F1 – The Influence on Safety

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    Profile photo of Nathan

    Just interested in everyone’s opinion on the major reason why they think Formula 1 has become a lot safer over the years. Whether it be a certain event, person or car modification. I know that a lot of tragedies used to occur back in the 1960-70s but I am fascinated to find out what the major turning point was, so that the drivers ultimately became safer.

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    1st Of May 1994 mate!! Death of a ledgend !!

    The late Sid Watkins was then put in charge of F1 saftey and made some great progress so drivers are ALOT safer now and big crashes like Webber in Spain a few years back are a good example.

    Profile photo of GeeMac

    3 dates/crashes spring to mind in the safety bit:

    7 April 1968 – Jim Clark dies at Hockenheim in an F2 car. “If it could happen to him, what hope did the rest of us have?” (Chris Amon after Clark’s death) I think this more than anything pushed the safety issue for Jackie Stewart.

    1 August 1976 – Niki Lauda crashes at the Nurburgring.

    1 May 1994 – Senna crashes at Imola. This really forced the FIA into action after a long period without a fatality.

    Profile photo of PieLighter

    Not just Senna, but also Ratzenberger and Barrichello. 3 serious accidents in 3 days, 2 of which were fatal.

    Profile photo of Iestyn Davies
    Iestyn Davies

    When 3 of the top 10 F1 drivers ever are involved in fatal type accidents (though Lauda was lucky to get away from his), then you have to hope they’d influence F1 to be safer. I think Stewart and Watkins also gave the biggest pushes for safety to increase.

    Profile photo of GeeMac

    @pielighter I think the Senna accident had more of an impact, as sad as losing Roland was. Losing the sport’s leading driver kicked everyone into action. Even a sight like seeing Martin Donnelly lying unconscious, bent and broken on the track at Jerez still strapped into his seat did little to force the sport into action. When you lose an icon, then people start to try change things. I fear if we just lost Roland the sweeping changes that were brought in may not have happened. It was the same in the 60’s and then in the 70’s, when you lose (or almost in Lauda’s case) then people start to take notice and demand change.

    Profile photo of matt90

    I think it has to be Senna, but the development of carbon cars was also fairly important, even if accidents did still happen in the ’80s.

    Profile photo of Steven

    When did the FIA implement mandatory crash testing? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was only mandated from 1995 onwards.

    Of course, Senna’s death was the turning point, but it makes light of the efforts that Stewart had put into driver safety as well (I think he was one of the first to say that racing at the old Nurburgring was crazy because of the safety issues).

    I think the safety standards that the FIA have implemented have worked tremendously, mainly the carbon fibre safety cell. One clip I always show to those who question safety in F1 is Kubica’s crash in Montreal 2007; had that happened 15-20 years prior, it most certainly would’ve been a driver fatality.

    Profile photo of pH

    Obviously Senna’s death had an impact, but I think that most of the safety push came earlier, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Stewart (and Watkins) feature prominently here. Track procedures changed considerably, from impact-absorbing fences to medical facilities. One prominent change in cars was moving the front axle to a position in front of driver’s feet, which helped tremendously and incidentally (and unfortunately) made the cars longer. At the end of the 1980’s people thought that F1 had became safe, and indeed, most of the things that do make it safe were in place already.

    Senna’s death started phase two, with focus on making the cars sturdier.

    Profile photo of Max Jacobson
    Max Jacobson

    Almost certainly F1 losing perhaps it’s greatest asset at the time – Ayrton Senna. As a result, F1 lacked a true legend’s presence on the grid: with Prost gone and Mansell at that time also gone, the event was a catastrophic blow for the sport’s publicity. So their only option was to visibly improve the safety of proceedings, with temporary barriers on Eau Rouge and such like before a major overhaul to ensure that such a travesty would never occur again.

    It undoubtably initiated the crusade that we should all be in debt to. Even if some tracks have been sterilised, I’d still far rather be complaining about Tarmac run-offs than mourning the death of a driver.

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