Brawn: Safety action must be balanced

Ross Brawn thinks it vital that Formula 1 does something to ensure there is no repeat of the incidents suffered by Henry Surtees and Felipe Massa, but has warned against a knee-jerk reaction that could compromise safety further down the road

Brawn: Safety action must be balanced

Just one week after Surtees was killed after being struck by a wheel at Brands Hatch in a Formula 2 race, Massa suffered a fractured skull and concussion after he was hit on his helmet by a spring.

The two separate crashes have renewed calls for F1 to look again at improving cockpit safety, with suggestions that cages or canopies be fitted to minimise the chances of drivers being struck in the face.

However Brawn, from whose car the spring that hit Massa came off, believes that F1 should not move too hastily in changing things - and instead must conduct a detail examination into what will improve matters.

"We need to keep a perspective of it I guess," said Brawn. "From what has been seen last weekend and this weekend, we need to have a proper study to see if there is a need to do something.

"You really are into the area of structures, windscreens and canopies, and anything is possible. We just need to digest what has happened, and understand it properly."

Although canopies or a roof would help prevent drivers getting injured by flying debris, the fear of using them has been that it makes it more difficult for extraction following accidents - especially if the car has rolled over.

"I think it is time to look at the whole thing, and take a balanced approach," Brawn said. "You can have covers, you can have canopies, but you have got to get at the drivers to extract him if there is a problem.

"So you don't want a structure that collapses down on the driver, and there are a lot of secondary considerations. It is something we will look at I am sure.

"In the history of F1 it is a fairly rare occurrence, the [cockpit] sides are quite high now and we have the headrests around the drivers. So that is why we will have to take a balanced view.

"If there is a need to react then I am sure F1 will react very promptly, but it is making sure that we don't do anything to make the situation worse on balance."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes that the Surtees and Massa crashes should act as a similar safety wake-up call to the events of Imola in 1994 - when Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed.

"Inevitably we all become complacent if we're not confronted with a serious accident," he said. "Obviously '94 was a massive wake-up call for all of us in Formula 1 at the time.

"That led to everyone, the FIA, teams, contributing to a lot of big steps forward in safety, and I think we have to go again. For everyone involved we've got to make sure we do everything we can."

He added: "Motor racing is dangerous and racing drivers are incredibly brave, and that is something we should all remember. Every time a racing driver goes up the pitlane we become a bit nonchalant about it.

"Sometimes we give them a hard time if we don't think they are pushing hard enough, but in fact they're incredibly brave. In Formula 1 we've perhaps concentrated too much on politics. We've got to get back to the championship, the fight, the show and safety."

Despite Massa's injuries, Brawn did single out the advances made in helmet safety for praise - which may well have contributed to the Brazilian not suffering even more.

"Without knowing all the details, it sounds like the work done on helmets over the past few years has been essential," he explained. "As you know, the helmets have improved quite a lot over the past few years, so the work that was done there is a great credit to the people who initiated that and pushed it through."

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Series Formula 1
Teams Brawn GP
Author Jonathan Noble
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