It is tough to make Formula One safer
Alonso on pole. Hamilton the winner. Raikkonen, Ferrari, second. It was just like the 'good old days' again. But Felipe Massa's freak accident overshadowed it all. A lot of discussions will take place in the coming weeks among the so-called safety experts, but frankly I cannot see how any driver can be better protected from a component falling from a car, writes Steve Slater.india Updated: Jul 29, 2009 01:23 IST
A quick look at the results sheets of the Hungarian Grand Prix and you could be forgiven for thinking that we are back in 2007. Alonso on pole. Hamilton the winner. Raikkonen, Ferrari, second. It was just like the 'good old days' again.
But Felipe Massa's freak accident overshadowed it all. A lot of discussions will take place in the coming weeks among the so-called safety experts, but frankly I cannot see how any driver can be better protected from a component falling from a car.
Massa's head injuries though grave, could have been so much worse. It is thanks to current Formula One safety technology, including the modern carbon-fibre helmet construction and the crashworthiness of the Ferrari in the following full-throttle, head-on 200kph impact that Felipe owes his life to. Ironically, given the rare nature of this accident, the problem of flying debris was already at the forefront of many minds following the tragic death a week before of 18-year-old Henry Surtees in F2.
Fernando Alonso too survived a close call. A bungled pitstop allowed Alonso to return to the track with a loose wheel, which subsequently flew off his car. Alonso, who had led the early stages of the race, lost more than a potential podium finish from the debacle. After the race the FIA stewards found that the team "knowingly released car no 7 from the pitstop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured."
The stewards statement added that Renault, "being aware of this, failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pitlane....failed to inform the driver of this problem or to advise him to take appropriate action given the circumstances".
The FIA stewards found that the team's actions had compromised safety in breach of the Sporting Regulations and banned the Renault team from taking part in the next race at Valencia.
The repercussions extend beyond Alonso being able to take part in a home race. The event is already struggling to attract spectators, just 32,000 tickets have been sold and the lack of the home hero, will be a bitter blow to organisers.
Mind you, I've got a solution. There is no way that Massa is going to be fit to race in Valencia, so Ferrari will need a driver. Alonso needs a drive? Sounds perfect doesn't it? I can't see either Kimi Raikkonen nor Flavio Briatore sharing my enthusiasm, but if it happens, remember you saw it here first!