Jonathan Palmer, the chief executive of both the FIA Formula Two Championship and MotorSport Vision says he is devastated by the death of Henry Surtees in an accident at Brands Hatch.
In a lengthy statement issued this afternoon [Monday], Palmer said that the death of the 18-year-old son of former F1 champion John Surtees was the 'saddest time in 35 years of motor racing'.
“I am absolutely devastated that-18 year-old Henry Surtees lost his life in an accident in the Formula Two race at Brands Hatch yesterday,” he wrote. “This is the saddest time in my 35 years of motor racing and my deepest sympathies are with father John, mother Jane and their daughters Edwina and Leonora, together with other family and friends.
“Henry was driving at about 120 mph between Westfield and Sheene corners on lap nine of the race when he was struck on the head by a bouncing wheel and tyre from an accident at Westfield corner several seconds earlier. It is clear that Henry was knocked unconscious immediately, and his car then continued straight on at Sheene Curve, hitting the tyre wall barrier. I understand that the fatal injury occurred instantly and that the impact at Sheene had no influence on the outcome of the accident.
“The race was immediately red flagged and the medical team were very quickly at the scene. Henry was removed from the car, stabilised and taken to the medical centre, where he was prepared to be air-lifted to the Royal London Hospital, the regional trauma centre. After evaluation and investigations in the intensive care unit, Henry was found to have suffered a major head injury that was not survivable.
“Henry had joined Formula Two for this first season of the new championship and had immediately impressed with a pace, focus and maturity that belied his young age of 18 years. He took an incredible pole position at Brno in the Czech Republic in only his second F2 event, and became the first British driver to win a place on the podium with a magnificent third place at Brands Hatch on the day before he died. Henry made a big mark in just four events and looked very likely to be a winner in F2 in the future and maybe even F1.
“Not only was Henry immensely talented but he was also a very popular member of the whole Formula Two team, making many friends amongst both the other drivers and the team members, earning enormous respect everywhere.
“John Surtees played a major part in his son's success, carefully monitoring everything that was going on and meticulously using his huge experience mentoring Henry and contributing to the all important set up and strategy. It was such a pleasure seeing father and son working together so effectively and it was clear that pursuing Formula Two success was the focus of Henry and John's lives and something they enjoyed immensely.
“There will of course be a detailed investigation into the accident that claimed Henry's life and we will do everything possible to understand exactly what happened and why, and see what can be learnt from this freak accident in the continual quest to make motor racing safer. It is perhaps ironic that John Surtees competed for many years at the highest levels of motorsport on both four wheels and two at a time when safety was given little consideration, but his son Henry should lose his life at a time when driver safety has never been greater.