate and re-enforce what we already have, to make sure where we are with safety right now is as thoughtful as it can be, than to worry about gimmicky cockpits and potentially open up a whole new batch of problems. And I know if I was a driver (and to that small, embarrassingly-insignificant few years karting, I was), I knew the risk of injury for the rush and lifestyle was a reasonable price to pay, and that's what I'd be telling people now if I was one of the guys we all spend our time on this forum arguing about.

When things are going good, we talk about racing drivers like heroic combatants. When a crash happens, we talk about them like innocent victims. It's probably somewhere in the middle.

And if you disagree with everything I've said here, don't worry. Racing will continue to get safer and safer. 40 years from now, our grandkids will probably be arguing over the wireless chips implanted in their brains about whether force fields to keep cars from leaving the circuit need to be implemented, when that trusty old Acme super glue we put along the track boundaries that stops a car from 200mph to 0 in a quarter of a second seems to be doing just fine. Maybe they'll talk about today's drivers the same way we look at those in the "dangerous" 70s and 80s. When we say "Gilles Villeneuve, now there was a brave guy", maybe in 2050 people will be watching Youtube footage of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and think "Damn, that Rosberg was a lunatic. Him and Karthikeyan, now that's when drivers were really men". All I can say is that when it comes to improving safety, it takes very little time to lose some of the charm of racing. A tightrope walker suspended a perilous two feet over a giant trampoline with medics on hand in case of rug burn isn't my idea of an exciting sport to follow, and while we are definitely not so nancy-stated in racing that we're there yet, I can't help but admit to being a little disheartened when that seems to be the direction we're headed. At a safe speed, hopefully.


Superb post :up:


#21 Slowinfastout

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 20:23

Villeneuve, in his usual gasoline-pouring style, also repeated some stuff that is IMO always worth repeating:

http://www.auto123.c...rs?artid=149661

"Today, where the run-off used to be grass, now it's paved. But that (the grass) often made you withdraw automatically. Now many are pushing without thinking. The young drivers coming into formula one today are not ready. Playing video games all day, they've forgotten that motor sport is dangerous."


I think it's an interesting point. The extensive use of paved-off areas is considered a passive safety measure, but it has arguably become an active security issue because the drivers know they can use them, consciously or not..

Edited by Slowinfastout, 12 November 2012 - 20:24.


#22 BackmarkerUK

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 20:45

You need to do a recount. We have had at least 2 close calls this season alone.


2 accidents as close to a fatality than Massa taking a spring to the helmet?

Edited by BackmarkerUK, 12 November 2012 - 20:45.


#23 Clatter

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 21:11

2 accidents as close to a fatality than Massa taking a spring to the helmet?


Fractions of an inch is all it takes to separate a fatal accident from one that can be walked away from. F1 is living on borrowed time and has been lucky not to have had any driver deaths since Senna.


#24 Kucki

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 22:57

I have to mention Georg Plasa here

#25 SamH123

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 23:27

Superb post :up:


quite
it was better than most of my important assignments for school :rotfl:


#26 Muz Bee

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 23:29

Fractions of an inch is all it takes to separate a fatal accident from one that can be walked away from. F1 is living on borrowed time and has been lucky not to have had any driver deaths since Senna.

Motorsport will always have an element of danger. The 50s and 60s were almost entirely without safety devices. The "helmets" were a joke prior to the early Bell "jet" style lids, clothing was optional including sleeves rolled up, bow tie etc. Seatbelts were resisted until about 1965 on the basis that fire was the biggest fear of drivers. By the early 70s, with helmets, nomex and harnesses being adopted and rapidly developed, the next agenda was circuits and car structures and fuel containment. JYS was a huge pioneer in this area but the ongoing developments of the 70s and 80s (never mind the recent years) have had their critics. Legendary F1 scribe Jenks abhorred almost any bowing to safety improvements and famously served Stewart up as a coward, bless them both!

You see safety is a relative thing and for everyone a different level of safety is "about right". Personally I think we are at a point roughly "about right" or "too safe", but that's just me. When the great Jim Clark died most drivers felt "if it can happen to HIM...." Clearly the 60s was an unacceptable bloodbath and what happened to Roger Williamson and Tom Pryce is abhorrent and unacceptable. The spectators who died at Montjuich Park Spain because the armco barrier was basically unattached are a sacrifice to a sport which has put money first. Through to the end of the 70s deaths continued to mount at undiminished rates, with greater cornering speeds countering the increase of safety devices.

It was the 80s when F1 safety started to be a reality. Medical facilities were resisted but Prof Watkins aided by BE had a big impact on the survivability of a "big one". Gilles death was like Ayrton's, unfortunate and both, sad to say, should have been avoidable by just a modicum of caution by the driver. Paletti's startline impact is one of those horrible things which is still a potentially fatal occurrence today.

So we now have a period of 18 years since F1 has lost a driver in a GP weekend I believe. The accident of Robert Kubica at Montreal is a testament to the safety of the cars. I would argue that the big danger is now the loss of crowds due to the sterile nature of the tracks and the remoteness of the spectator areas. With the huge advances in safety I would like to see some of the effort go back to the return to more traditional tracks where spectators get a "feel" for the speed of the cars. Won't happen though!

Edited by Muz Bee, 12 November 2012 - 23:38.


#27 Rob

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 23:43

This does not include countless other incidents (for example, Gerry Birrell) where Armco played a pivotal roll in causing a casualty. I'm not blaming a safety improvement for being the opposite: for all any of us know, the Armco prevented more casualties in those accidents by protecting spectators and marshals. But no one can deny that a safety feature that was pushed for to be installed at all tracks played a critical part in several awful accidents. No one can deny that something the drivers themselves specifically asked for played a part in the deaths of a lot of people.

Unfortunately, whilst armco did have its positives, particularly in car racing, it did play a pivotal role in killing a lot of motorcyclists. Tracks implemented armco because of the pressure to do so by racing drivers, but the same tracks were being used for motorcycle racing which is a totally different ball game.

#28 Muz Bee

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 23:57

Just to add to my personal overview of F1 safety over the years I would point to two events which stretch our tolerance of "acceptable danger".

Indy 500 and Isle of Man TT. Both are "legendary" and as such their traditions are defended, errr, to the death to be honest.

In the case of Indy, huge strides have been made with "safer barrier" and HANS to name just two. It seems perfectly likely that in the future spectators will be killed by accident debris at this event. This is hard to mitigate with the speeds involved so I don't have an answer to the problem and problem it will be if and when it occurs. Litigation - mad USA will kill their own baby and one of the great remaining icons of motorsport will at best, have a disconnect with it's glorious past.

As far as the Isle of Man goes I make my own personal stand on it and I decided a long time ago that I would never attend due to my personal disagreement with the killing season each year. I don't accept that any "legendary" thing earns the right to carry on in perpetuity, but that's just me. I accept that for some, like attempting Everest, the challenge and danger of such an icon is personally important and that is their choice. I don't know how the official(s) responsible for telling the families of the deceased, can go back each year with the likelihood that it will be business as usual. Even the old Nurburgring or the old Spa didn't kill people with such regularity and number as the Isle of Man course.

If the IOM TT course could be made 500% safer ii would be in favour of it but my own view is it is WAY, WAY too dangerous to race superbikes on. I would suggest about $50 million in safety improvements and an upper limit of 400cc would be a starter but realistically, even then I would think people would die nearly every year. If it were USA it would be goneburger.

#29 Kalmake

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 03:26

Just to add to my personal overview of F1 safety over the years I would point to two events which stretch our tolerance of "acceptable danger".

Indy 500 and Isle of Man TT. Both are "legendary" and as such their traditions are defended, errr, to the death to be honest.

In the case of Indy, huge strides have been made with "safer barrier" and HANS to name just two. It seems perfectly likely that in the future spectators will be killed by accident debris at this event. This is hard to mitigate with the speeds involved so I don't have an answer to the problem and problem it will be if and when it occurs. Litigation - mad USA will kill their own baby and one of the great remaining icons of motorsport will at best, have a disconnect with it's glorious past.

As far as the Isle of Man goes I make my own personal stand on it and I decided a long time ago that I would never attend due to my personal disagreement with the killing season each year. I don't accept that any "legendary" thing earns the right to carry on in perpetuity, but that's just me. I accept that for some, like attempting Everest, the challenge and danger of such an icon is personally important and that is their choice. I don't know how the official(s) responsible for telling the families of the deceased, can go back each year with the likelihood that it will be business as usual. Even the old Nurburgring or the old Spa didn't kill people with such regularity and number as the Isle of Man course.

If the IOM TT course could be made 500% safer ii would be in favour of it but my own view is it is WAY, WAY too dangerous to race superbikes on. I would suggest about $50 million in safety improvements and an upper limit of 400cc would be a starter but realistically, even then I would think people would die nearly every year. If it were USA it would be goneburger.


Last years Reno Air Race in USA had 10 spectators killed and 69 injured when a plane crashed into the crowds. In nearly 50 years of the event 19 pilots have died. But the show still goes on.

#30 ClubmanGT

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:01

I'm not sure Bourne should be on that list - he didn't die in a 'racing accident' as such.

#31 Juggles

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:42

Someone is bound to die sooner or later in F1. Racing is dangerous, and that's all there is to it. I'm happy the sport is as safe as it is now, but I think in most areas it's as good as it needs to be, and in some areas, it's gone too far the other way. If the cars are safe enough, then the tracks don't necessarily need to be, but this doesn't stop the slaughter of classic circuits with miles of runoff.

...

And if you disagree with everything I've said here, don't worry. Racing will continue to get safer and safer. 40 years from now, our grandkids will probably be arguing over the wireless chips implanted in their brains about whether force fields to keep cars from leaving the circuit need to be implemented, when that trusty old Acme super glue we put along the track boundaries that stops a car from 200mph to 0 in a quarter of a second seems to be doing just fine. Maybe they'll talk about today's drivers the same way we look at those in the "dangerous" 70s and 80s. When we say "Gilles Villeneuve, now there was a brave guy", maybe in 2050 people will be watching Youtube footage of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and think "Damn, that Rosberg was a lunatic. Him and Karthikeyan, now that's when drivers were really men". All I can say is that when it comes to improving safety, it takes very little time to lose some of the charm of racing. A tightrope walker suspended a perilous two feet over a giant trampoline with medics on hand in case of rug burn isn't my idea of an exciting sport to follow, and while we are definitely not so nancy-stated in racing that we're there yet, I can't help but admit to being a little disheartened when that seems to be the direction we're headed. At a safe speed, hopefully.


The best post I've read on this forum. Wonderful.

I hadn't considered F1 safety much before this thread but intuitively agree with (what I think is) your underlying point: no matter how 'safe' you make F1 on the surface the freakish can still happen. Therefore there is little point in making changes based on one incident, an incident so unlucky that it may never happen again (take Massa in Hungary), when the changes that you make carry their own risks. You get to a point which reminds me slightly of Pareto efficiency - you are no longer creating new wealth (in this case, safety), simply moving it around. Is there anything we can do at this stage to make F1 objectively safer without being able to predict the future?

#32 steveninthematrix

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:52

lets not turn motorsport into tennis or bowls...

yes, im all for safety, but, no one makes someone become a racing driver .... if u die with 'your boots on', thats how it goes

#33 Trust

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 07:50

If by safety you assume asphalt run off areas and canopies, then NO.

#34 Clatter

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 11:12

Motorsport will always have an element of danger. The 50s and 60s were almost entirely without safety devices. The "helmets" were a joke prior to the early Bell "jet" style lids, clothing was optional including sleeves rolled up, bow tie etc. Seatbelts were resisted until about 1965 on the basis that fire was the biggest fear of drivers. By the early 70s, with helmets, nomex and harnesses being adopted and rapidly developed, the next agenda was circuits and car structures and fuel containment. JYS was a huge pioneer in this area but the ongoing developments of the 70s and 80s (never mind the recent years) have had their critics. Legendary F1 scribe Jenks abhorred almost any bowing to safety improvements and famously served Stewart up as a coward, bless them both!

You see safety is a relative thing and for everyone a different level of safety is "about right". Personally I think we are at a point roughly "about right" or "too safe", but that's just me. When the great Jim Clark died most drivers felt "if it can happen to HIM...." Clearly the 60s was an unacceptable bloodbath and what happened to Roger Williamson and Tom Pryce is abhorrent and unacceptable. The spectators who died at Montjuich Park Spain because the armco barrier was basically unattached are a sacrifice to a sport which has put money first. Through to the end of the 70s deaths continued to mount at undiminished rates, with greater cornering speeds countering the increase of safety devices.

It was the 80s when F1 safety started to be a reality. Medical facilities were resisted but Prof Watkins aided by BE had a big impact on the survivability of a "big one". Gilles death was like Ayrton's, unfortunate and both, sad to say, should have been avoidable by just a modicum of caution by the driver. Paletti's startline impact is one of those horrible things which is still a potentially fatal occurrence today.

So we now have a period of 18 years since F1 has lost a driver in a GP weekend I believe. The accident of Robert Kubica at Montreal is a testament to the safety of the cars. I would argue that the big danger is now the loss of crowds due to the sterile nature of the tracks and the remoteness of the spectator areas. With the huge advances in safety I would like to see some of the effort go back to the return to more traditional tracks where spectators get a "feel" for the speed of the cars. Won't happen though!


Yes the cars are one hell of a lot safer, but like many accidents in recent years the drivers have walked away more from luck than because of the improvements. Kubica's Montreal crash could have easily resulted in a fatality. The only reason he didn't end up with his head smashing along the barriers was sheer luck and nothing to do with any of the improvements made. Massa on the other hand was damned unlucky to get hit by that chunk of flying metal.

As far as the tracks are concerned the audience isn't being lost because of the changes made but because of the costs of attending.



#35 Rob

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 11:27

As far as the tracks are concerned the audience isn't being lost because of the changes made but because of the costs of attending.

It's terrible value for money as well. A national level event is much cheaper and you get much more access.

#36 EightGear

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 11:54

Ove Andersson
Michael Park


This list doesn't even include motorbike racing (14 since 2000, in Dakar another 6 and a staggering 42 in Isle of Man TT alone), or rally accidents (only 3 since 2000, which I could find).


Both Ove Andersson and 'Beef' Park died during a rally. Park was co-driver to Markko Martin when he crashed during Wales Rally GB in 2005.

#37 Andrew Hope

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 23:59

I appreciate the kind words guys, didn't mean to go rambling on but I had one point and then another and got a bit carried away :D.

I don't really like the way I feel about safety in racing, but that's how I feel and that's all there is to it. I get suckered in every time there's a driver interviewed after he's had a big one and I go soft for a minute and flip-flop on my stance regarding this issue, but Juggles summed up my thoughts pretty precisely.

Cheers.

#38 Jimisgod

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 18:25

Peter Bourne
Peter Brock


Um, if we're excluding rally accidents...

#39 Tsarwash

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 18:49

Andrew Hope. :up: I think the level of safety is around about right. Obviously safety is paramount and people will always come up with new safety aspects, and that is course a good thing. Motorsport is dangerous and to try to take all elements of danger away is a hopeless task. I don't think F1 is too safe or too dangerous today.