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Brawn warns against kneejerk reaction to Massa shunt

26 July 2009

Ross Brawn has acknowledged that safety in motorsport needs to be urgently looked into in the wake of three disturbing incidents in the space of the last seven days – one of which claimed the life of Henry Surtees – but he warned against over-reacting and 'making the situation worse'.

Brawn is at the centre of the latest controversy in Hungary this weekend, after it was a failure on one of his eponymously-named team's cars that led to Ferrari star Felipe Massa being hospitalised in intensive care with two fractures to his skull.

The Brazilian's helmet was hit during qualifying by a steel spring that had come off the rear suspension of compatriot Rubens Barrichello's BGP 001 four seconds earlier, knocking him momentarily unconscious as he travelled at 162mph and sending him into the turn four circuit barriers at high speed.

The 28-year-old – whose wife Anna is expecting the couple's first child later this year – has since undergone emergency surgery and a brain scan and is currently under sedation in the AEK military hospital in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, with his condition being variously described as 'serious', 'stable', 'satisfactory' and 'life-threatening'.

According to the BBC, a thorough investigation will be jointly launched between F1 governing body the FIA and Brawn GP to determine exactly how the incident was allowed to happen – and whether changes to safety are required in an effort to prevent such a terrible accident from re-occurring.

Massa's injury came less than a week on from that which tragically killed Surtees – son of 1964 F1 World Champion and motorcycling legend John Surtees – in a Formula Two outing at Brands Hatch. The 18-year-old was hit on the helmet by a wheel that had flown off the car in front of him after its driver had crashed and bounced back onto the track, in what has been described as a 'freak' occurrence. Surtees sadly died later in hospital.

Brawn himself, however, insisted that what befell Massa was similarly 'a freak accident' – and cautioned that any kneejerk reactions to it might only exacerbate the situation. It has been suggested that the new-generation, stronger, carbon-fibre crash helmets, higher cockpit sides and head and neck-supporting HANS device may have saved the São Paulista's life.

“We need to keep a perspective on it,” the Englishman stressed. “From what's been seen last weekend and this, we need to have a proper study to see if we need to do anything. We need to digest what's happened and understand it properly.

“It is time to look at the whole thing and take a balanced approach. You can have covers or canopies, but you have to be able to get at the driver and extract him if there is an accident – and you don't want anything that collapses down on a driver.

“It is something we will look at. In the history of F1 it is a fairly rare occurrence, but we must take it seriously and see what we can do. If there's a need to react, I'm sure F1 will promptly – but we must make sure we don't do something that makes the situation worse.”

There was further drama during the Hungarian Grand Prix itself, when early leader Fernando Alonso shed a tyre only twelve laps in, after it had been inadequately fitted during the Spaniard's first pit-stop. The errant tyre bounced across the track on the double world champion's 'out' lap, though fortunately this time without causing any injury.


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