Ferrari F1 driver Felipe Massa has said that the recent fatal accidents suffered by Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli have served as a reminder of the danger involved in top level motorsport.
Wheldon lost his life in a multi-car accident during the IndyCar Series season finale in Las Vegas before Simoncelli was then killed in a horrific accident during the Malaysian MotoGP race at Sepang over the course of the weekend.
Massa himself was lucky to escape with his life after being hit by a bolt that had come away from the Brawn GP car of Rubens Barrichello during the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix and the Brazilian admitted he was shocked at recent events which have robbed motorsport of two of its biggest names.
“At the moment all my thoughts are with the families and friends of Marco Simoncelli and Dan Wheldon,” he said. “It seems that when bad things happen, they come all at once. Because of the time difference between Malaysia and Brazil, I found out about the MotoGP accident as soon as I woke up on Sunday morning when I was at home in Sao Paulo. It is unbelievable and I was in a state of shock afterwards.
“Simoncelli was such a nice guy and one of the characters in the sport of motorcycle racing and a great talent. Coming so soon after the death of Dan Wheldon, who was a friend of mine, these have been really difficult times and it is just unbelievable that these sad events happened just one week apart. Of course, those of us who race, we always know the risk is there, every time you go out on track. When you are racing, you do not think so much about the risks and you always push hard, sometimes too hard. But all the same, it is still a terrible shock when you see something like that and it reminds you the risk is there.”
Massa added that, while he isn't in a position to talk at length about Simoncelli's accident given his lack of experience of two-wheeled competition, Wheldon's death should become a catalyst for improved safety in IndyCar racing in much the same way at the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola back in 1994 shaped the future direction of F1 safety.
“I am not qualified to talk about Simoncelli's accident, because I have no experience of bike racing, but in the case of Dan's crash, hopefully the only good thing to come out of it could be that it serves as a wake-up call for Indy cars to improve their safety levels, in the same way that what happened in Imola in '94 led to increased safety in F1,” he said. “In my opinion, Indy needs to do a lot to improve safety. There is no point in people complaining about it and blaming others, because what is needed now is some calm analysis and then a response from the sport's organisation.
“Maybe what Indy needs to start with, given the type of circuit and the number of cars would be to try running cars with enclosed cockpits, but this is just one idea and the whole safety package needs to be looked at completely.”