I see a lot of talk at the moment about danger in F1, this is due largely to the publicity surrounding legal action that the Bianchi Family are threatening. I read of drivers saying that they don’t think things are safe enough and even that the sport should never hurt anyone. My only response to that is that those who think this way are in the wrong business. I’m sure some will take offence to that, but let me explain why I believe this.

When people talk about their lives, they will often tell you about how they were inspired by someone; how someone provided a spark that lit their fire. When we are young, we all have heroes. We all imagine ourselves charging up beaches, dodging bullets, or scoring great goals in Cup Finals, or winning the Indy 500 at our first attempt. We all want to be heroes and want to be looked up to. Heroes are special. They represent the best in mankind.

Without risk there is no progress  and we all know that. Mankind has got to where it is because risks have been taken and we value those who take them. They are there to inspire us, and future generations, to try new things and to risk life, limb, reputation or whatever.

As TS Eliot said, “only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”.

The vast majority of people never muster the courage to try to live their dreams, because they are afraid of what they might lose. It’s easier not to try. But those who do take risks help to move the world onwards. And the world needs heroes. Today, in a society in which heroes are few and far between, the need still exists. We have started to invent them.  We worship actors and actresses who pretend to be heroic. Kids are inspired by Star Wars characters or those of Harry Potter, just as my generation thought of John Wayne or Alf Tupper. The difference today is that we now worship people who have done nothing except to want to become celebrities.

Yes, we still have soldiers, police and firemen and we still have some adventurers, but there are other elements of society who wish to control everything: to make everything safe; to stop all risks. There are even some who argue that racing drivers should never be at risk.

This is crazy.

Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I don’t see the need for heroes reducing. But virtual heroes are not really the same, are they?

If there is no danger, what difference is there between driving real racing cars and virtual ones? With the costs involved, the virtual path is far more logical and practical, but will people sit and watch this “spectacle” and will they think of the virtual drivers as heroes? No, they will recognise skills, and will praise the winners, but that is not enough to confer heroic status?

I am not saying that we should seek out danger, but rather that we should ensure that the sport is safe enough, but not to the point of becoming anodyne. The sport is playing with science, finding new things and all the rest of it, but as JBS Haldane once pointed out “Man armed with science is like a baby with a box of matches”. Things will always go wrong.

But that is what heroes must accept if they want to be rich and famous. You can be a hero of a different kind in a classroom, or on a stage, but if racing drivers want to be heroes, then they must accept risks and those around them must either talk them out of it, or accept that they are happy doing what they were doing and so not complain if things go wrong.

I don’t believe that races should ever start behind Safety Cars. It is self-defeating for the sport and makes the heroes look feeble, tiptoeing around behind a road car. Racing drivers should be viewed as people who are different; who are special; who do things that normal people cannot do. They can choose when they think things are dangerous. None are forced to race. They can pull into the pits and say: “This is too much”, as Niki Lauda did in 1976 or Emerson Fittipaldi did a year before that in Spain. No-one sensible ever called them cowards. They were racing drivers exercising their choice.

This is essential for the survival of the sport, because if we don’t provide spectacle and heroics, what value does F1 really have?

166 thoughts on “Heroes

  1. I am simply unable to express how much I agree with this other than to say “I agree with this”. I will further add my disappointment when Monaco was started behind the Safety Car. When I started going to races the SCCA would start Formula Ford National races in far worse conditions than those at Monaco last Sunday.

    1. I also agree with everything Joe wrote, and was initially disappointed the race started behind a safety car. But if an F1 race has to start behind a safety car when it’s wet, I guess somewhere like Monaco would be the place. First corner bumps are common even in the dry, so add in spray and slippery conditions, and a wet start might be guaranteed to produce a pretty lengthy safety car period anyway, with a significant number of our ‘heroes’ possibly eliminated before the race really got started. In the end we had a pretty good Monaco Grand Prix, all told, despite lacking the standing start excitement.

  2. 100% % agree with your sentiments. The Alf Tupper quote struck a cord always enjoyed reading the Victor.

  3. I particularly agree with the comment about starting races behind Safety Cars. I remember Spa in 1988 (?) where half the grid was damaged in a rain-induced set of collisions.

    No-one wants mega crashes that reduce the entertainment, but if we continue down the road of safety car rain starts, then someone might say ‘let’s start all races behind the safety car’. That’s Indycar, not F1

        1. Does that article include the fatalities from the practise events? One rider (Dean Martin) was killed less than a week ago in an accident during a practise race that also seriously injured a marshal and another rider, but he doesn’t seem to be listed.

      1. Presumably these ‘proper racers’ also don’t need crash helmets then? Why are some safety innovations OK but others not?

        I don’t support safety measures that detract from the sport (eg. starting races behind the safety car) but any technology that helps protect the driver in the case of an accident should be used where possible. Motor sport does not need to be excessively dangerous to be exciting.

  4. A well thought out piece Joe. I am reminded of the comments by the late LJK Setright who once said,

    “If mankind seeks to eliminate all risk from society and in particular from motorsport then it is doomed to wither and die, for it is at the moment of danger that we discover our true character”

    1. I might add Setright’s version (if you will) of Elliot’s line: “enough is nerver enough; only more than is enough is truly enough.” Now, where did I put that pack of Black Russians?

  5. Heroes can soon look like amateurs especially when attempting to ‘race’ in the wet at Monaco ( for reference see raikkonen amd verstappen)

    Also I would like to see a driver excersie their choice not to race for a global company in the modern era. They do what they are told not the other way round.

    1. They have a choice. If they think that their life is in danger, they have a perfect right to stop.

  6. “I don’t believe that races should ever start behind Safety Cars. It is self-defeating for the sport and makes the heroes look feeble, tiptoeing around behind a road car. ”

    Until we have a standing start in the rain, the pole sitter stalls and the guy who started 22nd hits him at 150mph in blind spray. Then everyone will ask “why wasn’t the race started behind the Safety Car”?

    To do what you are arguing for does not ask questions of drivers’ ability or skill, merely their luck.

    Heroes don’t play Russian Roulette, idiots do.

    I want to watch the greatest racers in the world dazzle me with their car control, their race craft, their endurance and everything else which makes even the least of them incomparably better drivers than I am.

    I don’t want to watch them blindly crashing into stationary cars in order to satisfy your definition of what constitutes bravery.

    1. You can argue things from lots of different ways, but if you are a racing driver, you go racing. You sign away your rights and you acknowledge what you are doing. If you then don’t want to take a start because you think it is too dangerous, then that’s fine. You don’t do it. If the sport allows itself to be dictated to by lawyers and insurance man, it will eventually die – and no-one wants to see that.

      1. Do you mean as happened in Canada in 1982 when Palleti was killed, or Imola in ’94? Except…those incidents happened on a dry racetrack didn’t they? Hmmmm, perhaps we ought ban all standing starts as they are clearly too dangerous. But then, it was running around behind the safety car in Imola which played a part in Senna’s fatal accident. Hmmmm. Perhaps we should just park the cars in the garages and charge people stupid amounts of money to parade past them as motor racing is clearly far too dangerous a pursuit to possibly allow to continue.

    2. Thank you Keith. a) There’s a difference between risks worth taking and other risks that aren’t. b) Risk taking is human and can lead to great things, but if inspiration and progress are the justification for taking risks, that also requires that progress is actually made. The 60s inspired JYS to campaign for safety improvements, and progress was made indeed since then, by removing a lot of unnecessary risks which today would seem ridiculous. Joe, given the incidents that open wheel / open cockpit racing has seen over the last decade, what should be the progress in safety inspired by and justifying the biggest accidents of the last decade? Nothing? Just because F1 cars always had open X and open Ys, and because that hasn’t changed for a very long time, therefore it shall never change? Just because 100% safety can’t be achieved in racing, you couldn’t possibly care how much progress is achieved at all on the safety front? I struggle to believe that, and I think you just feel the need to remind people that 100.0 % safety is never possible, let alone when going fast.

    3. Keith, remembering Paletti, I certainly agree with you that in those conditions starting behind the safety car made sense. Cars in such close proximity with pretty much zero visibility are mostly piloted by luck not judgement, and I prefer my heros to earn that title by conspicuous skill rather than just being the last man standing after a Scheckter-style pile-up on lap 1.

      However, why the SC didn’t then peel off at the end of lap 1 is beyond me. With a dry line there is only one racing line, and zero chance of overtaking off it. When all the track is awash, however, all the track is equally grippy. I know that drivers don’t like aquaplaning, but at that point Joe’s comments about them choosing to slow down or stop are completely valid.

      1. The fact that they were talking about going onto Inters while it was out backs up that it should have gone in after one lap. It’s happened before when it’s stayed out so long all the cars just jumped in for Inters, if it’s too dangerous to race when the conditions suit full wets what’s the point in having them at all?

    4. You are a beta male Keith and so your opinion correlates with that. This is why you “report” on racing and do not race yourself. Despite your some what closeness to the sport you still couldn’t imagine what it is like to sit in a racing car at the start of a race and the feeling of the tyres on the tarmac, the conditions, and everything else that comes with sitting in a car at the start of a race. So naturally you put your spin on it and imagine the worst case scenario. Given your logic, and taking it to its logical conclusion, should we therefore abandon the delights of any kind of human operated racing vehicles and all bow down to the coming god of autonomous racing in the Formula E pacakge? No thanks. Also, you might want to be a bit selfish. Think how much traffic your website would get if there were no heroes? Very little. And at this point you would have to find a job again.

  7. Spot on Joe! I felt just that as we watched the processional first 10 mins at Monaco – waiting for a driver to say “it’s ok to race now” to Charlie. It’s not that I (or any true fan) long for a repeat of the horrid carnage of past eras – but rather that if one is to truly respect today’s entrants as real heroes, then they need to demonstrate their skill in all conditions…..

  8. I do believe that current drivers are not brave enough to pull into the pits and say: “This is too much” because F1 has changed.
    But I also believe the current drivers are brave enough to race under whatever conditions. Fans want the sport to be as good as ever, drivers want to keep reducing risks, which makes sense for their families. All is fine.
    Also, the progress of the safety in F1 makes F1 more advanced and more professional, halo can look better in the future.

    1. I don’t believe many of the drivers today are mature enough to pull into the pits and say: “this is too much”.

  9. Too right. The Monaco Gp was a great race but bookended by two dispiriting events eg – the race starting under the safety car and the sight of Justin Bieber by the Royal Box at the end.

    If someone like Gerhard Berger had won Monaco and Bieber ( Bieber for God sake !! ) was next to the podium he would have either thrown him off it or lumped him.

    Bieber being present was worse than Putin’s presence IMO

    1. I’m no fan of Bieber. BUT

      82M+ twitter followers would have got regular updates about his exciting day and seen him getting very excited.

      If even 1% of those are now interested in f1 as a result then it’s absolutely worth it!

      1. I would be stunned if .1% are now interested and if .01% of them even remember by the next GP.

      2. No need to put him right next to the podium, though, and let him guzzle the champagne .
        It really put a damper on my joy of Ham’s win .
        Dude ….

  10. 100% in agreement. Sunday’s Monaco race wasn’t bad at all – but the first few laps behind the safety car were tedious in the extreme.

  11. I thought exactly the same thing about Lauda during the safety car start, under circumstances with the championship it could be argued that he was the bravest driver that day in making such a choice.

    In modern times would pay vs paid status of drivers affect their decision to race or not? Would Sauber have been happier (less cross?!) if their pay drivers had parked up after a racing start rather than crash into each other…?

  12. I didn’t hear any backlash from the drivers about the Monaco GP start. Shame. And about Bianchi, well, his father said many drivers approached him to express their disagreement with the FIA veredict but are unlikely to testify or say it publically. What they are afraid of?

      1. Todt has showed his attitude quite clearly on Bianchi’s accident, I think, which is enough to make drivers afraid of, do you think so?

  13. I loved the cover photo of the Monaco Edition of GP+. Daniel Ricciardo, hand in the air in protest at Lewis’s defence, lighting up the rear tires on the damp edge of the track and catching the slide with just his other hand on the wheel.

    In a split second, seeing the gap but realising it was too damp offline to go for it and he’d be on the outside for the next corner and shoving his hand up for a cheeky wave to raise attention to the stewards just in case a penalty would move the car in front out of the way instead.

    Meanwhile Lewis was slithering around on cold tires, balancing defending his position with leaving a car’s width on the outside and ensuring he warmed his tires but not too much so that they would last the 46 laps to the end of the race.


    We need more of seeing drivers on the ragged edge, not coddled until the conditions are perfect.

  14. I disagree that mortal danger is an inherent and necessary part of the sport. When we see young children like those of Justin Wilson growing up without their father because he was killed in a racing accident, there has to be impetus to continually improve safety. Justin may have understood and accepted the risk but his kids didn’t get a say.

    People don’t have to risk their lives to be inspiring, heroic or entertaining. Look at the sporting achievements of Leicester City or Steve Redgrave or Alex Zanardi’s post motor racing career. None of these risked their lives but would be regarded by many as more heroic and inspiring than most F1 drivers. Hard work, dedication and overcoming adversity to achieve something which seemed impossible is far more inspiring to me than someone needlessly risking their life.

    Of course there are some human endeavours that have to include the risk of death but Sunday afternoon sport need not be one of them in this day and age. Formula 1 has more than enough resources to ensure that it is largely safe and it currently is, but that doesn’t mean we should give up trying to further improve safety. It would be a huge dishonour to the likes of Jules and Justin to dismiss their deaths as ‘just one of those things’ and do nothing to prevent similar accidents/outcomes in the future. Safety improvements should always be made so long as they can be made without harming the sport. Some would say danger is an inherent part of the sport and removing it takes away some of the romance. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Formula 1 has always been largely safe since I have been a fan so the element of danger has never factored into the appeal for me.

    I agree that Formula 1 drivers do need to be seen as more super-human but the way to achieve this is not through unnecessary danger but by making the cars harder to drive. I agree Grand Prix should not be started behind a safety car. There is a perception (rightly or wrongly) that F1 is just too easy right now: Lewis Hamilton can rock up to a race weekend and win having been partying in LA for a week; a teenage boy can turn up and win a Grand Prix at the age of 18. Yes there should be risk. Risk of failure, humiliation, wrecking the car, not finishing the race. I don’t watch Grand Prix to see people risk their lives. I watch to see competition, close racing and amazing technology. I watch to see drives like Checo at Monaco scoring a podium in a car that has no business at the front. If we can achieve that while keeping the drivers, spectators, marshalls and everyone else as safe as possible then we should do so.

    Keep up the great work Joe.

    1. I am afraid that I would argue that the responsibility for young children left without a parent lies with the parent who chose to take the risk. I know that sounds harsh, but it is part of the choice that I mentioned.

    2. The very simple fact of the matter is that Justin Wilson could just as easily have been hit by a bus. We are given no guarantees in this life.

      1. You’re absolutely right Cliff. Nothing is completely safe. My argument is simply that danger does not enhance the product. I disagree with anyone who says it is ‘safe enough’ because the implication there is that we don’t need to do any more and I believe that would be a mistake. Where safety improvements can be made without compromising the product, they should be.

        I think Joe’s piece was written largely in response to the safety car start at Monaco. I agree that GPs should not be started behind the safety car. I think a standing start on sunday would have been spectacular and the fact we didn’t get it did compromise the product.

        My objection is to arguments against safety innovations like the halo. These devices would not affect the racing one bit but could save the lives of drivers like Justin Wilson. To object to such an innovation on the basis of nostalgia, aesthetics or simply because one finds the danger exciting is appalling in my view.

        1. Go watch other motor racing then. The thrill we feel watching world class drivers does inherently include some controlled danger.

          Put them in simulators to race each other and F1 will slowly die. Inheritance and nostalgia is a huge part of F1 and should stay that way.

          3250 dies every day or one fatality every 26th second in road car accidents. Put the money and resources there instead of the halo job Mercedes did to promote their brand value.

          More racing and less billion dollars business cases.

          1. The big teams at the top of the leader board view F1 only as business. It has been that way for at least a generation.
            If people like me (keen, but not diehard) do as you suggest and go and watch other motor sport, then eventually F1 will die. Is that really what you want ?

      2. Phil stated it clearly – the notion is NOT ‘remove all danger’, it is ‘remove all unnecessary danger which does not interfere with the spectacle’. Failing to improve safety in F1 because danger exists in other walks of life is a complacent and pernicious attitude.

        1. Define unnecessary. Is it necessary that the driver is actually in the car. These days he could drive it remotely, like a drone. All unnecessary danger removed, driver safe in his living room, no one watching the ‘sport’.

          I suggest you stay well away from the TT or MotoGP or Rugby or………

          1. Damian – please read my words. I said “unnecessary danger which does not interfere with the spectacle”. That is a world away from “unnecessary danger”.
            If you think it is unnecessary that a driver be in the car, then I suggest it is you who should examine your relationship with F1. For F1 as we know it, it is necessary that the driver is in the car. If you want to have unpiloted cars controlled remotely, go right ahead and create your own separate formula.
            The debate we should having is “what constitutes the spirit / essence of F1 ?”. Only when have some reasonable answers to that question can we decide what part of what we currently have is unnecessary. It seems to me that the most contentious point here is how much danger a driver should face if he makes a mistake – a slither into a gravel trap or an uncontrolled slide into a concrete wall. The answer to that question makes a huge difference to the way in which drivers would approach a race.

    3. Finally some one I agree with. I did not come into F1 due to a perception of danger, those that do are stuck in the past. You do not need to risk death to be a hero. If I want death defying stunts I can go watch tight rope walking. If you can make it safer without impacting the racing it would be negligent not to pursue it. The flip side of trying to make cars safer is that it should be a precursor to make them faster and/or more difficult to drive.

      1. Thanks Nick. Was beginning to think I was on my own there. I have to say I’m genuinely surprised to see how many commenters really do think danger is important to the sport.

  15. Back when I could afford to go, the first thing you saw on the back of your ticket was “Motor Racing is dangerous” it was a lot more so then than now. If drivers think it should be safe, let them go and be accountants instead and good riddance, I’m with Sir Stirling Moss on danger, that was what made it exciting.

    Attitudes are greatly influenced over generations according to who was in charge of the government during the person’s formative years. I was expected, nay forced, to play football, it was compulsory, in shorts and your vest, in all weathers (including frozen solid) with a leather ball that weighed about 10kg dry and considerably more when wet as it nearly always was and had a lace-up aperture, whose laces would inflict cuts if the ball hit you. Boots were also solid leather and could be used as sledge hammers. (regulars will remember that I hate football, that’s why)
    During certain socialist governments since, contact has been banned, games not scored in case it upsets the loosing side and other pathetic cotton wool treatments designed to produce a nation of fragile delicate souls without a competitive thought or employment prospect between them. Such governments were also big on welfare and presumably expected the pupils to rely on the government their whole lives. Or was it a tactical move to screw it up for the following governments? If so it certainly worked. (Me paranoid?)

    To top it all only last week I read of pupils being banned from raising their hands to attract the teacher’s attention in case it invaded an adjacent pupil’s personal space.

    Still looking forward of the two driver safety devices I would have thought it obvious that the screen was safer as it prevents flying debris of ll sizes hitting the driver’s head, while the Halo structure relies upon the flying object being large enough to bridge the gap between body and halo. A case in point being Jenson’s drain cover, a curious thing which split into two pieces as it flew up. The Halo may have inadvertently saved him if it was struck just right, but the screen would have been far safer. (Assuming the screen to be sufficiently strong.)

    To play devils advocate for a moment, there is a huge following of the video game tournaments which are run world wide and attract vast audiences at arena venues with many more online. Teams play professionally and have fan clubs etc So there is attraction in just watching with no danger at all, and where the skills are in tactics, control, speed and team play. All done sitting down. To be fair though I don’t see accountancy catching on as a spectator sport.

    1. The screen looks hideous, the Halo ditto. I don’t want drivers to die or be injured but F1 will not be the same once they’re introduced and it will affect its popularity.

        1. Yet there used to be screens, there was a McLaren in GP+ from an earlier era which featured a screen which would be pretty much identical in looks to the new one proposed, the driver was sittin above it then of course as it was merely an airflow director.

  16. Your last paragraph said it all Joe.

    The only value of starting Monaco under the safety car (as much as it disappointed us) was to squeegee off some of the standing water on the racing lines.

    Another type of hero is the person who labors a lifetimes in a job that is far from stimulating, sometimes dangerous, and often stressful, to provide for the security of their families. The opportunity to sally forth in dream ventures is too often suppressed by the risk of failing in support of that family.

    Finding some joy vicariously in our F1 or other sporting heroes is an outlet that should never be under rated.

    1. / to squeegee off some of the standing water on the racing lines/

      I believe it would be better if a couple of trucks did that job instead. Unless in Russia, where trucks spoilt some oil on track.

      1. Perhaps F1 designers should design cars which can race in (almost) all weathers. If these cars are virtually uncontrollable in the wet, redesign them so they’re not. It’s like that perennial argument that “Monaco doesn’t really suit modern F1 cars” as if that’s Monaco’s fault!

        1. Sorry chap, designers are constrained by the laws of physics. The problem is not that cars are uncontrollable in the wet, it is that once they aquaplane, you can’t recover them. That is due to the capillary effect, not the design of the car.

  17. Excellent piece Joe, but sadly the world is heading away from all the things that inspired previous generations. In some instances this is a good thing but for me this is the ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’ generation.

  18. Safety car starts just feel so aseptic, so disappointing, perhaps even a little embarrassing for the sport. To non-fans – how do I explain why the best drivers in the world cannot race when it rains?

    The introduction of the halo *ugh – just held down some sick* feels like another whimsical knee-jerk decision which is about as ascetically pleasing as a cold sore. Even that Lola hoop in the latest GP+ looks more palatable with what must be near-comparable safety levels.

    I really do hope your voice of reason has some reverberations, or at least distant echos, in the direction of the rule makers.

  19. Bravo. Fantastic column. I do wonder if it is a generation thing though, I am in my 40’s and deaths in all formula happened when I was young but it was rare, but perhaps it happened enough for drivers to realise there was a limit and it could happen to them. When I watch junior formula now some of the risks they take are borderline suicidal that should never be tried outside of a simulator or Xbox game but they walk away because of the strength of the car.

  20. I think I would’ve risked a heart attack if the last race in Monaco had a standing start.
    Still I’m all for it!

  21. Hello Joe, I completely agree with you. I was a boy in Canada when Gilles Villeneuve died during the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying, and that event was the first real “loss” in my life, and it really shook me. In the decades since then, there have been more. So, I am not a “fan” of death and destruction (and I think most race fans feel the same). However, I agree that risk is an elemental part of racing and the whole starting behind the safety car spectacle is really sad IMO.

    This week of course is the first week of the IOM TT which is a vastly more dangerous endeavor than F1. It is remarkable that it has survived as an event in today’s world. Also remarkable is that the stars of the TT do not get rich in this endeavor. Most have “normal” jobs and race out of an inner passion for the sport. Some may view these riders as crazy, but I think they have the spirit of race drivers of long ago.

  22. You say “No-one sensible ever called them cowards”, and that’s probably true, but in fact a lot of people did in fact call them cowards (at least at the time). I think that given the choice very few drivers would ever elect not to race, even at times when any sensible person would not. Maybe it’s just machismo. Sometimes you need a grownup to step in and make the decision – and probably a lot of drivers would secretly agree with..

    I do agree 100% about starting the race behind the safety car. If it’s not safe to race then don’t race. Running behind the safety car, and counting the laps as racing laps, is a waste of everyone’s efforts.

  23. Joe

    A superbly written piece. It is extremely difficult to argue against someone getting hurt (or worse) but you have managed to put into words my thoughts on how risk should be considered in any sport.

    I chose to follow F1 back in the 1980’s because the drivers were heroes, every corner spent weighing the odds knowing that if things went wrong it was going to hurt (or worse). I knew I could never do that and respected those that could enormously.

    Just the same as the Apollo missions or Col Pete Knight flying at Mach 6.7. Individuals doing things I would never consider!

    The spectre of the canopy or halo systems leave me doubting whether to bother with the sport going forwards. The draw of Moto GP or even Grand Prix Speedway may rekindle that feeling of heroes doing the seemingly impossible…

  24. We grieve whenever we lose one , but in virtually every obit for them we see the phrase “died doing what he/she loved” .
    Sliding into the car , facing that danger head-on every time , is why we love them .
    It’s why they love it .

  25. Totally agree regarding starting behind the safety car Joe – It’s either too wet to begin the race or it’s not…..

    1. How on earth do you expect those who carry responsibility to decide whether or not it is too wet ? Surely the best way is for those who know best (the drivers) to drive round at a safe speed so that the officials have some evidence on which to base their decision.

  26. 100% completely agree. Unfortunately F1 these is already too sanitized due to many of the reasons state – Alonso wasn’t permitted to race earlier this year despite his desire to do so. This was (as far as I could make out) largely due to concerns from the governing body as to whether they would be deemed liable should the driver aggrevate their existing injuries.

    This is in stark to previous era when drivers made the call and accepted the risks. One only has to look at MotoGP to see riders putting everything on the line and then some, to see how hypersensitive F1 has become when it comes to the idea of danger.

    There is an inherent level of risk associated with motorsport, much in the same way as there is with mountain climbing, round the world yachting, skiiing and rugby – yet we don’t “dumb down” these other activities to the point that the element of danger that is the very reason people look up to these sports people is completely eradicated.

    Last weekend, rider Dean Martin lost his life competing in the a pre-TT race. The motorcycling community were saddened by the news and mourn the loss yet we also recognized that Martin was doing something he loved and would never want the races stopped or banned. He understood the risks and embraced them.

    It appears F1 has lost sight of this to some extent and for this reason we witnessed the entire pack trundle round the safety car for the opening laps of the race. This is not the form of racing that interests me – someone who has raced in the rain and was happy to accept the risks (and received a couple of seperate ribs for my troubles of doing so).

  27. It looks like that fans are keen to BLAME the drivers on recent safety issues. But clearly, FIA thinks that it’s their reponsibility to make it as safe as possible. If there is a high risk of a big accident at the start (wet Monaco for example), why let it happen?
    If the visibility is almost zero in the mid field, can it still be called racing?
    There should be a limit, FIA should make the decision, drivers should accept it, people should respect it, in the end, you are not the guys who know the real visibility and risk their lives.

  28. Totally agree with this. One gripe of mine in recent years is the amount of times we see cars behind the safety car in rain for lap after lap, and as soon as the safety car comes in, they all jump onto inters.

    This is already eliminating great drives such as Hamilton’s 2008 Silverstone win. This did not happen that long ago, but as things currently stand, it cannot be done again.

    We don’t want to see drivers seriously hurt every weekend, but there has to be an element of danger, otherwise we might as well just watch people drive to the shops and cheers for the one with the best tattoo.

  29. I take a realistic view of this. In these litigious and risk-averse times, nobody who is in charge of any organisation (of any nature) will sanction an action whilst knowing it unnecessarily increases risk of injury or death. It is simply not justifiable – to the public, to corporate governance, or to a judge.

    So, whilst I dislike safety car starts as much as everyone else, there is no way that Charlie Whiting would (or could) decide that they are no longer allowed because it spoils the entertainment (or the perceived heroism of the drivers). Wishful thinking is a pointless exercise; they are here to stay and that’s that.

    However I do think could Monaco have been improved without compromising safety. There is no need to circulate for six or seven laps behind the safety car, waiting for a driver to radio in and say that it’s safe to go racing. After one or two laps the track condition was only what it would have been after a medium-strength mid-race downpour, and they wouldn’t have thrown the safety car for that.

    The main benefits of a safety car start are that the drivers start by running in single-file, and standing water is cleared from the track. I have an idea that would achieve both of these things whilst being no less safe – and far more entertaining.

    My idea is as follows: only do lap 1 behind the safety car, then have one or two laps at (up to) racing speeds but with no overtaking allowed. The drivers would still be challenged and could test the conditions whilst under no threat of losing position, plus the water would be cleared much quicker so the delay would be significantly reduced. Granted, a driver could still lose it on lap 2, but they wouldn’t need to be pushing, so it’s fairly unlikely – and again, the risk is only the same as racing during a mid-race downpour, which is acceptable.

    A good (realistic) compromise.

    1. Will have to agree to disagree on the following “In these litigious and risk-averse times, nobody who is in charge of any organisation (of any nature) will sanction an action whilst knowing it unnecessarily increases risk of injury or death.”

      Look at what is permitted by FIM, the ASO and the ACU.

      Events such as the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Dakar rally continue to permit a high level of risk to competitors (and spectators) despite recent and regular fatalities that have occured during these races.

      Going further afield, UFC governing MMA events most definitely places its competitors in extreme risk of injury and death yet they continue to sanction and promote events.

    2. The second part of your suggestion already exists – it is called a virtual safety car. How about starting under virtual safety car conditions ?

        1. Why ridiculous ? Cars travel much faster under VSC conditions than they do under a real safety car, which is nearer to your goal of minimal interference in the race.
          The duty of care demands that the organisers have some idea of what dangers the drivers might face and the best way to discover what those dangers are is to let the drivers find out without allowing them the temptation to do reckless things.

  30. Of course part of the problem is that the cars are not designed for regulations that would allow all weather driving. The aero and chassis shaping as well as the lack of suspension movement, all conspire to produce a machine that is only safe to drive in drier conditions.

  31. I don’t see the problem. If we didn’t start with the SC there was a good chance someone would crash, bringing out the sc anyway. This way at least there is little chance Hamilton or Ricciardo get taken out.

  32. I have no desire to see someone end their life in the name of ‘sport’ or ‘heroic endeavour’ and anyone who sanctions situations where this may occur is, as far as I’m concerned, an utter moron.

    There are only a few situations in life where dying in the commission of an act can be called ‘heroic’ and dying in a motor race certainly isn’t one of them.

    Watch someone die, Joe. Not from a distance, but up close. Say half a meter. Hear the sounds. Smell the smells. Watch their face, or what remains of their face. Then tell me you think starting races under safely cars lacks credibility.

    I think long and hard before calling someone an idiot because a) It’s quite insulting and b) In this context it will undoubtedly lead a ban from to your blog. But in this instance it’s entirely worthwhile.

    Joe. You’re an idiot. And yes, I’d say it to your face.

    1. You have your views. Fine. You think you know more than others. Fine. You think I’ve not seen nasty things. Fine. You can call me an idiot. Fine. You had your say. Here is mine: I think you need to go and see someone and get some help. Maybe that’s not fine with you. Tough. And I would say it to your face as well. And your not banned. I am happy to show you as you are.

    2. And therein lies your misunderstanding: as racing drivers we don’t race to be heroic, but we do race to do something that the average person can’t, or wouldn’t do. We know the risks, we accept the risks, and we race. Without those risks anyone could have a go.

      1. Why should vicarious and uninformed spectators have any say in what levels of risk are acceptable and desirable when there are people (drivers and administrators) who are much better qualified to judge and much better aware of the consequences of their decisions ?
        F1 drivers are much closer in temperament to test pilots than gung-ho heroes. They are prepared to accept greater risk than most, but they demand to know and understand that risk. They are fully involved in much of the decision making where risk is a consideration e.g safety car starts.

          1. Because they are extremely skilled, because they manage risk at the same time as exploring the limits of their machines and themselves. Far more interesting to me than watching hot-headed gorillas smashing cars to bits.

    3. It is tiresome to hear the same old accusations over and over again , whenever the topic comes up .

      Nobody ever wants a driver, or anyone else involved in a race, get hurt or even die . To suggest otherwise is nonsense , and I believe you did .

      However, motorsport is dangerous, always was and always will be .
      F1 is brilliant at cheating physics, but you can’t beat them .

      The discussion on how and by how much those risks need to be controlled and reduced is absolutely valid ; as Joe pointed out , virtual racing will seem like an obvious solution at some point, when all you do is look for maximum safety .

      And even you might agree that this would be the death of motor racing .

      Now one can also argue that this would be a good thing, and maybe that’s your point .
      I for one, I want to watch drivers taking it to the limit, as of course they do, and get away with it by skill, determination and courage .

      1. No-one disputes that drivers operating ear the ragged edge is very exciting. What should the penalty be for those who step past that edge – death or severe bruising ?

          1. Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing for zero deaths or health and safety run riot, perish the thought. I am asking that we take a mature and thoughtful approach to assessing what risks are present and how we should treat them.

    4. RH i suggest you read two books by Guy Martin, his Autobiography, and the follow up which is titled after a saying that his Grandfather had, ” When you dead, you dead.” Motorbike racers like Martin face dangers that were around in the 1960/70s, all through a season, and as he clearly states no one forces them to do so, it is a personal choice and if he or anyone else decides that it is too much of a stress to live the high that they get from what they do and where they do it, then one can retire permanently. There’s no disgrace in that, no cowardice just a relief that they got in and out of a career they loved and lived to tell the tale. I think RH, that your life is too sanitized to understand the minds and thought processes of such people. I’ve seen some awful sights, in real ordinary life, and at race tracks and on stages. It isn’t something joyful in anyway, or something one wants to see. However, it is sometimes a fact that occurs. If one wishes to downgrade human life, then clearly one should stop all worldwide road, sea and air traffic, all drinking, smoking, most eating ( unless calories controlled ) many many workplaces would need closing, all of this because of the slight chance that a human being may die….oh, i didn’t mention the Astronauts and Cosmonauts on the ISS 120 miles above our heads did i? And don’t even think of climbing, mountaineering, hill walking, skiing, surfing swimming…etc,etc. Sorry, RH but on this point, you are the Idiot, and i’m happy to tell that to your face anytime!

  33. Agree. I would argue that starting behind the safety car makes little sense at Monaco, given the short run to the first corner.

  34. While I personally agree with everything you said, I’m not sure about the non-hero status of virtual players. I’m saying this because I watched a documentary on e-sports and was amused and amazed of seeing stadium crowds watching and cheering bunch of guys (teams of 4) playing a video game. Transfers of individuals from one team to another were like in the ‘real’ sports teams. I guess kids these days see little difference between the real world and the virtual world…

  35. I’m not sure why the following wouldn’t work (he says, preparing himself to be educated), but how about having the cars follow the pace car around until the track is deemed good enough to race on by those risking life, limb and future earnings, all the while counting those laps as racing laps, then have them form up on the grid to take a standing start? Several more warm-up laps in effect. Seems like the best of both worlds.

  36. It is so well said !
    Thanks so much Joe to bring back some great perspectives about living life fully. Racing is all about embracing this opportunity to meet with one self on the path less travelled and potentially express extraordinary abilities for the world to contemplate. Let’s the Driver be (drive) and produce the unthinkable, the inconceivable as so often we had in the past with the Clark, Stewart, Ickx, Rindt, Peterson, Andretti,Villeneuve, Lauda, Prost, Mansel, Bellof, Ayrrton Senna, Hakkinen, Schumacher and today with the Montoya, Raikkonen, Alonso,, Hamilton, Vettel and Vernstapen. Some are more charismatic than others but all display that complete dedication to live fully on the edge.
    Thanks again Joe to share with all of us such genuine spirit and insight about our passion. You are truly one of a kind.

    Richard V

  37. Well said Joe. Races starting under safety cars are just not right… I understand the logic but it’s not right in my opinion.

    A perfect illustration of why is my brother. A lifelong F1, he switched off when the hybrid came in; he’s not interested in watching or attending another race until engines that sound like they should do return. That’s his choice.

    However, when he heard that Monaco was due for a wet start, even he said he was going to tune in. 22 of the best drivers in the world, man-handling 900 bhp machines off the line and then around a wet Monaco was too much to resist.

    Sadly, we were all robbed of that.

    No-one wants to see anyone get hurt but come on, just because it’s raining does not mean someone is going to hurt themselves.

  38. I think, all these drivers do accept risks, and some of them just want less risks, which doesn’t deserve heavy words or even insult.

  39. I just heard a rumour that the 2020 regs are going to have the drivers stay back at the factories in the simulators with their inputs being relayed to the car in real time at the track wherever it is. Total safety assured. Fans will also not be permitted trackside or to watch live incase their is a crash that causes a loud noise or a flash which could damage someone ears or eyes. The highlights will have this edited to acceptable non dangerous levels. They will also be awarding points down to 50th place even though there aren’t that many cars so no ones feelings will be hurt by missing out on the points.

    Totally agree with everything you said Joe and it’s noticeable that the drivers who want to see the safety car starts are the Massa’s and Rosberg’s who are rubbish in the rain anyway while the real racers like the Ricciardo’s and Hamilton’s just get on with it and demonstrate their remarkable skill heriocly.

    1. To be fair to Massa, he did experience a life threatening injury that the others haven’t.

  40. You just summed up why I don’t much bother with it anymore. F1 drivers are no longer special, they are just guys who drive cars and take very few risks with their lives. Peter Revson said if it was safe anyone could do it because a major element would have been removed, u need to look elsewhere now for risk takers. The point about virtual drivers is valid and I have been saying for some time that the drivers would be outside the cars within a decade. I guess the generation that’s around then will be astounded anyone ever sat in the cars.

  41. A good read –
    I’m afraid that F1’s current preoccupation with ‘safety’ will indeed result in the demarcation between ‘hero’ and ‘celebrity’ being blurred beyond distinction.

    JAonF1, for example, appears to be preparing for that seismic shift to the world of virtual entertainment –
    I trust that you have a Plan B too?

  42. It looks to me that, if the current rate of advancement of safety technology is just maintained, and even if no radical changes are ever effected, the outright vanishing of death and serious injury in the sport will happen naturally, and not long from now. I won’t miss them; even their potentiality doesn’t add to the show. And their disappearance will take a weapon away from the arsenal of racing’s enemies.

  43. Great to read. Finally someone from the “inside” who dare to say this. It is exactly my feeling after following F1 for the last 47 years. Where should I be with with my interest in F! without Ronnie and Gilles?

  44. I was interested in comments by the Sky team (Martin) who said that he had spoken to Charlie who stated that the race would likely start behind the Safety car as the rules state that then all teams will HAVE TO start on full wets as this is the rule..

    If this was the real reason then maybe just changing the rules so that Charlie can insist that they all start on Full wets might reduce the Safety car starts.

    My opinion of the race was that it only started when the Safety car entered the pit lane. The whole point of this sport is to take the car as fast as the driver can effectively drive it. Meaning adjusting to the conditions and missing the walls.

    We seem to forget that a driver whilst sitting waiting for the lights to go off is only focused on winning and doing the best possible. They are not thinking about driving to excess which inevitably means NOT winning and possibly putting themselves in danger.

  45. One of my most clear childhood memories is of watching Roger Williamson dying in Zandvoort, burning inside his car, live on tv. It was 1973 and I was 8. You’ll find the images on youtube if you search for them. They are quite sickening, be warned. I also remeber, that same year, the news of Cevert’s death, wich was a shock – I was a fan. I remember hearing of Ronnie Peterson’s death, the day after the Monza accident, wich I also watched live on tv. It was like a punch in the stomach, he was one of my heroes, his style was absolutely spectacular. I remember Revson, Donahue, Elio. Tom Pryce, wich was a shock, too, such a stupid, undeserved death. I remember the sadness over Villeneuve’s death,though I can’t say I was too surprised. I watched Villeneuve v. Arnoux live,I remeber jumping up and down in front of the tv. I remember Lauda’s accident and the shock of seeing the first photos of his burned, disfigured face. I remember watching his Monza comeback live on tv and, for that, he will always be one my all time heroes. I also remeber him stopping in Japan and, also for that, I consider him a hero.
    The pilots are heroes, I agree, and I include current pilots. I greatly admire their bravery, but I hate the notion of stupid, useless, avoidable deaths.
    The sport will always be dangerous, that is a given, but the work on safety must never, ever, stop.
    I also very much admire your integrity and your honesty, Joe, but, on this one, I’m afraid I can’t quite agree with your point of view.

      1. Imola 1994 changed modern day F1. 20 years without a death until that fateful day in Japan.
        20 years of pretty heroic stuff from all involved just safer!
        Starting a race behind a safety car is a bit of a “non Starter” excuse the pun, but it did ensure that we didn’t loose a number of racers that may have become aquaplaned passengers into the wall and out. So it preserved the show in some ways.

        1. I personally like seeing the rain challenge drivers to the point that some end up retiring from the race. Race retirements were far more common in the past when mistakes were punished with cars ending up beached in sand traps or off the track and unable to rejoin. Most tracks these days are too forgiving when drivers are unable to keep it on the black stuff.

  46. In this PC world where you can’t even call a collection of people “guys” – as reported in the Australian Financial Review the other day, a great article Joe, written with someone displaying common sense. I was intrigued by Damon Hill’s comments at the Spanish GP telecast that they should have started the 1996 race there behind the safety car whereas Martin Brundle vehemently disagreed. F1 drivers are supposed to be the best in the world, they can’t run around the slowest track on the calendar in the wet? As is so often said, the throttle works both ways.

    1. Tony G,
      you can call a collection of people “guys” if you like. No-one is stopping you, there are no laws about it, and in general no-one in public would give you any grief for it. As you would know very well, most people in this country, including most women couldn’t give a damn whether we use the term guys or not. I don’t read the AFR (largely because it is full of crap) but if I did I wouldn’t be letting the guest writers or the columnists dictate how I should speak or live my life…
      if that’s how you choose to live yours though you have no-one to blame but yourself.

      It is this kind of “my rights are impinged because someone said they don’t like something” attitude that makes me shake my head. Don’t complain about a PC world if this is your attitude. As I keep saying, people like to bitch and moan about a PC world up until the point that people like me start telling people like you what we really think. Then you all go crying to the umpire. Indeed Joe would not print/publish the comments I would say to someone with your attitude if we were face to face, so be thankful for a little PC perhaps, it works in your favour at times even if you are too ignorant to realise it. By all means state your opinion on the matters at hand, but don’t drag dumb articles from a dumb tabloid into it as an excuse to make a point.

  47. I agree there should be an element of risk or danger in motorsport, but Im torn on this, because I dont want to see people die as a consequence just to provide a more exciting sporting spectacle for me to view, I dont think we have that right to say the cost of you entering this sport could be your llfe and walk away if you cant pay the bill. because at the end of the day to use another famous set of quotes sport dont amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, and Bill Shankly was wrong sport isnt more important than life or death.

    the videos of Vaidyanathan F3 crash at Oulton Park from the weekend are horrifying, to see a car cartwheel like that with the driver merely a passenger,and thank whatever you believe in that he walked away without injury, but is that what we really want to see in a sport, a driver in the lap of the gods that a mere wheel touch could launch them into an uncontrollable crash and its then mere fate or luck of the draw they survive. I watch motorsport to see drivers race cars at incredible speed with immense skill,ability and yes bravery in some cases, but I dont watch it to see them get hurt.

    and people quote the Isle of Man TT races, and sadly a rider lost their life in practice for the pre TT classic this year , following quickly on from another loss of life at the North West 200, and the competitors know the risks yes, but are they in control of them, probably not and thats not a good position to be in, in my view, others may disagree.

    but starting behind the safety car in Monaco is more an acceptance that Monaco is totally unacceptable as a race circuit, will it be dropped as a result, no, so if this is the only way to get a race going in the wet and not the actually quite boring and inevitable multiple restarts caused by crashing into Ste Devote that then penalised drivers without spare cars. everyone moaned Barcelona was marred by a first lap collision between two strong race win contenders, lap 1 at Monaco used to remove half the field in the “good old days” Senna won most of his Monaco GPs simply by getting Pole and avoiding the inevitable carnage behind.

    1. Wrt to the point of competitors not being in control of the risks – of course they are. No rider of the TT or North West is forced into getting on to the bike. Likewise, when I get on my motorbike, I know the risks some of which I can not control directly (bad drivers on the phone and not checking their mirrors) however I don’t want a nanny state preventing me from accepting those risks. Ultimately I CAN control the risk by electing to not ride at all, however that decision is mine and mine alone.

      By the same virtue one should not permit anything with any element of danger – skiing, mountain climbing or even drinking alcohol.

  48. Surely given the financial positions most of the teams are in they simply couldn’t afford to have their cars stuffed into the St Devote barrier on lap 1?

  49. This post by you is inspiring enough. In this aseptic safe world they all try to put us into, words against the hyper-correctness and safeness of “everything” sound heroic enough to me. Thanks Joe, you have a point.

  50. Absolutely agree Joe, and if the sport is reduced to no risks then I recomend the drivers don’t get paid anywhere as much as they currantly do! I bet they wouldn’t like that!

  51. Joe, as stated previously I really enjoy your blog, and your coal face perspective of the sport. In general I defer to your experience, even on the odd occasion I might see things differently. So I say what I am about to say in a jovial manner befitting that of a discussion. I’m not arguing or saying you are wrong to have the opinion you have, I am just offering a different perspective.

    I agree with a lot of what you say re safety. For me, it will always come back to the guys in the drivers seat, and their views based on their experiences. I agree a driver should be able to say no, when they don’t think it is safe. The examples you give Emmo in 75, and Lauda in 76, are examples of drivers who were established in the top ranks of the sport and had already won a WDC. I don’t think a driver at the start of their career would have the same response, in fact I would think it would be the end of their career.

    These days in particular I doubt even the best drivers would have much luck at saying no. As you pointed out in your blog regarding the Bianchi case, drivers sign away their rights, and the rights of their family members as well (if I remember correctly). You also quite rightly point out that “If the sport allows itself to be dictated to by lawyers and insurance man,” but this is exactly what would happen if a driver pulled over and said it was too dangerous to race. I would think it would be a career ending move. Sometime in the last two years there was a race where Lewis was having a string of mechanical issues and he wanted to come in and walk away, the team wouldn’t let him do it, rightly, as he was contracted to drive that car the race distance, provided it could get there. Were there safety issues? Nothing as obvious as no brakes, or a car on fire, but I wasn’t in that cockpit so I can’t comment on the many other variables that determine whether a car is safe or not… irrespective, even a multiple WDC was made to keep circulating on track.

    Perhaps most importantly to me, racing drivers aren’t heroes. Maybe they were in the leather cap days, I do subscribe to misty eyed nostalgia for an era I can only view in black and white. No run-off’s, skinny tyres, epic tracks, no helicopter recovery, cruising around Europe with a beat-up trailer, scraping parts together up and down pit lane – I reckon that took a lot of guts. The drivers today have incredible skills, no doubt about that. Most of them also get paid multi millions to do something that they all love. They aren’t pushing any envelopes, they don’t further human endeavour. They aren’t saving lives or progressing science (despite development of the Hybrid PU – drivers haven’t done this). The life of an F1 driver is pretty indulgent, and I think it is fair to say that they take far more than they give in reward for chasing their dream.

    There are notable exceptions, Lauda coming back so soon after having his lungs vacuumed is a good example. I am sure others will cite other examples that demonstrate heroics. For my money though, simply turning up, racing and collecting your pay cheque, which is what the bulk of drivers do for the bulk of their careers, doesn’t make you a hero.

    I love watching F1, and I am thankful for the drivers putting on a show, but I reserve the term hero for people who are doing something more than indulging their passions. As far as safety goes I think they should be racing at Nordschleife these days, but even then I wouldn’t call them heroes.

  52. My Dad took a very proper colleague to Silverstone once. On the appearance of the speeding cars he leaped up and declared as loudly as he could to them “Too faast you fools! Too faast”.

    I recollect my first impressions (age 11) of Silverstone with awe; horrified, terrified, mesmerized, and just completely absorbed awe. Probably a sports car or saloon race, but the fact that humans could exist in machinery at this speed, fighting each other was beyond anything I could ever have imagined.

    I was there when Moss, in the rain (and the mud on the programme I still have) lapped the entire F1 field in the rain. Heavy rain.

    Modern F1 tyres are different; I agree – do not go when it is crazy. Then – it is time to race! None of this endless Safety Car,

  53. Awesome post. Monaco start behind safety car was ridiculous. Too much safety is killing the spectacle.

  54. Dont they have a 4 hour window to complete the race?
    If they know / knew the rain was clearing up wny not just delay the start half an hour or so to see if the rain clears up?

    1. Money. It’s always about the money. TV schedules set the start time. If nothing is happening when people tune in they go elsewhere and don’t come back. Some probably did with the SC start. How many people are viewing is a factor in TV advertising and thus revenues.

  55. Apropos the TT, I’ve just been watching a documentary about the rebuilding of motorcycle racer Ian Hutchinson. How the hell he managed even to ride a bike at all, never mind win a couple of TT’s, after the leg injuries he suffered is beyond belief.

    Don’t watch the first half while eating your dinner though.

  56. Great article. Totally agree.
    And the introduction of the halo or aeroscreen will not help.

  57. It really depends on your perspective. I agree with what you say but if my Dad, read hero, were killed in a racing car I might have some reservations.

  58. Spot on. Whilst we should try to make the sport as safe as possible we must remember why people watch it and get hooked. When you see a big accident I always have that awful feeling and hope the driver is OK, 99% of the time they are and I wouldn’t want this to change (only to get closer to 100%) but not at the expense of what the sport is. It is dangerous, I enjoy a bit of racing and yes there is some danger but it is incredibly fun and the danger does contribute to this. It doesn’t have to be perilous danger, I wouldn’t enjoy that, but just a feeling of danger through the speed, noise, overtaking, pushing etc

    For it to really capture people it has to look like something they can’t do, sometimes watching the drivers go round a new track I watch and think, well I could do that, looks easy. I know how hard it really is though so accept that I couldn’t, but to a casual or non fan they probably genuinely believe it is easy, just turn the wheel in the right direction, how hard can it be? But when I was younger watching Mansell, Senna et al driving round Monaco it seemed out of this world, I watch that (and to a lesser extent modern F1 cars round there) and just see it as something I’m not capable of, something amazing, which makes it exciting.

    Look at the Red Bull Air Race, that looks incredibly dangerous but it is amazing to watch. The pilots know it is dangerous, they can die as a result of their own mistake or as the result of a technical failure but they accept that.

    F1 is inherently dangerous, racing cars at 200mph will always be and yes people will get hurt but they know that and still choose to do it. I hope we don’t go too far to dull it down in the name of safety, if we do people turn to another more exciting sport such as the Red Bull Air Race or watch crazy people in wing suits risk their lives instead.

    I truly feel sorry for the Bianchi family, looking back there are things which could have happened which could have changed things but lessons are leant, and if we make changes there will always be another risk popping up.

    To finish my long post I must show my disappointment on the safety car start. It’s pathetic, these are the best drivers in the world, I could not drive an F1 car in the wet around Monaco, I want to watch people who can, people that are better than me at it. That’s why I would watch premier league football rather than Sunday league. It’s happened before where it has been ‘too wet’ to race so the safety car starts it, then as soon as it goes the cars jump in and switch to Inters, if it’s right for Inters then how can it be too wet to race, is there any point in full wets if the safety car must be out when the conditions require them??

  59. To add to my earlier comment. Perhaps it would be appropriate if “the powers that be” ensured that drivers put thier signature on a couple of insurance policies as well as indemnity waivers. That would be a balanced approach.

  60. A legal something-else occurred to me. There have been efforts in US courts to have motor racing declared a per se “ultrahazardous activity.” It would mean a public policy holding that racing is inherently so dangerous that strict liability by its principals and participants cannot be waived. If onlookers or even trespassers get hurt, there is liability, regardless of contributory negligence or anything else. I don’t know of a jurisdiction where that’s the law yet, but I think I’ve been around long enough to know which way the wind blows, and to know “inevitable” when I see it, at least in parts of this country. Granted, in this thread we’re talking about danger to drivers and not spectators, but I’d say that the two concerns aren’t unconnected. A legal finding in one can provide precedent and authority for the other. That’s another incentive to stay on the path of increasing safety. Mark Donohue’s wife sued Goodyear Tire after his 1975 death in F1, and got a settlement. If anything the courts would be even more pro-plaintiff now.

  61. “The greatest sadness is perhaps the wasted potential – as with so many accidents in the history of the sport.”

    But that sadness is still a small price to pay for your need for “heroes”, right?

    1. If you do not understand what the word “heroes” means, it is small wonder that you can’t grasp the concept. No-one wants to see accidents, but the sport has to have role models, or else it will die.

      1. If you think that F1 is becoming anodyne because of too much safety – less than a year after the death of Bianchi… – you can always watch something else instead.

      2. The possibility of death as a result of getting it wrong is not (for me) a necessary part of being a hero or a role model. Driving a car really fast and driving it smartly is enough for me.

  62. Losing drivers is a sad affair, but that is life. We don’t express the same sadness or grief when an airliner is shot down by ‘mistake’ and 250-300 people lose their life through someone else’s idiocy so why does someone have the ethical right to demand it of organisations that the unfortunate person lost their life in? Because they couldn’t control all the circumstances?

    That is daft. There are no guarantees in any endeavour in life. I loved the TS Eliot quote.
    Safety car starts? Why not simply provide for a single file start led by the pole position car. 2-5 laps yellow flag laps to create a dry line then go…..
    Halo? How safe is safe? How ‘safe’ does something have to be before you define it as safe? Is a pedestrian crossing a road ‘safe’? If you went there you would make city councils responsible for every pedestrian death that occurs on a city street….

    Where does the ‘personal freedom’ argument lose its strength? When you take away personal responsibility from the individual’s decisions. At that point someone else ‘must pay the price’ for the individual’s death because they are ‘not responsible’, it was beyond their personal control.

    Your argument is full of good questions Joe.

    But the answers are universal. If we are just accidents of time and space our lives are relatively unimportant in terms of the cycle of life and death.
    Do what you love and love what u do. Because everything else is meaningless.

  63. We were denied watching our Heroic Master Craftsmen and you are right to complain Joe. After getting soaking wet many times and watching close up in incredible downpours then what really stands out is the amazing skill of certain drivers and how special and privilidged I was to watch on a wet day and see the really gifted drivers stand out. It makes a different race and to see really, really good wet driving elevates good drivers to Master Craftsmen as they balance total car control outside of mere mortals. To start a car under a safety car means I’m being denied to watch these skilled Master Craftsmen. Well it used to be.
    The Safety Car used at Monaco this year was possibly linked to part of the sanitised package for tv to ensure everything goes to an expected finish. Mr BE obviously wanted to trot out Mr Bieber and whilst a wet Monaco in the past could virtually guarantee only 8-10 finishers. There were far more this year. We were denied watching our Heroic Master Craftsmen and you are right to complain Joe.

  64. It is my understanding that the safety car start in Monaco occurred because the FIA (in consultation with the drivers) felt that the amount of standing water on the circuit meant that there was a significant risk of aquaplaning. Martin Brundle commented to the effect that drivers do not mind difficult conditions, but are very concerned about aquaplaning because once it happens you can never regain control of your car – case in point Jules Bianchi. So, starting behind the safety car seemed to me like a sensible solution – get on the circuit, find out how it is, clear some of the standing water, go racing as soon as conditions are safe enough – this is preferable to a normal start where drivers are forced to race full on without any detailed idea of the conditions, which I would class as an unnecessary risk.
    I have only just discovered this blog and this is my first post – thank you Joe for the time and effort you devote to it, it is a great pleasure to find thoughtful writing and commenting without the usual unpleasantness and stupidity.

  65. Let’s do some reductionist thinking on the question of risk.
    Scenario 1 – Driver A pushes a little bit too hard, loses control of his car and spins off into a tyre barrier. Suspension breaks on the first wheel to hit barrier, driver climbs out shaken and sore, but fit to race the following weekend.
    Scenario 2 – Driver B pushes a little bit too hard, loses control of his car and spins off into a tyre barrier. Cockpit splits, driver is mortally injured.
    Which of the two scenarios is preferable ? Answer honestly. Is it the danger to life which excites us, or is it actually the possibility of failure ?

    If the people who seek to reduce unnecessary risk in motor sport were as risk averse as the diehards suggest, then all races would be conducted at speeds not exceeeding 30mph when within 50 yards of spectators and 70mph at all other times. This clearly not the case.

    I support fully the idea that all *unnecessary* risk be removed from motor sport. All other risk should be considered carefully, having due regard to the nature of the sport and the well-being of all those who are involved.

  66. If we seek to define what risks are “necessary” and “unnecessary” in motor sport – we might as well not have motor sport. After all, it is only a form of entertainment and therefore isn’t really necessary at all.

    1. In the modern world, people who organise events have a duty of care to both those who take part and those who watch – for better or worse, that is not going to change any time soon. Therefore there is a requirement to remove danger where that danger is not an essential part of the event. The only discussion is what is and what isn’t essential.

      1. And that is a set of moving goal posts.

        Looking at Baku, it seems to me that “safety” considerations seem to vary with the amount of money being paid by the venue.

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