No easy answers to safety questions posed by Massa and Surtees crashes

F1 is looking for ways to give drivers better protection

F1 is looking for ways to give drivers better protection

The terrible accidents suffered by Henry Surtees and Felipe Massa in the last eight days have left the motorsport world in general – and F1 in particular – asking questions about safety.

It has reminded everyone that the oft-repeated mantra ‘motor racing is much safer than it used to be’ will only remain so if the sport remains open-minded enough to ask itself whether it needs to change.

But there are no easy answers how it might be done.

Ross Brawn, whose car was at the centre of Massa’s crash on Saturday, urged against a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the two accidents:

We need to keep a perspective of it I guess. From what has been seen last weekend and this weekend, we need to have a proper study to see if there is a need to do something.

You really are into the area of structures, windscreens and canopies, and anything is possible. We just need to digest what has happened, and understand it properly.

Brawn’s assessment is exactly the kind of cool-headed logic you’d expect. So what – if any – possible improvements could F1 consider to reduce the chance of a repeat of these accidents?

Cockpit covers

Cockpit covers are mandatory for LMP1 Le Mans cars from 2010

Cockpit covers are mandatory for LMP1 Le Mans cars from 2010

Although Surtees and Massa were both struck by flying debris, there is nothing to suggest that drivers’ heads have suddenly become more vulnerable than they used to be.

In F1, driver cockpit protection was increased only last year. With cruel misfortune, the spring which hit Massa did so after ricocheting off the padding.

As Brawn himself admits, and as we have already discussed here at length, the debate over cockpit covers is complicated because covering the cockpits could create further safety complications. Would it impede the rescue of a trapped driver, for example?

Some people have said that introducing covers would mean they are no longer Formula 1 cars. I don’t think that argument would or should stop them from putting covers on the cars if they decide it would make them safer.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organisers of the Le Mans 24 Hours, have required that all LMP1 cars must run with closed cockpits from next year. But the technical obstacles to introducing such a rule in F1 would likely be far greater.

Crash helmets

The alternative to cockpit covers could be tougher crash helmets. The current specification of helmet was introduced in 2004 (you can see details of the specifications here).

Massa uses a Schuberth RF1.7 helmet which is on the FIA approved helmets list. It has multiple layers of carbon fibre and despite its low 1.35kg weight is strong enough to support a 55 tonne Chieftain tank.

Can these already impressive standards be pushed further? Bernie Ecclestone thinks so:

We need to look at helmet technology and what can be improved. We might be able to learn from other sports. We can look at ice-hockey, where goalies have to be able to see clearly but still have a visor that is strong enough to withstand the impact from a puck going like a bullet.

Medical crew reaction time

I thought this response from American Indy Car journalist Curt Cavin to a question about the medical car response time on his blog was interesting:

Question: Watching F1 qualifying today I was amazed at how slow the medical attention to Massa was. Course workers seemed to just stand around for so long. In Indy and even NASCAR they seem to jump right to it. Why don’t the F1 workers get a clue? (Tim, Logansport, Ind.)

Answer: It’s a different way of life in Europe, to be sure. NASCAR’s response team has improved, but there’s never been a group better than those used in CART, Champ Car and the IRL.

I can’t say whether the observation about the F1 medical response team being slower is accurate, but if so then surely this is an area the FIA should look into.

The black-and-orange flag

Kimi Raikkonen was allowed to drive with a loose exhaust until it fell off

Kimi Raikkonen was allowed to drive with a loose exhaust until it fell off

Renault’s punishment for letting Fernando Alonso out of the pits with a loose wheel, which later fell off, has been taken by some as evidence of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction by the governing body.

Certainly, race control had nothing to say during the French Grand Prix last year, when Kimi Raikkonen was circulated with a flailing exhaust pipe which later fell off. On that occasion there was no sign of the black-and-orange flag, used to summon drivers to the pits to have dangerous car parts fixed.

As usual the FIA’s implementation of its rules leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve had no previous indication that the scale of punishment for this kind of thing had increased so much and there was no indication during the race that Renault were under investigation. I think this goes some way towards explaining why the majority of people on this site think the punishment was too harsh.

Putting all these misgivings to one side, if the situation in future is that teams will not be sending their cars out on track with loose parts, that is clearly an improvement.

But it will look like hypocrisy if race control continues to miss instances where the black-and-orange flag should be used.

The investigation

Whatever possible improvements to the cars are put forward, safety standards in F1 have improved so much it is no longer a straightforward matter to see how they can be made better.

Are drivers at more risk from debris hitting them? Or from being trapped in an upside-down car?

We are comparing two scenarios that are, on the whole, very rare in single-seater motor racing, never mind just Formula 1.

The safety debate today is not what it was in the 1960s, when people had to be persuaded to do anything at all. Now it’s a case of working out how safety can be improved. That can involve difficult trade-offs between improving safety in one area and compromising it in another.

Acknowledging that leaves us confronted with motor racing’s hardest truth – it will never be entirely safe.

But that doesn’t mean the sport can shy away for looking for answers to these difficult questions.

Update: I’m going to be on Sky News tonight from 7pm talking about the Massa crash.

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140 comments on No easy answers to safety questions posed by Massa and Surtees crashes

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  1. Rob said on 27th July 2009, 12:13

    i think the f1 world could learn something from the aerospace world here, all enclosed cockpits on fighter jets have some thing called MDC (Micro Detinating Cord)on the canopy with an external set of switch to detonate the canopy to allow rescue of the aircrew.
    If the cars were to get enclosed canopies i hope this would be a feature.

    • Whitty123 said on 27th July 2009, 13:04

      The mdc is a good idea but it could not be detonated if the canopy was under the tyre barrier like in Kovalainens crash at the Spanish Grand Prix last year. Also if the canopy in under the tyre barrier it could crush on to the driver and complicate the safety crews rescue.

      • What if the canopy was segmented into different parts? It’s possible to run the explosives in any way through it, segmenting it into smaller pieces that come off where you need them to.

        In a case where the canopy somehow crushes the driver, whatever crushed the canopy in the first place would probably have crushed the driver anyway, canopy or no canopy.

        • Bendana said on 28th July 2009, 10:43

          although you have to admit, it would be slightly unnerving fr the driver – you know, the explosives going off around his head.

    • Oliver said on 28th July 2009, 14:07

      The visor did its job, it wont take 2 impacts just one heavy one. Besides with the amount of energy it was exposed to, it had to flex and detach from its pivot.

      What they can consider is having an extra kevlar layer sandwiched between the inner helmet protection. Also within the weight constraints, have a liquid layer or membrane that has a pressure release valve. In all, you cant have a helmet weighing 5kg that would be dangerous for the driver, as it would maintain its own momentum in a crash and possibly be of more harm to the driver.

  2. Jonesracing82 said on 27th July 2009, 12:15

    as i understood at the time, the CART safety crew, while being exceptional, went to each and every race, in F1 as i understand, it’s made up of local people. the fact of the matter is that motor racing in general will never be 100% safe, it’s just the nature of the beast.

    • ajokay said on 27th July 2009, 13:02

      Plus the Indy and NASCAR are near enough only ever a couple of miles long, and oval in shape, meaning a safety or medical car on the infield is always much closer than those on an F1 track would be.

  3. 159Tom said on 27th July 2009, 12:21

    Bernie’s right to discuss the helmets I think. The shells may be tougher but what about the visors? Are they still the same as the one Senna used?

    • Whitty123 said on 27th July 2009, 13:09

      The visors arn’t the same as in sennas era to my understanding. What about making the visor smaller than it already is? Or would that har the drivers periferal vison?

      • pSynrg said on 27th July 2009, 13:31

        Bernie is overestimating the ice-hockey goalies visor though.
        An ice-hockey puck maximum velocity (a slapshot) is ‘only’ around 100mph and weighing in at < 170g…
        I read somewhere, but I can’t remember where – the visors used by F1 drivers and other extreme motorsports competitors are ‘bullet proof’ (whatever that really means, which bullets, what type of gun…)

        • Salut Gilles said on 27th July 2009, 13:42

          In addition, hockey goalies don’t wear visors, they wear metal cages.

          They perform their job well, but are designed only to stop a puck sized object. F1 drivers will never be certain as to what size piece of debris may be a threat to them and therefore need to wear a full face visor.

          • hollus said on 27th July 2009, 16:07

            And hockey pucks are made of rubber. Very hard frozen rubber, but still rubber. No comparison with a piece of metal with corners and sharp edges. I would think F1 visors are much, much better than hockey goalie masks.

          • Damon said on 27th July 2009, 16:28

            Guys, the goalies’ visor is as strong as it needs to be.
            For F1, it can be made – and is made – a lot stronger, yet only as strong as the designer thought it would need to be.
            Now we know those visors have to be stronger than what they are, and there should be no problem in improving that.
            Making them thicker would be the first way to do that.

            BUT – adding a metal/kevlar cage to the helmet would definately be a huge improvement, and should be considered.

        • The “bullet proof” comment probably stems from the material used for the visor being something like lexan. Lexan is bullet proof plastic, though last time I checked my radio control car shell wouldn’t withstand a bullet impact ;-)

        • Rikadyn said on 27th July 2009, 18:28

          100mph shot of a hockeypuck has 160j

          a 4.1g 5.56 Nato bullet has ~1600j

          the spring that massa got hit by, would of had around 2400j

          *j = joules

          • pSynrg said on 27th July 2009, 21:05

            I made a similar calculation earlier (thanks google) and came up with 2800 joules of kinetic energy.

            But what does that actually mean? In classic tabloid media fasion – what is that like for comparison – something hitting something else? A double decker bus falling over or a blue whale sneezing kind of dumbing down…

            Any physics people about?

    • Helmets can only keep foreign objects from coming into contact with the driver’s head. It cannot dissipate all the blunt force drama (pushing the head so violently downwards & to a side that a driver could break his neck and get severe brain damage). Therefore, helmets cannot adequately protect against flying foreign objects and other things hitting the driver.

      • Bookgrub said on 28th July 2009, 0:32

        The HANS device is designed to assist with much of that dissipation in the event of an accident.

    • ranilom said on 28th July 2009, 13:05

      No, they are improved. Now they are 5 mm in thickness and made of a specially treated plexiglass (gazzetta.it). It appears that the visor hold the impact quite well (??) but one of the visor rivet was sheared by the impact. The visor than folded under the spring impact. Probably the latching of the current visor need a design review.

  4. Spawinte said on 27th July 2009, 12:33

    What does that guy mean by “its a different way of life in Europe”?

    • Tom said on 27th July 2009, 12:48

      i think he means europeans race proper cars that actually go round more than one or two corners. otherwise, no idea what he means…

      • pSynrg said on 27th July 2009, 13:34

        So utterly irrelevant to this discussion anyway.
        If anything, USA competitors are even more exposed to projectile danger due to their much higher top speeds and such extremely close running…

        • Brian said on 27th July 2009, 17:44

          NASCAR and INDY car don’t really have higher top speeds. I live in North America, and I watch their races often enough, but I’m always amazed how much slower they are then good’ol F1 cars.

          • Damon said on 27th July 2009, 18:17

            Dude, you have to do some real research and stop rambling about your impressions.
            The IndyCars reach the same speeds on road tracks as F1, and on oval tracks they are way faster.

          • CART had the best response crew in motorsport, and CART raced at many tracks (Zolder, Laguna Seca, Montreal, dozens of street courses) that were basically the same track-distance scenarios as F1. It is relevant. I’m not sure about Indycar today, I personally hate that country-fried excuse for a racing series, but CART’s team was the business. They were a trained, dedicated and always-ready crew, whereas F1′s response team usually seems to be a ragtag group of volunteers scrambling to the scene eventually.

    • Bernard said on 27th July 2009, 14:20

      It was probably a poke that everything is more laid back. Which is insensitive to say the least, particularly when it comes to medical emergencies.

      • F1 as the pinnicle of motorsport surely requires an element of danger, many of above comments do not consider this, if you want an infinitely safe sport watch badminton and ban motorsport… risk is part of the game surely a part of why we all attracted to this sport in the first place

        • There will always be crashes and accidents. These safety considerations are about affecting the outcome of those.

          Furthermore, risk cannot be 100% eliminated, but we can keep working (like we have) to lower it. Less and less people will get seriously injured as the work continues.

          I don’t think people watch F1 for the risk. They watch it for the speed, amazing machinery and demands on the drivers (and so on). Would people like the world rally championship more if they removed the roll bars inside those cars for example? Maybe if they enjoyed seeing people suffer.

    • Patrickl said on 27th July 2009, 14:36

      He probably means that Nascar and Indycars are designed to have many crashes. While F1 is designed to be as safe as possible.

    • TeamOrders said on 28th July 2009, 2:00

      It’s American xenophobia shining through. Simple as that.

  5. As anyone following last night’s IndyCar race in the US will know, Andretti Green’s Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan has suffered burns after a cockpit fire. He was splashed with fuel because of a problem with the fuel rig. The car’s battery then ignited the fuel inside the cockpit.

    Now, if Kanaan had a closed cockpit he wouldn’t have been splashed with fuel in the first place.

    However, if the fire had started from fuel inside the car, if he had a partially closed cockpit or if there were vents that the spilled fuel had leached into, he could have had a much harder job getting out (relatively) uninjured.

    His actions, driving the car away from his pit crew to protect them before exiting, were incredibly brave and probably mean the burns to his hands and face were more severe than they would otherwise have been.

    We can be thankful that we didn’t see a third severe accident in the space of a week – and ponder the sheer difficulty of making a decision for or against closed cockpits.

    • Yes saw the race, very brave and unselfish thing to do. Liked his comment after as well, “i wanted to set the world on fire, but not like that” :)

  6. Victor said on 27th July 2009, 13:05

    A correction there, Keith: the LMP1 closed-cockpit rule for 2010 has been scrapped due to opposition to the idea from several angles, most notably Audi.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th July 2009, 13:09

      Really? Sorry I completely missed that news and didn’t see it when I was looking for the article. The last I saw existing LMP1 cars without covers were going to be allowed to run without them, but new ones had to have covers. But it’s definitely the case that they’re chucking the rule entirely?

      • Victor said on 27th July 2009, 13:19

        As far as I’ve been told, closed cockpits are not mandatory for 2010. That would explain Audi’s decision to build another open-cockpit LMP1 (the R15).

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th July 2009, 13:41

          Audi’s decision fits in with my understanding of the rule, which is that LMP1 cars built before 2010 can run with open cockpits. But new LMP1 cars next year have to have closed cockpits, as I understand.

  7. James said on 27th July 2009, 13:12

    You have to consider whether a closed cockpit would have defeated an object with about 1800 joules of energy, over a relatively small area. I think (but am not sure) that any existing designs would have been defeated by this particular scenario.

    Perhaps better to try and ensure they don’t fall off in the first place.

    • The_Pope said on 27th July 2009, 13:39

      I agree. Would a cockpit have stopped the tyre that killed Surtees?

      Watch this for a horrifying example from Australia’s V8 Supercar series:

      • Mahir C said on 27th July 2009, 14:01

        what is wrong with it? Sure the wind screen is damaged but it protected the driver, which is the point.

        • glamourBob said on 27th July 2009, 15:34

          only because the windscreen is a good one to two feet from the driver’s face. That would be impossible on an F1 car. If the tyre had struck a closed cockpit on an f1 car, the wheel would still have crushed a helmet.

    • John H said on 27th July 2009, 13:43

      Absolutely spot on.

      • gabal said on 27th July 2009, 17:59

        not to mention speed of the car wasn’t that great to begin with. Massa was traveling 275 km/h in a moment of impact which translates to 500 kg pressure on a square centimeter. My biggest concern with closed cockpits is that they would limit the visibility in occasions of oil spray and rain, the single-seater cockpit proposals I saw didn’t have wipers on them.

        • Maybe this could promote some serious research into deflecting water and fog from transparent surfaces. Now that’d be applicable to road cars.

          Visibility is very important. They already have some issues with water on helmets (not sure how severe). With a canopy, the rain would not hit the helmet, but simply another surface. I assume if the windscreen was raked enough the water would quickly be dragged backwards from the intense wind friction.

          • Tim said on 27th July 2009, 21:06

            With single seaters in wet conditions, the main problem is the spray from cars in front rather than rain on the helmet visor. Virtually all single seaters I’ve ever seen/driven have had small deflector windscreens which push the main bulk of the airflow over the driver.

          • there is ‘self cleaning glass’, which works on the principle of causing maximum surface tension between the water molecules, and thus making it run off the glass surface. This would be easier to achieve with plastic.

    • A canopy can and will be anchored to the car body, so the drivers head cannot be pushed around from an impact with the canopy – unless the object penetrates.

      If the object penetrates – something that is very unlikely because any canopy would be very sloped in order to be aerodynamic. This angle alone would work similar to sloped tank armor, deflecting projectiles (and their energy) away from the surface rather than allowing it to ‘catch’ it and penetrate.

      Should it by some very unlikely chance penetrate, then the object already has lost a lot of energy.

      It seems certain a canopy would protect exceptionally well. Then remains any possible safety issues it could create by being there.

  8. mJohnHurt said on 27th July 2009, 13:20

    I read Curt Cavin’s blog and saw that comment about the medical crew. My first thought was that the tone of both the question and answer were suspect (“get a clue”?). That said, when I was watching the race I felt it took a shockingly long time to get to the car. It took so long based on how long it usually takes in NASCAR or IRL that I actually thought Massa was awake and had called them off somehow and was just catching his breath. I think a commenter above has a lot of it in that it’s faster to get to a given point in an oval than in a road course (even Zanardi’s crash, which is often held up by Champ Car/CART fans as the ultimate proof of their crew’s supremacy, was on an oval if memory serves).

    Another thing about that blog post – when discussing F2 and wheel tethers he said “I would have thought tethers would have been used in F2, but clearly they were not.” This is just flat wrong and it seems like maybe he got his entire set of facts from watching youtube? To be fair, he’s a local motor sport reporter from Indy, mostly focusing on IRL with a bit of NASCAR, but don’t answer the question if you can’t be bothered to read even a single article on the subject. I really like his Q/As on IRL, but his attempt at covering F1/F2 yesterday was awful.

  9. matt said on 27th July 2009, 13:30

    Thinking back to Kubica’s Montreal crash, that is an example of a recent time when a cockpit could have impeded the removal of the driver at a potentially crucial moment.

    Helmet design seems most sensible. I’m sure material technology will have advanced in the last 5 years significantly enough that standards can be raised without becoming unreasonable.

  10. James said on 27th July 2009, 13:30

    Perhaps the marshalls have a standing instruction to make the area safe, and not touch the driver if he has a suspected head injury? This does make sense; therefore their inaction is actually logical – they’re following procedure.

    • mJohnHurt said on 27th July 2009, 13:37

      I’m inclined to believe that with no fire or immediate signs of immediate danger from the car, the marshals did the right thing not to move him. Having them standing around “doing nothing” looked bad, but I think that’s to blame on the medical car taking so long to show up.

    • pSynrg said on 27th July 2009, 13:38

      I agree James. Assuming the driver in no additional danger they must wait for medical staff…

      • ajokay said on 27th July 2009, 14:19

        The commentators were saying something about a ‘G-Light’ that was lit on Massa’s Car. The G-Light lights up when the driver has been subjected to a severe amount of G-Force, and the marshalls are probably instructed not to move the driver (as long as there is no immediate danger) until the medical team arrive due to head, neck or spinal injuries.

  11. iceshiel said on 27th July 2009, 13:49

    I honestly do not mind cockpit covers. LMP1 cars are beautiful!

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th July 2009, 13:52

    I’m going to be on Sky News tonight from 7pm talking about Massa’s crash and F1 safety.

    • Stubie said on 27th July 2009, 14:45

      don’t forget to mention Kimi at Magny-Cours! and good luck!

    • sato113 said on 27th July 2009, 14:54

      and who you reckon would replace massa IF he didn’t race in Valenica. also talk about alonso’s wheel and ban. sweet!!!

      • Chalky said on 27th July 2009, 16:29

        That depends if they give Keith a chance to speak. :D Last time was ok, but before that he was left little time to talk.
        Good luck Keith.

        • Rash Rob said on 27th July 2009, 19:23

          Good interview Keith. I don’t think the issue was who will replace Massa, so I’m glad that wasn’t mentioned.

          Sky News are the TV equivalent of The News of The World. They went straight to a clip of a Funny (not)bowling incident. Idiots.

          BBC Next time keith?

          • sato113 said on 27th July 2009, 20:54

            typical, they drag him to the studio and he only gets a couple of minutes! would like to see u keith doing a longer feature on tv. i’m sure all the fanatics would tune in! nice1 anyway.

  13. Tiomkin said on 27th July 2009, 13:52

    The only way you’ll achieve 100% safety is to ban racing. A close 2nd will be to reduce the speeds to 10mph. Which would have the side effect of killing the sport, which is what all this over the top nonsense will do. No one can predict the path of spring dropped at random, or the damage it could do IF it hits another car.

    In MotoGp several riders fell off, lets give them balance wheels. Accidents happen!!

    • matt said on 27th July 2009, 16:52

      I mostly agree. Helmets should be strengthened if possible, but other than that the chance of being hit is so remote that I can only recall it happening once in F1, and that was to Massa. Surtees isn’t a particularly relevent example, as although his death was tragic, he was not racing in F1. Were the wheel tethers in his race up to the same spec as in F1? How about his helmet? And potential changes to the safety rules of F1 are again irrelevent to his death, as the changes would probably not be applied to F2 or all the other many single-seater categories. Although the drivers should be as safe as possible, there has to be a limit. It would be interesting to see drivers views. I suppose if they prefered driving with a closed cockpit then fair enough, but I can’t imagine that many would.

    • Your reasoning goes like this:

      ‘Risk cannot be 100% eliminated. Therefore, we should not lower risk.’

      This shows a lack of understanding of what risk is. It is not just a concept of being in complete control or not (i.e. no risk vs risk). It is percentages, odds, chances. And these can be huuugely affected to lower risk by changes in behavior, equipment, rules and so on.

      It is completely illogical to not reduce risk because it will not be completely eliminated.

      • What happened to Massa is called a Black Swan. The chances of it happening are so slim they are unpredictable in a million years, and yet the consequences are devastating.

        Think about this. Nobody was having this conversation Friday, and if someone had suggested adding cockpit covers to F1 cars, they would have been laughed out of the room.

        So now everybody tries to solve the safety problem that effected Massa – a problem that will most likely not happen again in a billion years. Yet, simultaneously, completely ignoring the possibility of the next potentially fatal safety problem.

      • Tiomkin said on 27th July 2009, 19:26

        Your reasoning goes like this:

        ‘Risk cannot be 100% eliminated. Therefore, we should not lower risk.’

        When did I write that?

        I’m urked by all the ‘we need canopies, we need cotton wool walls, we need ejector seats’.

        My point in simple terms is that you cannot foresee FREAK accidents. No body has a working crystal ball. If you change f1 too much it won’t be F1, You cannot prevent a 1 in a billion accident.

        • You were reasoning that we have two options, to stop racing or accept that accidents happen (and thereby do nothing about it).

          And contrary what you say, you can prevent a one in a billion accident. You could make it from a one in a billion to one in two billion (just as an example). And it’s not simply about accidents happening, but what their outcome is. F1 is extremely less risky today than it once was. Severe accidents are so much less, and so it can continue into infinity (lessening risk, although never 100% removing it).

          • Tiomkin said on 27th July 2009, 21:14

            Where did I say do nothing about it? Where did I say there were only two options?

            You really should read things more than once.
            Re-read what I wrote slowly, sounding out the syllables, and stop jumping to conclusions.

            That is all, ‘nough speculating.

  14. SiY said on 27th July 2009, 13:56

    Medical crew response time: if you Google this phrase, you find out that Montoya told the local press in Indianapolis (including this journalist, the regional paper’s motorsport correspondent) that he found the reponse time “shocking” and that “we always complained when I was [in F1]“. I haven’t heard any other complaints about response time (it all looked pretty normal to me, for a crash involving possible spinal injury, and was certainly not a medically adverse delay).

    What made me angry over the weekend, safety-wise, is the message the FIA sent out with its treatment of Renault and Red Bull. The stewards decided that Renault had “knowingly” released a car with only three working wheels (why would they?!), and as a result have banned the team from a race – at probably the worst, blandest, most overtaking-free Tilke circuit so far created – that only exists because of their lead driver.

    On the other hand, Red Bull released Webber from his stop, with Kimi on one side and the entire Williams pitcrew on the other (standing in the next pitbox, ready for their car) and got away with an almost unpublicised tap on the wrist on the grounds that there wasn’t actually a collision. This despite the fact they had already been warned & fined at the Nurburgring for Vettel’s unsafe release in qualifying.

    Message: release a car into the path of another in a crowded pitlane and we’ll only give you a warning (as long as there’s no actual crash); make a mistake in the stop, which carries no advantage at all, and we’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks.

    • Mahir C said on 27th July 2009, 14:08

      Spot on, though I remember that last year in Valencia there was an outcry for penalty on this site following Massa’s release onto the path of Sutil. Nobody seems to care about Webber’s.

      I dont think Webber deserved any penalty but Renault didnt deserve either. It was knee jerk reaction by stewards following Massa’s accident.

      • Watch the video again. When Alonso was let out of his pitbox, you can see a mechanic’s hand trying to check the FR wheel. If he knew it had a problem, why was the car allowed to leave the box?

        • SiY said on 27th July 2009, 18:08

          Because mistakes happen when you’re fighting for a race win. It’s not the first or last time a car has been released prematurely by accident. This is the first time I can ever remember the stewards issuing a penalty for this kind of mistake, especially when the mistake has already caused a massive disadvantage to the competitor and to nobody else.

          If you watch the video again, you’ll see the front-right wheel mechanic puts his hand in the air, signifying the wheel is on, before realising it wasn’t just as the lollipop went up.

  15. F1Paul said on 27th July 2009, 14:03

    How about the idea of some sort of cage or fine mesh to surround the driver? It would have to be strong enough to withstand, say, the blow of an 800g spring, but fine enough to not obstruct the drivers view. This would also eliminate the threat of fires as an extinguisher could still get through the gaps. It would also get rid of the problems posed by wet weather conditions that a screen would have trouble with. Obviously there still needs to be some kind of release mechanism to allow the driver to escape quickly should it be required, but surely that wouldn’t be too hard.

    • I can image the aero effects of mesh would mess up a cars aerodynamics. Try driving a car with a meshed roof rack, they don’t like going through air.

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