Sunday proved what we all know – or should know – that safety measures in motor racing can only ever do so much. There will always be circumstances beyond the control of the those who seek to make motor racing totally safe.
I have watched Henry Surtees’s accident several times and I fail to see much that could have been done differently. Yes, perhaps in a perfect world the tyre barrier that Jack Clarke hit might have been further away from the track. It was already a good distance and Clarke’s crash was a relatively minor impact given the speed and angle at which he hit. With wheel tethers the wheel that tore off and bounced (relatively slowly) back to the track and hit Surtees ought not to have come loose, but wheel tethers are a double-edged sword. The impacts involved are sometimes of a magnitude that simply snap the cable. Strengthen the tethers and they rip the corner out of the monocoque and destroy the car. Balancing safety and cost always sounds heartless after an accident but it is something that must be done to keep the sport healthy. Besides, Formula 2 has F1 safety standards in most respects. OK, Brands Hatch is not an F1 standard facility, but then again the F2 cars are not nearly as fast as F1 cars and, in fact, are only marginally faster than F3s, so such an accident could have occurred in any formula from F3 upwards.
There will be investigations and perhaps things will be found that might be improved, but my feeling is that this was one of those accidents which would have happened come what may.
It is a stark reminder of what we all know, but forget sometimes, that motor racing is dangerous – and it always will be. As long as people push the limits, there will be an unlucky few who will pay the price, unpalatable though that basic truth may be.