Alexander Rossi, Caterham, Young Drivers' Test day one, Silverstone, 2013

Younger drivers ‘more concerned about safety’

2013 F1 season

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Alexander Rossi, Caterham, Young Drivers' Test day one, Silverstone, 2013Younger racing drivers are more concerned about safety in motor racing because they are less used to seeing the consequences of serious accidents, according to Caterham’s Alexander Rossi.

In an interview with F1 Fanatic the 21-year-old said today’s current drivers are “fortunate” to be competing at a time of improved safety standards.

But he said that makes it more of a shock when a serious accident happens: “When something does go wrong it starts to appear to be dangerous, it’s not something we can just accept,” he explained.

Rossi competed in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours during which Allan Simonsen suffered a fatal accident. But accidents of this severity occur less frequently in motor racing than they once did: this was the first fatality at Le Mans since 1997 and the last F1 driver to lose his life in a crash was Ayrton Senna almost 20 years ago.

“At the end of the day while F1 and motor sport is the majority of our lives there has to be a line drawn at some point in terms of where you feel comfortable because if you don’t feel comfortable driving a race car you’re wasting a lot of people’s time,” said Rossi.

“Every time you get in a race car you have to give one hundred percent so if you’re not confident to do that then why bother doing it?”

The issue of driver safety in F1 was raised this year after a series of high-speed tyre failures during the British Grand Prix. The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association threatened to boycott the following race in Germany if similar failures occurred but the weekend passed without any similar incidents.

Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais, IndyCar, Texas, 2013Rossi said his own concern over safety is part of the reason why he isn’t considering a career in IndyCar. Several drivers have expressed concerns about the dangers of racing open-wheel cars on ovals following Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash in 2011.

“For me personally as a driver IndyCar is something I’m not incredibly interested in solely because of the ovals,” said Rossi. “If the majority went back to road courses and street courses like it was, yeah, it’s something I would consider. But for the time being the ovals are something I’m not interested in first of all and second of all I think that I have an opportunity in Formula One and I want to exploit that.”

“I don’t know if it’s this generation or what,” he added, “it’s just something that, for me, the risk is just too high. And I don’t know if in a previous time when accidents happened more often and they were sometimes more severe people got more used to it but as the younger generation is coming up it’s not something we’re used to seeing. When it does happen it definitely puts you off a bit, it comes as a big shock. For me that’s the main reason why IndyCar isn’t an interest.”

Rossi admitted “I haven’t followed [IndyCar] that much since it split”.

“For me in the late nineties growing up I watched Champ Car and for me that was the best championship that there was, for me it was even better than F1. But when they split it ruined it and they lost a lot of fans and people got confused and then it just kind of slid.

“I think IndyCar in its own right is a very competitive championship and very difficult to win. But I think that it’s lost its edge and I think that, if anything, that’s almost a good thing for Formula One because people are kind of looking for something else in terms of open-wheel racing because like I say it’s not that popular.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Younger drivers ‘more concerned about safety’”

  1. really?
    watch Gp2 those guys do not seems to be concerned with safety.

    Gp2 graduate that promoted to F1 were the usual one that cause accident.

    1. The risk of wrecking your car is not the same as the risk of losing your life. Young drivers are concerned about safety precisely for that reason. They don’t want to suffer the consequences of crashing.

  2. I would argue the opposite based on some of the GP2 and GP3 driving standards, not being used to the consequences makes younger drivers generally more likely to take risks and feel a sense of invincibility.

    1. I fully agree. Some of the driving in GP2 (haven’t seen much GP3) recently has been appalling and I’m genuinely surprised someone hasn’t been badly hurt yet.

      1. I think you’re missing the point Rossi is trying to make. He’s not talking about the problems with driving standards, but is rather suggesting that because of the safety standards in the sport, young drivers don’t really get any experience in dealing with a serious accident until it happens. They have no idea what to do or how to handle it.

        When Michael Schumacher was disqualified from the 1997 championship standings, part of his punishment was to tour Europe with the Make Roads Safe programme. He had to sit in a crash-test simulator to demonstrate the importance of seat belts. If that was possible in 1997, then surely the FIA could devise a crash simulator that could recreate a serious accident (under controlled conditions and with medical aid on hand) so that young drivers could receive training as a prerequisite for obtaining their licence.

        1. @prisoner-monkeys

          young drivers don’t really get any experience in dealing with a serious accident until it happens. They have no idea what to do or how to handle it.


          It occurs to me that, following the retirement of Michael Schumacher, this year must be the first time in F1 history that every driver on the grid has gone through their entire F1 career without seeing one of their fellow drivers killed in an accident? At least since the early fifties when there few world championship races had taken place.

          That’s the sort of thing Rossi is talking about.

      2. I agreed with his point and then just made another (a minor rant, in fact!). He speaks sense

  3. Come on guys…its not the 60’s anymore – grow a pair!

  4. That doesn’t add up. If drivers are “less used to seeing the consequences of serious accidents” then they would be LESS concerned about safety, not more surely.

    1. It does “add up” – you’ve just quoted part of the article out of context.

      His point is that drivers aren’t used to seeing serious accidents, therefore they are more shocked by them when they do happen.

      It’s the opposite of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        14th August 2013, 12:52

        @keithcollantine – In context, he appears to be saying that as F1 is safer, it’s making open-wheel oval racing look more dangerous in comparison.

        I don’t think drivers are more concerned for their own safety now that the sport is much safer because that would be a rediculous statement. Clearly you’d be more concerned if your peers were regularly dieing.

        I guess in the past, you’d be just a likely to get injured on a road course as you would on an oval but with increased safety at most circuits with larger run-off areas etc, ovals are now much more dangerous by comparison and that’s what he’s referring to. It is now possible to race with relatively high levels of safety but that’s still not the case on ovals.

      2. they are a bunch of cowards, that are only chasing the big bucks, the fame and want to risk nothing. They watch their big brothers in f1 and that what the see.

        1. No they aren’t. The cowards are the ones hiding behind fake names online, throwing insults at them.

          1. @keithcollantine BOOM. +1 from me also. This also applies to @bhudi above. Most people just can’t appreciate what it takes to push a race car, or any fast car, to 100% of the limit all the time. Even the guys in the 60’s didn’t do that, so don’t suggest these guys are cowards or need to “grow a pair.”

      3. Touchy aren’t you? I stand by my comment. Seeing less accident’s/deaths would make you less aware of the dangers and more likely to put any you do see down to a freak occurrence. Should be much easier to put it to the back of your mind now than it was 20 years ago.

        1. This is just semantics. You can be “concerned about safety” because you might actually die in the race, or you can be “concerned about safety” because you have a high expectation of safety and thus consider even minor injuries to a fellow driver unacceptable. Either way it’s a concern, just a different type.

          Drivers in the old days absolutely had to put those risks at the back of their minds, otherwise they would have never raced at all. In fact most quotes from the era indicate this – whenever another driver died, they still said “it won’t happen to me.” Nowadays, drivers actively think and speak about safety more when they’re outside of the car, so that they can push 100 when they’re in it. So you can make the argument either way, that either group was the one more “concerned for safety.”

        2. *push 100%

    2. +1 I doubt he is more concerned about safety than drivers who were competing on that weekend at Imola in 1994 for example.

  5. “If the majority went back to road courses and street courses like it was, yeah” – Erm, the majority of IndyCar is road courses and street courses!

    1. Are there any other types lol?

    2. @dominikwilde @full-throttle-f1 On this year’s IndyCar calendar there are ten races on street circuits, six on ovals and three on road courses. Three of the street circuit events are double-headers.

      1. Exactly, so I don’t quite get what he’s saying here

  6. You could argue that Le Mans and the US road circuits are more dangerous than the ovals. If a driver loses control, there are plenty of solid objects waiting to be hit, which we don’t know about because that particular accident hasn’t happened yet.

    I hope the Tertre Rouge trees and Mulsanne chicanes at next year’s Le Mans race feature the kind of barriers that were developed at the ovals – concrete or energy-absorbing ones, taller where necessary.

    If Rossi does make it to F1, maybe we won’t miss Mark Webber quite so much. Isn’t it great to hear a driver speaking his mind for a change. I don’t agree with all he says, but I’ve already been impressed how he’s prepared to revise his views – I remember how he talked after Le Mans about the race and the event being an eye-opener.

  7. pft, bloody drivers and there feelings. Who needs feelings…

    1. @ming-mong Years of watching Top Gear has taught me one thing: Racing drivers have no feelings, no emotions whatsoever.

  8. It is a safer era for racing and F1 in particular. Even if some up and coming young drivers were not born yet or too young to remember the death of Ayrton Senna, they obviously will know the history. Nowadays it is safer in F1 to be in the car than on the track in an official capacity statistically speaking. Racing is still dangerous and F1 is very fortunate to be on such a safe streak for drivers for so long. Can’t blame the drivers at any age for wanting that to continue.

    Recently at one of the local race tracks a car spun during a race and somehow leapt over a proper barrier and landed on an track official killing him. You just never know. It was a freak accident. The barrier was in place, but the angle of the car, the speed and trajectory led it to pitch itself right over the wall. The track official in the pits was not out of place, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. All that can be done now is to reevaluate the safety precautions to try and make sure it never happens again. But, racing can be dangerous.

  9. I liked the article and its good to see an American with talent and potential to be in F1. But I must correct something. The Open Wheel split happened in 1995. With IRL(ovals and Indy 500) and CART(1/3 of each, road, street, ovals). CART was around until the end of 2003 when it went bankrupt and 3 car owners bought the series and that is when Champ Car started, in 2004. Most people probably don’t care, I just wanted to set the record straight about the timeline. I completely agree that CART/Champ Car was just as good as F1, maybe better.. but I haven’t looked back at American Open Wheel since Champ Cars demise(2008) and the reunification of American Open Wheel, under the banner Indycar. I just hope that nothing like this happens to F1. A fractured series is not good for anyone involved, especially the fans.

    1. Tony George is the major cause of the split in 1995. He overplayed his hand with the Indy 500 being his best card. As valuable as the the Indy 500 was to the series, Tony George placed his ego and greed above the entire series itself, the fans and anyone else who cared about or benefitted from Indy Car racing. Fractured racing series really are no good for anybody, especially the fans. CART/Champ Car was quite good for a while, the IRL may as well have been the invalid racing league until Champ Car folded and the IRL picked up some road and street courses. Indy Car racing really has never fully recovered from the split.

    2. that is when Champ Car started, in 2004

      Firstly, I didn’t say otherwise in the article.

      Secondly, the heritage of the term ‘Champ Car’ is a bit more complex. Its use pre-dates The Open Wheel Racing Series’ purchase of CART in 2003 by several decades.

      It comes from the term ‘Championship Car’, the United States Auto Club-run series which began in 1956. Here’s video of a Champ Car race from 50 years ago.

      CART was formed as a offshoot of it after Dan Gurney’s 1979 White Paper. After that Champ Car continued as a diminished series, and from 1985 only the Indianapolis 500 bore the name.

      CART then revived the term Champ Car before OWRS arrived on the scene in 2003 (off the top of my head the earliest reference to it I can recall is from 2001, but it may have been earlier).

    3. Liked the article. Rossi is correct about the status (or lack thereof) of american open wheel racing.

      Incredibly, the current version of “indycar” remains under the control and ownership by the same family of geniuses who decided that spliting the sport was a good idea and destroyed it in the process. It’s been reduced to a horrible spec/managed “racing” series with an almost non-existent fanbase. Pitiful as compared to the CART hey days when the sport was very popular and considered a serious, world class racing series.

      Hope to see Alexander racing in F1. There isn’t any open wheel/formula racing worth a damn in American anymore.

  10. Suspect his position on Indycar would change should F1 no longer be an option, like most of them.

    I don’t think young drivers in Europe are more concerned about safety, they just don’t think there are any consequences to reckless driving. However, I don’t think that’s the point Alex wanted to make.

  11. No one can blame drivers for wanting motorsport to be as safe as possible, it allows them to be confident to push hard. I’ve often thought about how much harder I could push when driving one of my fav roads if my car was equipped with a good roll cage, harnesses and a fire extinguisher. Back in the “old days” it took a lot of courage to push hard because death was almost a given if it went wrong on certain tracks (spa, monza oval, nurburgring), and that’s what made race drivers heroes. These days a driver can push 100% without fear of death, which makes for closer racing. If safety was still at 1960s standards, I doubt most of the current field could drive anywhere near as hard, as they might not cope as well knowing if they stuff up it could cost them their life, not just the race.

  12. I totally agree with him with the love for mid-to-late-90’s Indycar/CART racing. With the packed season schedule, very exciting racing and a variety of great venues like Laguna Seca and Road America, I enjoyed watching those races more than F1 at the time. But in a similar feeling to Rossi’s about superspeedway racing, I just couldn’t stomach watching CART after Greg Moore died. I’m an American but I thought Moore was a Canadian hero and he was my favorite driver. I thought it was a bad idea to race on a superspeedway with a cast on your hand as he did that day, with not much to gain in the championship, but such is the way racing drivers are, even the intelligent and thoughtful ones like Greg Moore. After that day I couldn’t stomach watching open wheel races on ovals. Haven’t watched one since.

    1. @soko – Very close to my sentiments, especially regarding Greg Moore. I love Laguna Seca and Road America too. Grew up watching Stock Cars, NASCAR, USAC, Indy Cars, F1, etc. I have always wanted to see F1 at Laguna Seca knowing it will never happen, but that is my dream track for F1.

      I also lost a lot of interest in racing for a while after what happened to Greg Moore. I was so happy my favorite driver in CART had just signed a new deal and was on to bigger and better things, maybe even F1 someday. What a damn tragedy.

      Bizarre thing is some years later I was part of a racing team, 3rd tier NASCAR, used to be Grand National West. The driver I worked for was 3 time champion in the series. I was the website guy and photographer for several years and got to go to quite a few races. One of the races was at California Speedway, a beautiful racing facility. But, all I could think about the first race I went there was Greg Moore. Where it happened, they did some redesigning after that, I found it hard to get out of my head, very eerie. The saving grace was that our driver won the race there that year. Very bittersweet.

      I have watched some CART and Indy Car superspeedway races since all that. Truly scary when the cars get a little air underneath and become an out of control flying wing. We see that too much in F1 even without the super speedway speeds.

      1. Cheers buddy, I’m glad others remember Greg Moore as well, he really was a terrific guy. And I can echo the same feelings about California Speedway – I raced there on the roval course in 2005 and 2006 and had much of the same eerie feeling. In fact where we turned into the infield was just about where his accident was. I’m glad they paved and reconfigured the runoff areas.

        1. Small world. The series our driver was in raced on the oval through 2006 and then on the “roval” (good name) starting in 2007. I prefer any road or street course over any oval it and it was kind of fun watching many of the drivers have trouble making the turns, mainly the one on the back side of the oval leading into the road course. Especially since these were big heavy “stock” cars driven mostly by guys not really fond of road courses. But hey, it’s still racing.

          Anyways, it’s only speculation now, but I was hoping Greg Moore would give F1 a try after a successful stint with Penske. I think he definitely had the skills where could have not only competed, but excelled.

          Good talking with you.

  13. Interesting point made by Rossi.

  14. I don’t put much credence in his comparison between pre/post split. He was 4 years old when the split happened!

  15. I found that interview really interesting. Very interesting to see his perspective.

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