It is obvious from its earliest stages that, although exhilarating and rewarding, anything that involves going that fast for that long is dangerous. And the quicker it gets, the more serious the consequences when it goes wrong.
The racing industry has recently been marred by the deaths of Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli and English IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon. Simoncelli died as a result of losing control of his bike, whereas Wheldon was involved in a 15-car pile up. Both sports have had other fatalities this decade, with MotoGP riders Shoya Tomizawa (2010) and Daijiro Kato (2003), and IndyCar drivers Paul Dana (2006) and Tony Renna (2003) all being killed as the results of accidents.
So how is it then that F1, maybe the world most prestigious racing series, hasn't had a fatal accident since Ayrton Senna in 1994? It's just as fast, and has its fair share of accidents every year, but no one has died in 17 years. Sheer luck?
MotoGP's next most recent death was 1986 when Ivan Palazzese died at the German Grand Prix, and IndyCar's is Scott Brayton in 1996, so it's not like the amount of deaths is that far apart, but it is amazing that F1 has gone so long without a tragedy.
There are many things that are designed to make sure F1 drivers are as safe as they can be, as can be seen on their online safety section. The helmets are made of carbon fibre over Kevlar, while head and neck supports are made of carbon fibre to reduce impact forces on the driver during a collision. Racesuits are made of Nomex fibre to be as flame retardant as possible, including flame retardant zips, thread, balaclavas, boots and gloves. Shoulder handles are designed so that a driver and his seat can be lifted out 'as one' by marshals to reduce further injuries after a crash.
The cars are also designed to protect the driver as much as possible. They are engineered to have 'crumple zones' that deform on impact to send force around the driver, with the inner shell of the cockpit lined with Zylon to prevent any splinters from entering the cockpit. Simple things such as the six-point harness and a fire extinguisher system, which can be operated manually by the driver or the marshals, all add to the safety measures. The cars even have on board monitors that can inform medical personnel how severe impacts are.
The governing body is also very hard-nosed when it comes to track safety. Any circuit wishing to stage a race must past very high safety regulations, to ensure the safety of the drivers, pit crews and spectators. Asphalt run-off areas and 25cm deep gravel traps are used to stop an out of control car. There is a marshal and a fire extinguisher on both sides of the track every 300m, and the medical help available is staggering.
All races have:
• Four salvage cars equipped with cutting tools and fire extinguishers, and are capable of towing cars.
• Two rescue cars with four paramedics and a doctor, which can reach any part of the track in 30 seconds
• A medical centre with resuscitation equipment, an operating theatre, a anaesthesiologist, an orthopaedic surgeon and six paramedics.
• Two medical helicopters
• Four ambulances
All of these safety features go along way towards making F1 safe for everyone involved. And it's not like it hasn't been tested recently. Both Felipe Massa
and Robert Kubica
have both been in major accidents in the past few years, and both survived what could have been fatal collisions.