Seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher has admitted that the recent deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli are a sign of the inherent risks involved in motorsport, and were down to fate more than anything else.
Wheldon was killed in a multi-car accident during the final round of the IndyCar Series season in Las Vegas, with Simoncelli losing his life a week late in a horrific accident during the Malaysian MotoGP round at Sepang.
Speaking ahead of the Indian Grand Prix, Schumacher – who was one of the drivers on track on the day Ayrton Senna died in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix – admitted that there was risk every time a driver stepped into a race car or a rider climbed onto a bike and that the sport could never be 'totally safe'.
“I don't think that while we drive, we think that we put ourselves in danger,” he said. “First of all, when we take the cars to the limit, that's what we feel comfortable with and therefore our ambition is always to take the cars to the limit and it will be the same here this weekend. To have total safety I think is absolutely impossible to call, in any part of life. Yes, there is more risk involved in race car sport and yes, Formula One is probably the quickest motor racing sport that you have around the world.
“At the same time, safety has been hugely improved. If you look at a new project such as this track, theres lots of huge run-off areas and it certainly has a very high standard of safety. If on top, something happens, then that's what I would call fate and fate is something that we all have to face sooner or later. I'm certainly very much touched by what has happened for both of the drivers that we have lost but unfortunately you have to say that that's life.”
Double champion Fernando Alonso agreed that drivers don't consider the risks involved in the sport when behind the wheel, but said that recent events hit home when away from the circuit.
“It doesn't affect you obviously when you are driving,” he said. “The effect was during the week. Those were very sad days for motorsport. I watched Dan's accident on a television replay and I was shocked for two or three days after that. Then with Marco, I saw that race live and I could not believe that these things still happen.
“When you close the visor, you don't think about the risk. We love racing and we know it is dangerous, but the adrenalin it gives you blinds you to the risks. 320 km/h is approximately the maximum at this track and if something happens to your car there is a risk that you can have a big accident. But you don't think about it when you are driving.”