Accidents throughout the Belgian Grand Prix
programme look likely to provoke a reaction from the powers-that-be in a bid to act before there is a serious injury or fatality.
According to Britain's Independent
newspaper, sources close to the FIA claim that race stewards will be encouraged to clamp down on driving standards in the wake of the start-line/first corner accident that claimed F1 points leader Fernando Alonso, title challenger Lewis Hamilton
and qualifying surprise Sergio Perez at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday. The man adjudged to have precipitated the incident with an excessive weave across the straight, Romain Grosjean, has picked up a one-race ban for his actions, but the governing body is determined that standards are improved right down the racing ladder, after both GP2 and GP3 produced some frightening moments.
The IndyCar Series - and those in other series who knew him - was rocked by the death of Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway late last season, but F1 has been fortunate not to have suffered a fatality since the black weekend at Imola that claimed both Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in 1994. However, Sunday's incident, as well as others that have seen cars come perilously close to the exposed heads of drivers, has prompted renewed calls for improved cockpit protection. Improving safety, however, is seen by many to come with the side-effect that young drivers will believe themselves to be even more immune to injury, leading to more aggressive actions on track.
An FIA source recently confirmed that the governing body was 'very concerned that some younger drivers have developed a lack of respect for their rivals due to a misplaced belief that the cars are so safe these days that they cannot be injured', and GP2 Series commentator Will Buxton expands on that theory while calling for driving standards to be improved in his latest blog
"Punishments in F1, no scrap that… punishments in single-seater motor racing need to be far harsher than they are right now," he claimed, "And they need to become clearer and be applied with increased standardisation. From F1 down to entry level Formula Ford, even karting, a racing action of questionable moral standing must have the same regulatory reaction. Inconsistency between categories, and inconsistency even from a race to race basis in an individual category must be stamped out.
"Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari
boss Stefano Domenicali have both referenced the fact that young GP2 drivers are entering F1 with a different core understanding of racing to the previous generation. They claim GP2 graduates are more willing to take risks, safe in the knowledge that the cars will save them and safe in the knowledge that the worst punishment they will receive is a few grid spots penalty at the next event.
"Sadly, I can't argue with that. It's a view even GP2 drivers have shared with me. Not just that their rivals act this way, but even that they themselves have, at times, pushed just a touch harder than they thought they should because they had no fear of the consequences.
"The only answer, as far as I see it, is to start parking drivers. Just as they have with Grosjean. You want to make a racing driver think about his actions? You want to hit him where it hurts? Don't make his wallet lighter. Don't make him start a few places back down the grid. Just show him how it feels to sit at home and watch a race in which he should be taking part. Let him watch as his replacement steps into HIS car and drives it either better or worse than he could. Let his heart pump fast and strong, let him punch his pillow in frustration, let him scream at the unfairness of it all… from in front of a television. Let him know that a lifetime's dream, a lifetime's dedication will be flushed down the toilet if he doesn't shape up. Take away everything he's worked for. Make him appreciate what he's got.
"And it is something that has to go from the top down.
"It's all too easy to say that GP3 and GP2 drivers get away with terrible moves, when those very same moves aren't punished in F1. Lead by example. Lead from the front. Make an example of the F1 drivers, and make that same example of those in the junior categories, from GP2 and GP3 to WSR, F3, F2, AutoGP… karting.