Jules Bianchi’s accident and the risk of complacency

We must hope for good news from those treating Jules Bianchi after his terrible accident.

Those who know appear to say procedures were followed in all respects, that tractors remain a suitable way to remove cars, and that full course safety cars would spoil F1.

And yet we have a driver fighting for his life.

I worry that even the most intelligent and caring F1 commentators may be at risk of complacency in defending the sport they love. Some say the fans should stay out of things, that as armchair observers we cant possibly understand.

But here is the inconvenient truth, no racing series is immune to learning from its mistakes, learning from other series, or learning from scrutiny in the court of public opinion.

SAFER barriers, HANS devices, safety cells, tecpro barriers, dropping Spa and Hockenheim long courses, putting fire extinguishers on board, marshals being told to stay behind fences, extracting drivers in their seats, armco barriers subject to inspection, tarmac runoffs, on board signalling, le mans slow zones – all were born, decided upon, adopted or invented after accidents, many with a fair amount of public opinion behind them.

You can’t just say ‘its just one of those things’ if fans don’t buy it. Drivers burning to death in litres of fuel or being catapulted from their vehicles into trees used to be ‘one of those things’ but the weight of opinion led to positive change.

‘It’s always been this way’ is a blinkered view and does a disservice to those trying to constructively suggest improvements. If half as much effort had been spent designing a purpose built F1 recovery truck with built in impact protection as went into designing blown diffusers or the HANS device we may have had a different outcome. We may avoid another tragedy in the future, if that constructive innovation now happens.

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