Opinion: shining a light on the dark side of motorsport
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Two young men whose sporting lives since childhood were intertwined, arrived at the Spa Francorchamps circuit to race and to win. Sadly one of those young men was to lose his life and the other go on to claim his first F1 Grand Prix win.
Young French driver Anthoine Hubert died and Juan Manuel Correa — a familiar face to many who follow the Castrol Toyota Racing Series here in New Zealand — was badly injured.
The next day, Hubert’s friend Charles Leclerc was strapped into his racing car and went on to claim a lifetime ambition with an emotional historic maiden win for Ferrari. Such is the sport of motor racing.
It is not wise to assume the cause of the accident; that investigation will be undertaken by the FIA. But it is worth noting that Hubert’s death is the first to occur as a result of an accident at an F1 GP event since Jules Bianchi yielded to injuries sustained in Japan in 2014.
Prior to that, with the exception of three marshals killed while attending Grands Prix, death from a racing accident had not visited the GP paddock since that dreadful weekend at Imola in 1994. Though accidents at Grands Prix weekends are a regular occurrence, serious injury or death is rare. Not so in times past.
Between 1952 and 1982, 29 drivers lost their lives in events that were part of the Formula 1 World Championship, not including those lost in practice or tests at related events. Driving a racing car is inherently dangerous and something competitors do knowing the risks involved — no matter how many safety measures are introduced.
Safety obviously has to be the number one priority.
But taken to extremes in circuit design, car design, or racing regulations, it would remove the very reason that racing drivers do what they do — excitement, competition, a love of speed and an element of endangerment at demanding circuits. To that end it is important to not completely emasculate those challenging, historic, and yes, dangerous, tracks. Safety can never be absolute.
As with all racing accidents, studies will be undertaken, research into causes and possible improvements will go on, lessons will be learnt and recommendations and remedies, if possible, will be made.
The FIA has a good record of introducing safety measures, despite some of those measures being criticised and less than aesthetically pleasing.
The modern-day racing car of mainly carbon fibre construction is light years away from the aluminium clad, tubular framed cars of the past, often with unprotected fuel tanks behind and to the side of the occupant, which afforded the driver as much protection as a damp two-ply tissue.
As Hubert’s “boss” at Renault, four-time world champion Alain Prost said to F1TV: “We always think that it cannot happen any more, but yes it can happen. We know motor racing is dangerous. A lot of sports are dangerous anyway, and maybe motor racing is one of the safety sports.
“It is very tough but we can see we are all together and we need to make things even better, improving better. But we love this sport, we love life.”
There will undoubtedly be many more accidents in motor sport, but that fact alone will not stop young drivers wanting to tempt fate itself by pushing their personal limits.
With the death of Hubert, those limits will be tested again this weekend at the Monza circuit.