Uncategorized

Death and Danger in Formula 1

Today is massive day in any Formula 1 fan’s year. Media coverage of the 20th anniversary of Ayrton Senna & Roland Ratzenberger’s deaths is far larger and more mainstream than I remember the 10th anniversary being. 1st May 1994 is a day I will never forget first and foremost as a fan of Formula 1 but mainly because I idolised Ayrton Senna. I have never idolised anyone before or since.

It should be a reminder that Formula 1 is not a game. F1 drivers might be superstars and part of the rich and famous but they are also real people. They are real people who are as fragile and vulnerable as you or I. Decisions and ideas that we have at work can cost real people their lives and so working in a Formula 1 team or any other form of Motorsport comes with tremendous responsibility. Everyone who takes part accepts the risk but we also must shoulder the responsibility of not putting a driver or spectator’s life in unnecessary danger. It is a very fine balance.

I have designed many safety critical components of a formula 1 car and have witnessed them fail on circuit which has caused my car to crash heavily. For a split second, the fear that you may have caused the death of another human being is a feeling I would not want anyone of you to experience. It is a fear that lurks in the back of my mind every time I watch a Grand Prix and I am sure it is the same for most other people like me in other teams. The relief you feel when the steering wheel comes out and the driver lifts himself out of the cockpit unharmed is many, many times more than that felt by the casual observer.

The Williams team is still affected every single day by the weight of guilt that came down on them on that fateful day at Imola and many of the working practices that they adopt and have since been copied by other teams are as a result of Senna’s fatal accident.

It is not only the drivers who are at risk either. Team members also share the risk in their everyday working lives, anyone who has ever witnessed a Formula 1 pit stop live will pay testimony to that! Pit lane fires, fuel handling and countless burning hot surfaces and metals mean that an F1 pit garage is an extremely risky place to make your living.

20 years may have passed but the danger is still ever present. The accident that befell Maria de Villota at Duxford aerodrome may not have been a race meeting or a Grand Prix but it seems certain that she effectively lost her life in a Formula 1 car. That was only last year despite all of the huge strides forward in safety since 1994.

I still love Formula 1 and enjoy working in the sport but I dread the day that death comes back to this sport which sadly it inevitably will. Media now follows the sport so much more closely that any such death may well be broadcast to the entire civilised world and there will inevitably be a huge backlash against the sport.

Those people who work and compete in the sport know full well that the day will come but most, if not all will keep their love of a Grand Prix racing and want to race on once again. It is a tragic and regrettable aspect of any high speed competition but I would guess that more people have lost their lives travelling to and from Grand Prix circuits in the past 20 years than have died competing on circuit. We all work to minimise the chances of death in our sport but all of us want to live and experience the thrill of Grand Prix racing and that is why we do it. It is a risk we are all willing to take.

Join the team!

Get on the startline

Join 6,373 other subscribers

4 thoughts on “Death and Danger in Formula 1

  1. Hi
    My question is relating to career advice. I am of Indian Nationality studying B.E. (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering from Dubai, and have gotten an admit from University of Loughborough in Automotive Systems Engineering (MSc). I understand that the university is a good starting ground to seek a graduate engineer job in F1, but my concern is whether it is good enough to get a job in F1 right away.
    I have also applied to Oxford Brookes and Cranfield (MSc Motorsports Engineering) as well as University of Bath (Msc Automotive Engineering) . In case I do get admits, which of the 4 would you suggest in order of preference. I have heard about Visa problems in F1, and getting a job(that provides a visa) right after graduation is a must. Considering these factors, is it still advisable to go for the Universities offering a Motorsports degree, or should i play it safe and take the offer from Loughborough because i will have more opportunities in the Non-Motorsport automotive industry as well.
    Thank you very much for your time and support.

    1. Hello

      Firstly for the long delay in replying, I get very little time to do this but I normally get round to it eventually.

      Firstly your question is a very good one. You sound generally like you’ve made some good choices as far as your potential course is concerned. All of the above are well represented inF1.

      As far as order of preference goes, it hard to say. I assume that you have read my post comparing motorsport courses vs traditional institutions?

      http://jobinf1.com/2014/09/13/university-choices-traditional-degrees-vs-motorsport-degrees/

      I don’t know what your background is but on the assumption that you don’t have a vast experience of racing I would steer you towards Brookes or Cranfield. They are both strong courses, with the reservations I have in my post.

      Bath has strong ties to Williams F1 and they are taking on a number of student placements from bath each year it seems with several returning with graduate jobs.

      Loughborough is also well represented but less so now that it used to be. Still a good university though I think.

      Hope that helps and good luck!

  2. When I first encountered F1 at my 14 I think, I was shocked by watching F1 car crashed on the circuit. But I think the danger also becomes part of the reasons why so many people loves F1. It is the human nature of adventure.

    By reading through your blog, I had a question which someone else may not have asked before. Does nationality matter in working in a F1 environment? I know that people come from different backgrounds in a team but some of the recruitment page also specifically state that they would like us to have the work rights in certain countries.

    Winson

    1. Hi Winson

      You need to be eligible in the country that the team is based in of course. There is a large variety of nationalities working in F1 today, it is very international

Comments are closed.