Formula 1 drivers never let the risk of death get on top of them, for it will have a detrimental affect on their competitiveness. Rachit Thukral writes in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s death due to an unfortunate incident at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix
Whenever a driver suffer a major crash in Formula 1, the rest of the grid is bombarded by one same question: does it change their approach towards racing?
Invariably, the drivers come up with the same answer: “I don't think it changes [how you drive],” said Felipe Massa, who survived a major accident at 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix. “When you close your visor you want the best - you want to finish in front and you want to do the best you can. Manoeuvres, overtaking, the way you drive, your thinking, I don't think it will change.”
Rookie Roberto Merhi echoed the comments of Massa :“I don't think it changes much, but for sure you think more about it. For example, I was racing here in the World Series and out of the fastest corner on the track, was a car crash and a tractor came in to recover the car. They didn't put a safety car out and to be honest when I saw that situation under a yellow flag, I really slowed down.”
It’s not that Formula 1 drivers do not acknowledge the risks associated with motorsports. Yes, the cars are a lot safer since Senna’s accident at Imola in 1994, but the drivers are aware that they might well suffer from minor injuries, in not major, while they are racing. Although some believe(d) that days of drivers dying while racing are long gone.
“It opens your eyes and tells us what we are doing, is what we are doing and there is still some risk involved. I think you just have to be aware of that and make your own choices at times in the car, how much risk you are willing to take, and be comfortable with it,’’ said Nico Hulkenberg.
“You know that there is a big level of risk, but it is what we love to do and when something like this happens to a colleague we all know it could have been ourselves in that car,” said Force India teammate Sergio Perez who missed the Monaco Grand Prix, having suffered from concussions in an accident during qualifying.
But Formula 1 drivers are competitive creatures who would go to any lengths to win races and championships. With every lap in qualifying, their braking points move further, and cornering speeds goes higher. They are always looking for that extra tenth.
It is this level of commitment that doesn’t let the fear of death get on top of them. Think once about the risk associated with motorsports while racing, and the lap times will dwindle.
“When you drive, especially a Formula 1 car, going that quick around a corner, you need to be 100% in the car and not thinking about what could happen and if and if. You just do your best,’’ Romain Grosjean summed up.
It perhaps doesn’t come as a surprise that the drivers have unanimously favoured a push for faster cars in 2017, despite knowing the risks associated with such a move. The FIA must ensure that the new rules do not compromise the safety of drivers and the marshals alike .