iconimg Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Vinayak Pande, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, September 18, 2012
Driving standards in Formula One has been a hot topic over the last two Grands Prix in Belgium and Italy. Belgium saw Lotus' Romain Grosjean force Lewis Hamilton off the track and cause a massive accident at the start of the race.

Michael Schumacher's pit entry across the nose of Vettel's car at Spa also upset many people. It's been suggested that the cause of such rash driving lies in the junior series leading up to F1. However, prominent driver coach Rob Wilson -- whose past and current clients include Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg -- believes that there is another reason for young drivers pushing the boundaries of racing etiquette.

“Rash driving has been prevalent amongst some of the best drivers in the world for a long time but it get's a lot of attention now thanks to television and the Internet,” Wilson told HT. “Young racers look up to these drivers and they think if they can get away with it then so can we.”

Controversial collisions with a championship rival won and lost an F1 title for Schumacher in 1994 and 1997, respectively. He was penalised 10 places on the starting grid following the robust defence of his position against Rubens Barrichello at the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix.

However, Wilson feels that a precedent had been set before Schumacher became F1's resident superstar. “Ayrton Senna's incident with Alain Prost at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix was just as bad,” said Wilson referring to their opening lap collision that decided the year's title in Senna's favour. “It was pretty much a case of him (Senna) saying that you won't turn right until I turn right which took them both out of the race at a pretty high speed.” “People tend to forget the influence of his (Senna) no-holds-barred attitude because it was masked by Ayrton's genius and extremely charming personality,” he continued. “Schumacher is pretty much a Germanic version of him!”

OLDER THAN SENNA AND SCHUMACHER

Wilson was, however, quick to add that rash driving was not a creation of Senna and Schumacher and that even Jackie Stewart, who would later champion driver safety, would get ‘scolded’ by older drivers for trying bold manuevers when he was a young racer himself.

“Drivers have always been pushing the edge but it's magnified today due to the performance and safety of the cars,” said Wilson. “Not only are racing cars much safer than they used to be but they handle and brake much better too, which gives drivers the impression that they can get away with pretty much anything.

“Grosjean's ban was important because at some point you have to stop taking the driver out of the equation or you'll just end up with cars driving around by themselves.”