In 1955 The Grand Prix held at Le Mans marked a water shed moment in motor sport. In particular the Mercedes team featuring Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. Pierre Levegh’s also in the Silver arrows as a factory driver crashed early in the race killing approximately 80 spectators. And injuring over 100 more.
This incident is known as motor sports darkish day. Motor racing and formula1 would never be the same again. In the immediate aftermath of the race The Grand Prix in Germany, Switzerland and Spain were all cancelled. Motor racing has to this day never returned to Switzerland.
After the last race in Monza Italy. Mercedes announced it’s withdrawal from motor racing. They would not return for almost 40 years.
Today’s tracks are a much safer environment to race in. Gone are the hay bales, replaced by Steal barriers and tyre walls that loop the tracks. Catch fences in the spectator zones protect the crowds from most incidents.
These are all in my opinion much needed safety measures. But not all improvement to race tracks are necessary. In my view modern circuits like Bahrain have used huge tarmac run off areas. These may be great for cutting down speed but does it punish a driver enough for an error?
Do we want a driver to come off and then straight back into the action with not even a time loss disadvantage? Or do we want to see them struggle back onto the track? That was the case with gravel traps, bigger errors lead to beaching and non finishing.
I know what I’d rather.
Grass is another option. But I’m disregarding this as high speed cars and wet grass are not a good mix.
We all know that gravel traps do work. Yes they have in the past flipped cars over. But that is a rare occurrence, and the modern formula 1 cars are more than capable of withstanding that, aren’t they? The drivers monocoque (French for single cell) and higher sides and the addition of Halo should be more than capable of keeping drivers safe.
We can never sit back on excuse the pun on our Laurels as regards driver and spectator safety. New ideas and innovations come along. Abrasive Tarmac surfaces could be the answer. But once again it raises the question does it punish the driver enough?
Luckily there have been very few incidents regarding spectators at the top levels of Motorsport Dario Franchitti’s career ending accident – at the Indy Grand Prix of Houston comes to mind. The catch fence did it’s job to a greater extent. 13 people in the crowd where injured by flying debris. But no one was killed
In the future maybe something better than fencing will come along. Maybe it something that won’t impair the view quite as much.
As they say at all the circuits as a disclaimer. Motorsport is dangerousness and you may get injured. Or I have even seen signs stating risk of death!
One last thing. A big thank you to all the marshals, from all us fans. Without you all, we wouldn’t have such safe racing.
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