When I was watching the race on Sunday, two things struck me as odd. First of all was Kamui Kobayashi’s repeated front wing failures, and the second is the issue over the outboard wing mirrors, which I have already posted about.
Neither of these ended with catastrophic results, but they are both still worrying. The fact that drivers have to take their eyes away from the road in order to look behind them is unacceptable in F1. The fact that there were two front wing failures on one car in one weekend, with little action taken (so far), shows a lack of drive by the FIA and the stewards in improving safety.
Since the death of Ayrton Senna, Formula 1’s primary aim is safety. Many innovations have been crucial in assisting this, such as the HANS device, front, rear and side impact structures, and helmet improvements. However, ignoring simple problems like these could one day undo all the great work that had been done over the year.
Here’s one example. Kamui Kobayashi’s front wing failure meant that he speared into Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastien Buemi. Now thanks to the improvements in chassis structures, only the heaviest of impacts could result in serious injury. But, what about the debris from the front wing? Let’s not forget that the front wing is very wide, and the debris could fly into spectator or photographer areas, or near the stewards. A steward was killed in Australia 2001 when he was hit by a flyaway wheel from Jacques Villeneuve’s and Ralf Schumacher’s crash.
After incidents like these, you would think that the FIA would be quick to clamp down on the complete lack of safety in Sauber’s front wing design. But, so far no action has been taken by either the FIA or the stewards regarding this problem. Hopefully Sauber will sort this out before Malaysia next weekend, but it is very worrying to see that something like this could get away unpunished.
Then, we have the problem of the outboard wing mirrors. At the moment, the mirrors are outside the drivers’ peripheral vision, which is the area that you can see, outside the point that you are currently looking at. If you currently want to look behind you, you must first take your eyes off the road, which is plain crazy at speeds of up to 200mph. This means that drivers are opting to keep looking ahead instead of behind, which means they don’t see cars approach from behind. A perfect example of this is the collision between Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher.
When Fernando turned into Turn 1, he simply couldn’t look in his mirrors to see that Button had already taken the inside line into the corner. Jenson tipped Fernando into a spin, and he hit Schumacher, damaging his front wing. To be honest, I’m amazed that nobody else was caught up in this incident, seeing as there was a backwards Ferrari and a small bit of flying debris.
While this incident was a small one in the scale of things, there could be a much worse accident if the outboard wing mirrors continue to be used. These are just my thoughts, but swift action must be taken on issues like these to ensure that Formula 1 retains its appearance as a pinnacle for safety.