Sir Jackie Stewart has slammed Lewis Hamilton for being 'complacent' in his attitude towards safety in Formula 1, warning that somebody will be killed in the new traction control-less era unless the protection of the sport's competitors is moved higher up the agenda.
The three-time world drivers' champion was a vociferous campaigner for safety back in his day, and was at the vanguard of a movement that dramatically cut the death count in F1 in the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna's deaths at Imola in 1994, the previous fatality in the sport had been eight years earlier when Elio de Angelis was killed during testing at Paul Ricard.
Following dramatic shunts for both Timo Glock and David Coulthard in the Australian Grand Prix at the weekend, however, Stewart spoke out to express his concerns.
Just six drivers saw the chequered flag Down Under at the end of a chaotic and tumultuous race, as car after car spun off as the ban on driver aids – most prominently traction control and electronic engine braking – led to increased rear wheel-spinning and took a hefty toll.
“Somebody is going to get killed,” the 68-year-old insisted in an interview with the Daily Telegraph
. “It has been 13 years and eleven months since the death of Ayrton Senna. It's like an air crash – you can't go on without something going wrong somewhere, and somebody will die. There will be even more accidents now traction control is gone, [and] it is going to be a big shock to this fraternity.”
The Scot pulled the curtain down on his own career in the top flight following the death of his close friend and Tyrrell team-mate François Cevert during practice for the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in 1973, and he stressed the importance for Melbourne winner Hamilton to join the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA).
A number of current drivers – amongst them Jenson Button and Mark Webber – have similarly criticised the McLaren-Mercedes ace's decision to shun the GPDA, who meet regularly at races to discuss safety issues. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher was a director of the organisation, though defending title-holder Kimi Raikkonen, like Hamilton, is not a member.
“It is wrong and complacent of Lewis not to be in the GPDA,” Stewart underlined. “I'm surprised and disappointed that [he] has not yet joined. Hamilton has been ill-advised. The one thing you have to have among the competitors is good communication.
“Apart from that you are treated as a group on issues. In my day that was a very important element of getting things done. The GPDA did an immense amount of good.