“Formula one can be made safer, but it can never be made safe”. These are the words of Murray Walker a veteran of Formula one commentary who saw his fair share of incredible driving skill but also terrible accidents and incidents. The death of Aryton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger plus an horrendous crash at the start of the race which almost saw the very serious injury of Pedro Lamy and the severe injury to a spectator from a flying wheel following the incident, in one fateful weekend at Imola in 1993 brought back into sharp focus the inherent dangers in Formula one. Up to that point there had been no fatalities in the sport for over a decade. Just as the Formula one world starts to breathe a little easier something comes along to remind us what can happen. A new case in point is the very sad death of young French driver Max Biancchi. His spin off into a crane causing him fatal head injuries ushered in the new Halo system to protect the drivers.
It was not always the case. The first Formula One racers but to the 1970’s could be certain that statistically out of field of anywhere between 12 to 20 at least two of them would not make it till the end of the season. Until the 1980’s this was viewed as normal and many spectators openly admitted they went for the ghoulish element of seeing a crash. The cars in the 1950’s was an immense power house. Al featured the engine in the front of the car so the driver at least had something in the way of him and the barriers. This was little comfort as the car and its fuel load of highly explosive mix could explode easily. The drivers wore helmets that did not cover the face with a marginal windscreen. You only need to look at the face of Sterling Moss at the end of a race, his face is covered in petrol and dirt thrown up that only his googles protect his eyes.
The engineering work of Colin Chapman placed the engine behind the driver but the introduction of carbon fibre to reduce weight drew much in the way of criticism as the material could not withstand impact. The use of aerodynamics and wings to improve downforce, making the car grip the road better has meant that speeds have increased also increasing the danger.
Following Senna and Ratzenbergers death the whole of the safety element in Formula one was reviewed. Tracks such as Imola, Mexico and Portugal were deemed unsafe unless they modernised and improved the surfaces. Helmets are all encompassing, the suits that a driver wears are extremely flame retardant. Organisation at the tracks, including the proper attire for Marshall’s was also improved. It will continue to be a dangerous sport but at least there is concerted effort now to make it safer. If you are a fan of Formula One, then there is no better way to watch this than visiting a track in person. You can see for yourself all of the safety measures that have been put into place. If you want to really see the race in style, then you should relax in the Abu Dhabi F1 Paddock Club and you can book at edgeglobalevents.com/f1-paddock-club/f1-paddock-club-abu-dhabi