Is motor sport too unsafe?

This morning, at the Malaysian Grand Prix, MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli died following a crash, where he lost his helmet and collided with two other riders, Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. Simoncelli’s death comes just one week after the death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, who was involved in a horrific crash involving several other drivers. Wheldon’s death called to question the safety of the IndyCar series and now, with the death of Simoncelli, concerns over the safety of MotoGP will undoubtedly be raised.

Since the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994, extreme measures have been taken to improve the safety of Formula One and ensure no further deaths occur. The cars are now designed with energy-absorbing materials and are put through rigorous safety tests to ensure that the impact of a crash on the driver is minimal, as well as improvements being made to the tracks to allow room for driver errors. Mark Webber’s crash at the Valencia Grand Prix in 2010 was testimony to the safety improvements made in Formula One in recent years. As Webber attempted to pass Heikki Kovalainen’s car in front, he drove over Kovalainen’s rear wheel, resulting in his car becoming airborne, running off the track and ending up in the barriers. Webber, however, was able to recover from this dramatic crash unhurt and able to race again at the next event, thanks to the new safety rules for track and car designs in the sport.

On the other hand, the US IndyCar series is considered far more dangerous, due to the style of the tracks, the number of cars involved at once and the inexperience of certain drivers. Nigel Mansell, former Formula One world champion, told BBC5 live:

“To have 34 cars travelling at 220mph on a mile-and-a-half long circuit, there are too many cars on the track. The trouble is there are no small accidents when accidents happen. There were a number of rookie drivers and others driving in their first race of the season.”

Mansell is of the same opinion of many other drivers, experts and motor sport fans, who have shown concern over the safety of the series, particularly following last Sunday’s 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which resulted in the death of Dan Wheldon.

The scene of the 15-car crash in Las Vegas.

Now, following the death of Marco Simoncelli this morning, surely the safety of MotoGP will be looked at and measures will be taken to prevent this kind of tragedy occurring in the future. However, many motor sport enthusiasts criticise the safety of Formula One, with many claiming it has become “too safe”, but how safe is too safe when people’s lives are involved? It cannot be denied that motor sport is one of the most dangerous sports in the world but with many drivers risking their lives to do what they love, their safety must always remain a crucial issue.

By Nadia Younes

3 Responses

  1. Any sport where you fly around a track at 100mph+ is always going to have issues with safety, but then again that’s it’s attraction. It’s a difficult balancing issue. Go too far one way, it loses it’s audience and interest in the sport falls by the way side. Go far the other, and you end up with the kind of deaths we’ve had recently more regularly.

    I’ll stick to tiddlywinks.

  2. Good article! I agree with hathamtastic, introducing more safety measures could be a bad thing for the sport as it would make things more complicated and the like whilst also potentially losing the attraction.

  3. Motor racing especially formula one, is exceptionally dangerous. If the driver goes around a corner too slow, he will crash, if he goes too fast, he will crash. Most F1 enthusiasts argue that the sport isn’t as exciting as it used to be and the sport knows this. They try to make it as exciting as possible but by doing that they are still putting lifes at risk. However the drivers are fully aware of how dangerous the sport can be and are constantly reminded by these tragic events.

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