Ex-F1 driver Justin Wilson in coma after IndyCar crash

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In the round-up: Former F1 driver Justin Wilson is in a coma after sustaining a blow to the head in a crash during yesterday’s Pocono 500 IndyCar race.


Justin Wilson was airlifted to hospital with a head injury following a crash in the closing stages of yesterday’s Pocono 500. Television footage of the accident appeared to show Wilson striking a piece of debris which had broken away from Sage Karam’s car, who had crashed moments earlier.

A statement released by IndyCar confirmed Wilson “sustained a severe head injury” and “is currently in a coma and in critical condition while undergoing further evaluation at Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania”.

The race continued under caution while Wilson was removed from his car by the medical team. It was later restarted, but ended under another caution period when Gabby Chaves suffered a techical problem late in the race. Ryan Hunter-Reay won.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Guy Ligier dies at 85 (F1i)

"A former French rugby player from Vichy, Ligier was a self-made man who built a large construction empire before starting racing in the early sixties."

Lotus eyes Pic solution as bailiffs arrive (Motorsport)

"It is hoped that when offices and banks open on Monday morning, the right arrangements can be made to appease Pic."

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel unhappy with Pirelli after tyre explosion (The Guardian)

Maurizio Arrivabene: "The strategy was absolutely right. The strategy, even if aggressive, is based on clear data. We are not so stupid or crazy to take a risk for the driver if you are not reading the data well."

Sebastian Vettel not alone in F1 Pirelli concern (BBC)

"'Forty laps, you told us,' Vettel said to (Hembery) - a reference to the recommended maximum tyre life Pirelli had indicated to Ferrari, the fact that the tyre failed after only 28, and the lack of any kind of warning from Pirelli to Ferrari that there might be a problem."

Renault in talks with Force India (Autosport)

"We talked generally about their interest in about potentially becoming a constructor, that they are talking to multiple teams and about what is my vision and what is possible and not possible."

Jenson Button brands McLaren's Belgian GP an 'embarrassment' (Sky)

"Asked if he was still enjoyed the sport he replied 'today, no,' before backtracking slightly adding 'yesterday qualifying was awesome and I enjoyed driving the car, but today no.'"


Comment of the day

Is there any point to making the Russian Grand Prix a night race? @Beneboy speaks from experience:

Poor disco lighting has been helping fugly guys like me get laid for years, maybe Bernie thinks the same principle will help boring tracks appear interesting and attract viewers.

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On this day in F1

The non-championship Swiss Grand Prix held at the Dijon circuit in France was won by Clay Regazzoni driving a Ferrari on this day 40 years ago.

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71 comments on “Ex-F1 driver Justin Wilson in coma after IndyCar crash”

  1. That was a really bad smack to the head for Justin Wilson. No news yet on his condition. Too many head injuries of late..

    1. @fletch particularly frightening to see the nosecone fly up in the air so high… the speed in the impact must’ve been huge.

      Prayers go for Justin. Hope he’s alright.

    2. https://twitter.com/IndyCar/status/635618906145726465
      That isn’t the best news. It’s also not the worst. Hoping for a rapid improvement.

      1. We all saw what “serious head injuries” mean recently, can’t be worse IMO.

    3. I’m so worried for Justin…and prayers go with him, his family and friends. Please be ok.

      I don’t understand why they keep waiting for more people to die before they consider closed cockpits. That nose cone hit Justin in the head so hard it bounced nearly 100 feet straight up. I’m sick of the “traditionalists” telling us this is how open wheel racing has to be. The cars have changed many times over the years and they can change again. We don’t have to watch people get hurt and if that’s why you watch the sport then you’ve got serious problems anyway. And “NO”, it doesn’t make you a man to drive around with more risk than is needed. I want to see good racing, not whether someone gets lucky with debris flying around during wrecks.

      1. I feel your frustration. There have been many close calls, serious injuries and a death that was caused the open cockpit. The people in formula 1 are to complacent when it comes to safety, Pirelli is a good example after Vettel’s tire failure. A tire failure halfway through Eau Rouge would not have ended well and yet they would rather try and shift blame towards Ferrari

      2. @daved – Agreed on all points. The whole rest of the car has been made infinitely safer for the drivers. The driver’s head must be better protected. The technology is available. If it can work for Le Mans cars it can work for F1, IndyCar and other open cockpit cars. There are closed canopies for drag cars, boats and many other types of racing vehicles. Anyone who says it can’t be done has no faith in human ingenuity and the proper technology to make things work better when there is a need.

        1. Yep totally agree @daved @bullmello. It’s all doable.

          I’m very afraid for Wilson.

          1. @lockup – Me too. I am trying to stay positive. Each case is different and there is still hope. Continued prayers for Justin Wilson and his family.

      3. @daved @erikhfp @bullmello This comes up as a knee-jerk reaction every time there’s a (rare) accident that involves impact with a drivers head.

        The governing bodies aren’t ‘ignoring’ the problem of impacts on a drivers head – they’re constantly researching both windscreen and cockpit solutions to assess their viability (there are plenty of videos on the internet showing sporting and aerospatial tests on objects fired at cockpits) and nearly always come back with the same conclusion: that they either wouldn’t make much difference (none, in the case of Julies Bianchi’s accident) or they present additional safety considerations or obstacles, such as to driver extraction.

        Fingers crossed Justin Wilson pulls through.

        1. @optimaximal @daved @erikhfp – A racing fan for about 50 years I have seen too many drivers leave us too early. So many advances have been made in so many areas of racing safety I can’t help but think that there is more that can be done in this area. I agree that there have been improvements made around the area of the driver’s head and upper body. Obviously every accident or type of accident is different and there is no complete failsafe solution other than not racing. Since people will continue to race there has to be a way to make this situation better than it is currently.

          The driver’s head and upper body is more enveloped by the surrounding structure of the car than in the past. But as I wish I had not seen, the driver’s head should not be the first point of impact by debris. Seeing that impact and the results is something I wish to never see again. The thought literally makes me feel ill.

          I admit to waffling on this issue previously. I do think there are potential problems with a canopy solution. Will it be safer and save more lives and injuries? How well do the canopies work on Le Mans cars and how are they implemented? This can be engineered and implemented and must be done.

          1. @bullmello WEC cars do not have ‘canopies’ in the same way that an enclosed Open Wheel racer would. They have structural cockpits with doors, frames and windows, like a normal car. Yes, they look like a bubble cockpit from a fighter aircraft, but they are a world away from anything that could be implemented on an open-wheel racer.

            Consider a F1 car that has just launched off a rival and now lies upside down and burning. At the moment, the driver has a chance to release their restraints and crawl free through the opening created by the car lying on its side by the rollbar and nose structure. Now, consider the situation of him/her being pinned in situ by a closed canopy?

          2. @optimaximal inside a sealed canopy the driver would be fine, even if he were unconscious, until rescue arrived in less than two minutes as FIA stipulates.

            Not that there aren’t some scenarios where a canopy would make things worse it’s true, but the same can be said for helmets and seatbelts.

        2. How rare is rare though? There have been multiple head injuries and simply from that context wilson’s crash was not just preventable but also predictable. How many more accidents like these we need before this is fixed? Because there will be more. We already had surtees, massa and more from the earlier days of f1. We had Cristiano da Matta hit a deer. We have had many close calls in f1 cars sliding over each other and mostly just by sheer luck the driver’s head hasn’t collided with the other car.

          It is not a knee jerk reaction to anything less than simply preventing certain type of accident from happening again which has already happened multiple times. A canopy (or any other solution) won’t be able to help if the car hits a lorry or wheel loader but in this case wilson sure as hell would be at least conscious.

          I hope we never see more accidents like these. But hope doesn’t make them not happening anymore. So next time it happens I hope that there is more stuff between the driver’s head and the object going towards him than just my hope.

        3. Objects of various sizes impacting a driver’s head seem to be the main cause of serious injuries and death these days. You don’t really see broken bones so much now, nor the survival cell breaking apart on impact. Fires also seem to be rare and immediately doused by trackside marshals.

          The question fans and participants of the sport must consider IMO is: “would the sport be any less of a spectacle if closed cockpits were deemed safer?”.

          1. I want to add: I am hoping for the best outcome possible for Justin Wilson. My thoughts are with him and his family.

        4. petebaldwin (@)
          24th August 2015, 11:44

          @optimaximal – It’s not really a knee-jerk reaction anymore though is it? A knee-jerk reaction is a sudden, emotional response to an unexpected event. The FIA have already physically tested several different possible solutions when this was first brought up years ago!

          In my opinion, a clear decision needs to be made. Either we accept the risk that open cockpits pose as ‘part of the sport’ and move on accepting that at some point, a driver will likely die because of this decision or we move to closed cockpits. I don’t have any of the stats or data to show the additional issues that come with them though – can they see in heavy rain, what about night races, what happens if there is a fire etc.

          Ignoring the potential additional hazards mentioned above, is there any real benefit to the fans of having open cockpits?

          1. @petebaldwin

            A knee-jerk reaction is a sudden, emotional response to an unexpected event.

            Isn’t that what this entire conversation thread is? :)

            Personally, my opinion (as a fan) on F1’s car design is that it is what it is – I couldn’t care less whether the regulations dictate wide front wings, central-mounted exhausts or canopies. I just want good (safe as possible) racing and a financial model for the sport that means as many teams have a chance to win as possible.

            Ahh well, 1 out of 2 isn’t bad!

        5. Knee-jerk reaction? Rare incidents? Just a few names off the top of my head: Dan Wheldon, Felipe Massa, Maria de Villota, Jules Bianchi, Henry Surtees and now Justin Wilson…

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            24th August 2015, 17:44

            @optimaximal – I agree with your response to me but what Ludwig_M said is spot on. You say there’s a knee-jerk reaction to rare events when a driver gets hit in the head but it doesn’t seem that rare…

            F1 is much much safer than it was in previous years and whilst you can’t make open wheel motorsport completely safe, you have to do what you can to make the level of risk to drivers acceptable.

            It’s like the Bianchi incident where lots of people had questioned allowing cars to race past recovery vehicles but nothing was done. Then it nearly happened but everyone was ok and nothing happened. Eventually Jules had his accident and passed away. Instantly something happened.

            There is no excuse this time. The risks aren’t any higher simply because someone has died. If the FIA say it’s acceptably safe to continue with open cockpits now, they are saying it’s acceptably safe to race with open cockpits regardless of any incidents that happen.

          2. Ludwig: “Knee-jerk reaction? Rare incidents? Just a few names off the top of my head: Dan Wheldon, Felipe Massa, Maria de Villota, Jules Bianchi, Henry Surtees and now Justin Wilson…”

            If these tragic events had taken place within the space of a few months, I would agree with you but to make any meaningful analysis, the number of drivers racing and the number of racing laps completed would have to be factored in before a “risk” factor could be calculated. Clearly, these are actually a very small number of incidents over a long time frame when compared with the number of motorpsort events held globally…

        6. @optimaximal
          No, this is not a knee-jerk reaction. And your assumption that it is is condescending. We’ve talked about this on here before, many times in fact. Yes, we’ve heard the arguments about “getting stuck in a car upside down with the car on fire and the top stuck”. Yes, and we heard the same arguments from the car industry when they resisted putting seat belts in cars for decades: “Oh, what if the car goes into a river or catches on fire and you can’t get out”.

          There is plenty of history to show which outcome is more likely: getting stuck in a car upside down while it’s on fire or getting hit in the head with debris. And the results show that it’s not even close.

          I’ve argued for closed cockpits on here for years, every time we talk about safety or even aero discussions and new F1 regulations. I know it’s not popular but I happen to LIKE the closed cockpit renderings from RBR and McLaren.

          This is not a knee-jerk reaction.

      4. What about a small windscreen, it doesn’t need to be very high to deflect objects coming straight at the driver’s head and it would mean they can still get out quickly. It would create more drag but better that than what has happened to Wilson, Massa, Surtees and more.

        This might be totally unrealistic, I’m no engineer, just putting it out there…

        1. “a small windscreen” Would’ve made no difference in the case of Surtees with a 50kg tyre landing on his head from above

          1. @tonybananas I admit to not seeing Surtees accident so I was assuming it would have helped there. But I would have thought that with the strength of some plastics these days and designed with the right angles there could be sufficient deflective power to help in some circumstances at least. (and by small I meant to cover the height of the top of the visor)

            As I said, I’m no engineer I just haven’t seen the suggestion before… Maybe that is why?

    4. It looks like a small hit but with the speed this guys were going yesterda, it was a huge impact. Then we saw Justin’s car going on the wall unassisted (like Massa in Hungary ’09) and our fears begun.
      The race should’ve been red flagged if they knew he was unconscious, but I guess they didn’t want to panic people.
      Wish him all the best.

  2. Cool pic by Grosjean – I like the guy, he seems so down-to-earth.

    1. I notice that he’s drinking F1’s official champagne brand. That man is a consummate professional. ;)

      1. And he is hoping for a case of same to be delivered to his home as a thank you from the vigneron.

    2. I like how the kitchen seems to be a bit messy.

      1. Yes…cause a messy kitchen is the embodiment of a man of the people. Hmmm

      2. @verstappen He has two children, what do you expect? :)

      3. How is the kitchen messy?

      4. @verstappen: If you think that kitchen is “messy” then I would fear for your sanity if you visited me…

  3. Regarding Vettel’s tyre blowout and all the talk about how many laps etc, I haven’t seen anyone talking about the fact that he spent more time on the kerbs and driving outside of the track limits, than he did on the track itself. It might have been expected to do at least 40 laps, but those probably weren’t 40 laps on the kerbs and other potential rubbish and sharp edges that line the track.

    1. He wasn’t driving any differently from any of the other drivers who were all using plenty of kerb as they do every year at Spa.

      1. Yep, but I agree with @brace. These other drivers weren’t doing monster stints that push the tires close to their limits of wear. If you want to execute an aggressive tire stint length strategy you’d better drive accordingly

        1. Pirelli know how the drivers use the kerbs at Spa they should take that in to account in the tyre life they tell teams to expect. They said 40 laps, Vettel was well under that limit, see also the comments from Andy Green of Force India that Vettels’s tyres still had plenty of life as shown by his lap times.

          1. +1 I don’t get why do people keep bringing up Vettel going over the curbs like it should somehow decrease the lifetime from 40 to 27. Everyone keeps talking about it. And this guy says “I haven’t seen anyone talking about blablabla”. lol

          2. petebaldwin (@)
            24th August 2015, 11:54

            I’ll ask a straight question:
            Driver A is careful with his tyres allowing him to do 40+ laps before pitting safely.
            Driver B goes flat out, aggressively attacking the curbs and often going all 4 wheels off the track. After 30 laps, his tyres give way and he has a blowout.

            Should the limit therefore be set at 30 laps?

          3. Given all the drivers are competing in a race, I would think you should always set a limit based on the tyres being driven hard, after all they could be used for the first stint with full fuel, what is the point in giving teams a limit based on driving a whole stint cautiously? Otherwise how can the limits be used to plan a safe strategy?

          4. petebaldwin (@)
            24th August 2015, 17:49

            Exactly – that’s the problem (well… you could argue solution!):

            You effectively are telling all drivers they need to drive flat out on the tyres because if they save them, they’ll go beyond the lap limit and will have to put anyway. I suppose you could argue that’s a good thing but it removes quite a large aspect of the tactical battle we sometimes see.

    2. I don’t know where the figure of 40 laps is coming from but today, Hembury is saying that the Spa medium compound was always rated at 22 laps maximum.. This puts a whole new perspective on the issue..

  4. That’s probably the best COTD we’ve ever had. Well done @Beneboy!

    On another matter, why aren’t different mixed-compounds sets allowed in F1? they always want to spice up strategies, that’d be a great way. In MotoGP it works wonders. They even have special tyres that have both compounds in the same wheel.

    So many options, it could spice things up a lot. I don’t like that sort of thing, but instead of refuelling, I’d accept that !

    1. Guess that at least in part it has to do with the obligation to use both compounds. Imagine a car using both on their stint and never having to stop again because of it. But maybe its just that its incredibly hard to predict what differing tyres would do with car’s handing?

    2. @fer-no65
      Thanks mate, think I may have revealed a bit more about myself than I intended though…

      1. @beneboy a story of sucess tho ! it brings hope, it shows everything is possible, nothing is unreachable… if the lights are dim enough :P

  5. The way that nose cone flew up after hitting Wilson’s car. Chilling. Hoping for the best.

  6. Terrible news concerning Justin Wilson. I really hope that he recovers, as he has done several times before.
    As for Sage Karam, I hope this incident changes his reckless attitude. He hasn’t shown much regard for his fellow drivers this year, and it just seemed like it was a matter of time before he was involved in something really bad. I’m a fan of open wheel / open cockpit racing, but sometimes I wonder if these cars belong on ovals at all.

    1. Sage really had nothing to do with it other than loosing it while leading. Lots of drivers were out of the race at that point he was hardly the first. The nose cone came down looking surprisingly intact and seemed to hover at head height for a while before Justin drove into it. It was ugly to see. I think in the coming days there will be much talk on how to make the cars and drivers safer. I was never a big fan of the closed cockpit idea but I can’t see how it could have hurt in this particular crash. I also was surprised to see the nose cone so intact after the initial impact. I can’t say I’ve seen a modern F1 nose bust off like that. Shattering yes but shearing off like that no.

      1. Yes, there were only 12 cars left in the race at the end, lots of incidents on the Tricky Triangle. Helio Castroneves lost his car in similar fashion a few laps earlier, though maybe his tires were especially cool immediately after a re-start.

        Wilson was a long way behind Sage so he wasn’t directly impacted by the car, but rather by debris. Wilson was maybe unsighted by another car as he approached the debris, but he had no time to avoid the nose cone. Scary.

        On-track debris is a feature of oval racing, especially with open wheel cars and it’s obviously a hazard to drivers as well as to spectators. I hope something can be done soon to mitigate these risks.

      2. True that Karam was only guilty of losing control, but the way he has been cultivating his reputation lately is unprofessional to say the least. For instance, here’s an article published just before the race:

    2. I don’t understand why Karam is praised as the future of Indycar. He’s highly overrated and doesn’t seem to respect other drivers. Chaves and Newgarden are much more complete as drivers and are able to drive wheel to wheel with others

    3. Like Jody Scheckter post Watkins 1973..

  7. Just heard about him being in a coma. Get well soon Justin! Thoughts and prayers go to him, his family and friends.

  8. My thoughts and prayers for Justin Wilson and his family.

    The sport of racing provides a lot of pleasure and sometimes a lot of heartbreak. I have loved racing since I was a kid, about 50 years now. From Jim Clark until this moment I sometimes wonder why… Maybe the answer is because I always wanted to race and would do it myself if I had the chance. I know racers know the risks they are taking when they race. Somehow that doesn’t make us feel any better when something like this happens. After watching what happened I felt a bit sick to my stomach. I can only imagine how his family feels.

    Maybe it is time to go from open cockpit to closed canopy. It could be done like the Le Mans cars. Perhaps another day would be better for that debate. Or, if not now, when? I don’t know.

    Think I’ll just say another prayer for Justin Wilson and his family.

    1. As above, it can’t be done ‘just like Le Mans cars’. There’s a significant difference between a canopy and a structural load-bearing roof.

  9. Every time there is a risk of cars being impounded, the threatened team produces its best result. Quick Jenson, do the same with McLaren for Monza!

    1. When you have a teammate who says: “I finished the race 40 seconds ahead of my teammate, almost a second faster per lap with the same equipment, when he won here a few years ago. The car performed well,” when your car is not even working properly, I reckon there is not much you can do.

      1. Joke dude :)

  10. I agree Ferrari don’t go for agressive strategies. We saw that in Spain and Monaco. What about the Pirelli engineer from Ferrari garage? He should have warned the team if the tyre situation was critical.

  11. Oh no! Just get better soon Justin.

  12. ColdFly F1 (@)
    24th August 2015, 8:44

    I like the way Lotus/Federico Gastaldi are resolving the issue with Pic – very mature and gentlemen-like.
    Maybe it should not even have gotten this far, but what a difference with the mud slinging from Sauber/Monisha earlier this year in Melbourne.

  13. Renault takeover Force India to when Hulk ready to move somewhere else:

    “There are a few good options out there. I’ll be here next year in a good car.”

    Hulk gonna lost better opportunity again?

  14. The idea of Renault taking over Force India excites me. Hulkenberg and Perez in a works outfit? Excellent!

  15. I wholeheartedly agree with and love the CotD.

    Sad to hear that Justin Wilson’s life is threatened. He used to be one of my favourites during his time at Minardi, because of his rocket starts.

  16. F1 with a completely enclosed cockpit does not really appeal, but with today’s tec im sure an open caged erea can be constructed to sit around a drivers upper body which is rigid and afford protection, a quick release system incorporated in the design to be operated from within or externally

  17. RIP Mr. Ligier. And thoughts and prayers to the Wilsons.

  18. I don’t even follow IndyCar, but that looked terrible. I hope Justin recovers from this. Praying for him.

  19. “Forty laps, you told us,” Vettel said to him – a reference to the recommended maximum tyre life Pirelli had indicated to Ferrari, the fact that the tyre failed after only 28, and the lack of any kind of warning from Pirelli to Ferrari that there might be a problem.

    But in the paddock there was scepticism about wear being the cause – because Vettel’s lap times were still strong and there had been no sign of the so-called ‘cliff’, when the tyres suddenly lose grip.
    Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane said he was “surprised” to hear Pirelli had blamed wear.

    “You would not have a reliability worry about that,” Permane said. “They would generally get to being undriveable before they became unsafe; you would pit stop way before anything like that happened.
    “I’d be very surprised if it was a wear-related failure, because they lose performance as you wear them down.”

  20. Just heard Justin Wilson just died. My deepest condolences to his family, friends and his fans.

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