Maria de Villota drove a Renault Formula 1 car at Paul Ricard last year. She had no obvious qualifications to be a Formula 1 driver and no Superlicence, but private testing does not require the same rules and regulations as “official” activities. What she did have was some money and a dream and that made her presence in the Marussia team possible. It obviously helped that she was a woman because it is fairly unlikely that an F1 team would run an obscure Spanish man with the same kind of qualifications. We have not seen that since 41- year-old Israeli Channock Nissany drove for Minardi in 2005. One can accuse the Marussia team of tokenism if you wish, but money is money and Marussia Racing clearly needed it.
It is still a little early to say what happened at Duxford, but clearly the accident involved either a technical glitch or inexperience. One can, of course, ask whether it was wise to have a truck with the tail-lift down in proximity to an F1 car being tested.
Whatever the case there is no doubt that that this was a freak accident and F1 can count itself as fortunate that the ramifications were not more serious. People learn from mistakes and it remains to be seen whether the FIA will deem it necessary to get involved. It is, of course, important that the sport is as safe as possible – and seen to be safe – and these days any kind of accident reflects on the sport. Serious accidents in F1 are rare and as a result the reporting related to them tends to be rather hysterical, as was seen with Felipe Massa’s incident in Hungary a few years back.
For the time being F1 should not be making any snap decisions. The sport should take a look at what happened and then decide whether that warrants any action.