From casual fans to F1 professionals, there are few people who will have been able to watch the in-car footage of the start of the 2012 F1 Belgian Grand Prix
on Sunday and seen cars flying over the top of drivers' exposed heads without physically flinching in response.
"We were lucky because nothing hit Fernando [Alonso] on the head," said Ferrari
team principal Stefano Domenicali afterwards.
"It was a very risky situation and seeing one car fly over his, a few centimetres above his helmet, left us with our hearts in our mouths for a few tenths of a second," agreed the team's technical director Pat Fry.
"It looked scary," added McLaren
team principal Martin Whitmarsh, whose own driver Lewis Hamilton
was also involved in the wreck. "It's fortunate that we got away with the accident today [without injuries.]"
Unsurprisingly, it's reopened the debate about how much more needs to be done in the sport to protect drivers' heads in the sport - even if it means abandoning the long-cherished design principle of open cockpits in F1.
"I think we've become slightly nonchalant," admitted Whitmarsh. "We see so many big enormous shunts and we're used to the driver just popping out, but you realise that they can come inches from not popping out of the car."
"We've had a number of near misses in the last three or four years," agreed McLaren's technical director Paddy Lowe, pointing to Felipa Massa's accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix
when flying debris hit him on the head and fractured his skull.
The son of former world champion John Surtees was killed in a similar incident where his head was struck by a tyre that had come off another car in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch the same year. And Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon died in an accident last October when he suffered fatal head injuries after striking the posts supporting the safety fences around Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"How many times have you looked at things including today and thought, that was lucky?" asked Lowe of the situation in F1. While there has been no race fatality since that of Aryton Senna in 1994, everyone in the sport knows that there can be no complacency. "One day it won't be lucky and we'll all be sitting there going: we should have done something about that," Lowe said.
The series has already built up side protection around the cockpit area, despite drivers' objections that it impeded their visibility during a race. But the sport's Technical Working Group has aiming to introduce further regulation changes for 2014 to go much further.