Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber has insisted that IndyCar racing has to learn from the death of Dan Wheldon in the 2011 season finale, insisting that the circumstances that led to the Briton losing his life were 'not right' while adding that the sport can learn from F1.
Speaking in his latest column for the BBC
, Webber spoke at length about the tragic events of Sunday evening in Las Vegas having had a number of friends – Wheldon included – involved in the race and the resultant incident that led to the death of the 33-year-old.
Although he hasn't raced on an oval himself, Webber said he had spoken to drivers who had questioned the safety of competing on small ovals with cars running at such high speeds and the situation that had emerged shouldn't have been allowed to happen.
“I've never raced on an oval track but I've spoken to a lot of the guys who have,” he said. “One thing they don't like is the element of pack racing, especially on a short oval such as Las Vegas. Running three wide on a track like that is not really racing. You're just getting a slipstream. Drivers look to move into a different lane - from the top to the bottom of the track, say - and things can happen.
“At certain speeds, that is fine and no-one gets badly injured. But when you're doing 220mph in an open-wheeler, the cars can leave the ground by five or six metres and someone's going to get seriously hurt. To have 30-odd single-seaters, nose to tail, with cold brakes. It's too much. Drivers feel this needs looking at. In the accident that killed Dan, nearly half the field were running together and half of them ended up in the air. That's not right.”
Webber himself has been involved in more than one accident during this career in which a car has taken to the air but he insisted that he felt safe in F1 despite the obvious risks in place.
“I've had my share of bad accidents,” he said. “Two Mercedes sports cars flipped on me in three days at Le Mans back in 1999. In the second of those shunts, I did think for a split second that I probably wasn't going to make it. I'm sure you will have seen my accident in Valencia last year, too, when I took off after hitting the back of Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus. The car landed upside down before skidding into the barriers the right way up.
“But safety has come on a long way in F1 and it's a different type of racing to IndyCars anyway. Don't get me wrong, I know there are risks. Valencia could have gone either way for me, that's completely clear. But I feel it's safer than IndyCars. Or rallying or MotoGP, for that matter. That gives me confidence to race.
“We know that generally everything will be OK, even when we do crash. We simply get back in the car and go again. But I think it's a different question for the guys in America at the moment.”