Indian GP under safety cloud

2011-10-27 14:20

Cape Town – The eyes of the motorsport world will be firmly focussed on this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix, the first of its kind at the new Buddh International Circuit, outside capital New Dehli.

After the tragic death of Dan Wheldon in the Las Vegas Indy300 11 days ago, followed by Marco Simoncelli’s ill-fated crash in Sunday’s MotoGP race in Malaysia a week later, the issue of safety will be watched closely. It may seem eerily ironic to some that motorsport’s safest code over the last 20 years has never done any testing at this weekend’s venue whatsoever.

However, Formula One legend and three-time champion, Jackie Stewart believes the sport has done very well over the years and is in a fortunate position.

"F1 is very safe indeed compared to any other form of motorsport. But we can count ourselves very fortunate that we've been so many years without a fatality when you think that the drivers are millimetres apart at times,” said Stewart on BBC Sport’s website.

The last time a Formula One race claimed the life of a driver was in 1994 when Brazilian Ayrton Senna left the Imola track at the San Marino GP, crashing into an unprotected concrete wall. Austrian driver, Roland Ratzenberger lost his life the previous day during the qualifying session for the very same race.

Measures and improvements have taken place since and Force India’s British driver, Paul di Resta says he could not feel any safer in a racing car.

Di Resta has performed quite admirably in his debut season after graduating from the German Touring car series (DTM Championship) last year, but without setting the world alight.

He feels that the FIA have put every measure in place to keep the drivers as safe as possible.

"I don't feel in any danger when I'm in the car," said Di Resta ahead of Sunday's Indian Grand Prix.

"The [governing body] FIA has done a great job with safety over the years."

Seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher, who was right behind Senna when his fatal crash took place, also stressed the improvements in driver safety.

"To have total safety is impossible, and F1 is the quickest motor racing sport around the world, but safety has been hugely improved," the seven-time world champion said.

"If you look at new projects like this track there are huge run-off areas, and there is certainly a high standard of safety.

"If on top something happens then that is what I call fate. And fate is something that we have to face sooner or later.

"I'm certainly touched by what has happened to the drivers that we have lost, but unfortunately I have to say that that is life."