Sergio Perez's unusual means of retirement from the Malaysian Grand Prix has caused sufficient concern among members of the Sauber team to warrant them to call for the governing body to check on F1 safety measures.
The Mexican was enjoying another strong race, following on from his run into the top ten in Australia, when his C30 was hit by a piece of debris thrown up by the Toro Rosso he was chasing. In a stark reminder of Felipe Massa's near-fatal accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, the errant part smashed into the side of Perez's cockpit, slicing through the protective carbon-fibre plate designed to limit intrusion in side impact accidents and, coming perilously close to injuring the driver, damaged the ECU beyond use.
While Perez told reporters that contact with his helmet could have had dire consequences, his team, having stripped the car down to inspect the extent of the damage, have now called on the FIA to review cockpit safety measures.
"We advised the FIA of what we found after the race, and I've since sent them a couple of images of the chassis now that all the bodywork has been removed," technical director James Key revealed to Reuters
, "I've suggested that we perhaps discuss it further. It's a bit of a one-off, but it shows that things can happen that perhaps we didn't expect."
Key admitted that Perez was fortunate that both the side intrusion panel and, more fortuitously, the ECU had limited the threat to his safety, even though the ease with which the debris had carved through the former was worrying.
"It could have been serious if it had hit the driver, for sure," he confirmed, "We have got panels on the car this year which are designed to protect the driver [and the debris] went through that panel. Obviously, it slowed the thing down, so it worked, [and] we have to be a bit careful that we can't knee-jerk to everything that happens, but we have to take things like this seriously and look at how you protect a driver in the future. This isn't something we had seen before and it needs to be looked at."