Alonso pit count their lucky stars after crash
THE Belgian Grand Prix crash that got Frenchman Romain Grosjean banned for a race has stoked debate about cockpit safety in Formula One without providing any clearer solution to the problem.
Grosjean’s Lotus lifted into the air and skimmed across the front of championship leader Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari in the first corner pile-up, wrecking his car but fortunately missing the Spaniard’s head.
The incident, blamed squarely on Grosjean’s aggressive driving, was a heart-stopping moment for Ferrari fans and senior team members watching from the pit wall as Alonso took his time getting out of the cockpit amid radio silence.
"We were lucky because nothing hit Fernando on the head," team boss Stefano Domenicali told reporters in a discussion that also touched on the need for inexperienced young drivers to be punished heavily for failings in the junior categories to ensure they arrive in Formula One with greater awareness.
"It was a very risky situation and seeing one car fly over his, a few centimetres above his helmet, left us with our hearts in our mouths for a few tenths of a second," Ferrari technical head Pat Fry said.
Protecting the driver’s head in such incidents with flying cars and debris has long been a concern for Formula One, an occupation where the dangers are evident and there is a constant push to improve safety in all areas of the sport.
There has not been a driver fatality in a race since Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna died at Imola in 1994 but everyone in Formula One knows there is a constant risk of a freak accident.
Brazilian Felipe Massa’s near-fatal head injury at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, when the Ferrari driver was hit on the helmet by a bouncing metal spring shed from a car in front, was a reminder of that accident.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) has done tests with jet-fighter style closed cockpits and forward roll hoops, a metal structure placed right in front of the driver to guard against a frontal blow to the helmet, but all carry other risks.
"We are working with the federation to try to work on the right system of protection. With what we have tested or are working on there are also some problems that you may have," said Domenicali.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh agreed that there was a need for some sort of added protection, but closed cockpits were not the solution.
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