Joe-Pinions: Sports

29 June 2010 – Some Quickies for Today

Posted in Auto Racing, Formula 1 by txtmstrjoe on 29/06/2010

Here are a few quick thoughts for today:

  • The F1 Grand Prix of Europe was held this past weekend in Valencia, Spain.  Sebastian Vettel won for Red Bull, leading McLaren’s British duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button across the line.
  • Vettel’s teammate, Aussie Mark Webber, dropped out of the race in spectacular fashion when he collided with Finn Heikki Kovailanen early in the race.  Webber was not injured despite his Red Bull RB6 being launched into the air, hitting an overhead advertising board, and somersaulting unto its nose and roll bar (the car was completely upside down), before bouncing off the circuit and landing on its wheels again and sliding into a tire barrier.
  • Here is a video of Webber’s frightening crash:  
  • In my opinion, Webber’s crash was a complete accident, albeit with Webber being primarily responsible for it.  He was following Kovalainen’s Lotus in a battle for position and simply misjudged his closing speed and his braking point.  As you can see in the video, Kovalainen was defending the inside line initially, then moved to the outside (driver’s left) as he and Webber approached the very slow 2nd gear right-hander.  Webber followed Kovalainen left, but was far too close and hit the Lotus’s right rear wheel when Kovalainen hit the brakes in his attempt to make the corner.  Kovalainen did not block illegally Michael Schumacher-style (ironically, Webber tends to indulge in similar questionable defensive tactics occasionally as well) and did not “brake-test” Webber.  Kovalainen had to brake in order to make the corner and appears to have left his braking to the absolute latest in order to do so; Webber, though, tried to brake even later and therefore caught up the Lotus in front and caused the accident.
  • Webber’s Valencia crash was not his first airborne experience in a racing car.  He was involved in this spectacular flip in the 1999 LeMans 24 Hours:
  • Webber and Kovalainen’s crash looked an awful lot like Riccardo Patrese’s collision with Gerhard Berger in the Grand Prix of Portugal in 1992:  
  • Thankfully, none of these drivers in these video clips was injured in these accidents.  This is a testament to the safety standards in F1.  While it will always be an inherently dangerous sport, F1 is undoubtedly safer than it was in the past.  The cars are stronger and are better designed to help protect the driver in case of accidents than they’ve ever been, and the circuits have to conform to very specific safety regulations before they are deemed appropriate for competition.
  • To me, the only rogue element in the mix is the driver.  Drivers are only human, after all, and can and do make mistakes.  Moreover, there are some drivers who, by their mentality and attitude, increase the chances of causing accidents because of inappropriate and excess aggressiveness.  Such drivers seem to lack the imagination required to understand that too much aggressiveness shrinks the already small margin for error.  In an activity as dangerous (and as potentially lethal) as motor racing is, you have to do everything you can to increase that margin for error, but sometimes the competitive instinct dominates too much.  Common sense and an appreciation for the dangers and consequences of mistakes and/or deliberate misdeeds have to subjugate that competitive instinct, or all the efforts to decrease the dangers in motor sports will be in vain.

Next time:  A few more thoughts on the Grand Prix of Europe, and some non-F1 items as well.

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