Danger a key part of F1’s appeal – Vettel

2016 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says danger remains an important part of F1’s appeal but the sport must continue to improve safety standards.

Speaking at the FIA’s Sport Conference in Turin Vettel explained why he feels danger is an important ingredient of the sport’s popularity.

“What fascinated me as a child was the speed,” Vettel said. “I think racing should keep its core pillars. Speed is one essential one.”

“The cornering speeds that we can do is incredible. It has remained one of the main pillars throughout, speaking to drivers such as Stirling Moss, at that time a Formula One car was the best car you could drive and the most exciting one.”

“I think to some extent the ingredient was danger as well, that makes it exciting. Just coming from Baku last week, the circuit I think got a lot of criticism for being too dangerous. I disagree. I think the FIA and the people in Baku, the organisers had done a hell of a job fitting that race track in a place where arguably it is not made for racing, but it’s fantastic, it’s a spectacular venue, there’s very little room for error and that’s what makes it so exciting. I think that’s what made it exciting in the past and what still makes it exciting today.”

Poll: Is danger an essential part of F1?
The FIA has drawn criticism over its plan to introduce the Halo head protection structure to improve driver safety in the wake of recent motor racing fatalities. Vettel says the sport cannot ignore the need to improve safety.

“The fact that the cars have become a lot safer obviously is a lot nicer for us,” he said. “Knowing a little bit of the history, reading a bit, many years ago obviously the drivers weren’t as lucky, the cars weren’t as safe as they are now.”

“So I think you need to find the right compromise. The ingredient for passion, for speed, for danger, noise, is very important. Equally we want to make the sport safer. We can’t shut out eyes, if bad things happen I think we need to react and I think we have in the last years and we still do now. I think that’s the right approach.

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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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    32 comments on “Danger a key part of F1’s appeal – Vettel”

    1. I might be in the minority with this one, but I think the introduction of the head protection for 2017 is not a good time. If F1 is serious about this issue, it needs to rethink the whole of the car in order to incorporate canopies. 2017 would have been a good year, if the research into canopies would have started earlier, thus allowing for good solutions to be developed. What we are left with now are quickly designed stopgap solutions to a bigger issue, which they are forcing onto cars which are supposed to look better. The Halo looks awful, just awful and I sincerely doubt its effectiveness against smaller debris or vertical impacts. It is not what F1 should be aiming for, and a much more streamlined solution should be researched.

      I think Vettel cannot say it for reasons that are evident, but the head protection is a sore to him and many others in F1. Danger is part of the game. It is why the Isle of Man TT is so popular, and still going strong, why we have air races, skydiving competitions, free climbing and free diving competitions. Danger attracts those who are willing to go beyond the edge and push sports to higher levels. Many drives would be fine with a canopy solution, streamlined into the design. But most are against an ugly contraption merely there to satisfy the FIA. The FIA should research the canopy, and once it is clear it can be incorporated, THEN let the teams design their cars around it.

      1. I cannot disagree with this. The halo is bad news for F1, it looks ugly and I doubt its effectiveness in protecting the driver. They may have tested it by shooting a Pirelli tyre at it but the tyres from next year are supposed to be much bigger and heavier. Will the halo be strong enough to withstand next years tyre?

        1. Right and the idiots who test these things forgot that Pirelli are changing the tyre dimensions, and that they’re gonna be heavier next year? Is that how it works? That’s laughable beyond belief.

          When something is built to take a certain weight, it is engineered in such a way that in fact it could probably take 3 or 4 times the weight its built for. Everything has a safety margin, especially if its a safety device like this one.

          Each pillar of a bridge could take way more weight than is needed, each wall in a house could hold more than needed, a double decker bus won’t flip even if the whole upper deck is full and the lower deck empty, and its going round a corner at the highest speed possible, on a negative camber road bend. Hell even the screws that hold things together, they could probably take an average 16 year olds weight before failing. I’d imagine the halo is just like that. Its made for one tyre at a time, its made for one front wing at a time, but in theory if you were to get a Pirelli tyre which weighed 4 times as much, I think the halo would still survive. And if it doesn’t survive that, then the FIA needs to question its safety margin.

          I’m not saying that the halo is the best solution, far from it, nor am I saying that the introduction hasn’t been rushed, and I agree that more time could be spent perhaps perfecting the solution or looking at a full canopy. I was just merely refuting your assumption that they haven’t taken the new tyre dimensions into account

          1. I’d be more concerned about an accident like Fernando’s last one – and Joe much more difficult it would have been for him to exit the turned vehicle.
            Let alone if you turn the halo upside down it makes a great roto-tiller.

            1. @sjzelli Alonso himself has said he would prefer to have Halo in another such crash:


            2. Yeah but he has to say that, doesn’t he? He can be faulting something he’s pushing for. I imagine he’d be more critical had he plowed a few yards of soil and was pinned.

            3. *can’t

      2. @tamburello I think it is pure assumption on your part to claim the halo is a rushed idea and that a canopy can be developed without totally changing the face of F1. I think you are way underestimating the amount of research that has been going into these types of things over the years, going back at least to Senna’s death.

        @rob91 Same. You make it sound like these are high school kids doing some science fair project. As if they wouldn’t be accounting for the new tires in their testing. How do you think they just recently decided against the RBR aero screen prototype? By tossing a coin?

        1. @robbie I am not making it out to be a high school science project, I am questioning the effectiveness of the halo should the larger tyre strike it in action next year, it is a very valid concern.

          1. @rob91 Yup. I think they likely have that covered. I once heard it said that these teams have the knowledge in science and engineering to launch and orbit a satellite. Don’t you think it is safe to assume they’ve already thought of the bigger tires? You’re right, it’s a valid concern. They’re not likely reading this forum for reminders of what needs to concern them in their jobs.

        2. Not really. What I state is that I doubt its effectiveness against smaller debris going in between the guardrails and debris landing on the helmet from a much more vertical angle (Surtees). I do not doubt that a lot of research has gone in the protection of the heads, but I DO doubt that the HALO designs we have seen so far from Ferrari/Mercedes are in any way really thought out with the current car designs, IF we take into consideration that we want to protect the whole head of the driver. Look at the Ferrari Halo and tell me that looks like a finely tuned, well-incorporated device. It doesn’t. It looks like an afterthought, an addon. If heads need protection, either do it fully or don’t do it at all.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            22nd June 2016, 13:13

            The Ferrari thing wasn’t a finely tuned device. It was a crude bolt-on to test visibility for the drivers and to see what other issues it caused.

            I still remain unconvinced by the halo and the screen though to be honest.

          2. @tamburello I think the point is that if they want to protect the whole head to the extent you are expecting then that is going to take billions literally as it will mean the cars will no longer look as they currently do and will have to be completely revamped from what we have become accustomed. They’d have to be ready and willing to change the face of F1 completely and at huge expense and risk of turning off the audience.

            The reason the halo concepts look like bolt-ons is because they are, because they have to be, unless, again, they spend billions across all the teams and are ready to completely alter F1.

            I think their main concern has to be from larger debris such as tires and other large body parts. Those are what can do the most damage, as we’ve seen in Indy. The smaller debris is a concern sure, but the odds of that being fatal are much less. A halo would deflect said larger debris, would be relatively very inexpensive to employ, and wouldn’t cause the teams massive expense in totally rethinking everything.

            A halo won’t alter the aerodynamics factors that an aero screen does. A canopy simply cannot be employed until the cars are drastically changed as pointed out above. A halo still provides access to an unconscious driver. There are no concerns with a dirty windscreen, or condensation inside, with a halo.

            Bottom line as I see it…get used to something that looks bolt-on unless you think F1 can afford billions to turn cars into something more like we see in WEC, at huge aesthetic and financial risk to F1 as we have known it for decades. Try to trust that they have detailed options such as canopies over several decades, so nothing here has been rushed. We are seeing the findings of their best compromises all around, with these halos.

      3. I agree in that I think that there are enough “problems” with F1 that a total redesign of the cars and rules may be in order and may have been the better option. I’m sure the halo is an engineered device capable of doing what it’s designed to do and have no concerns about it’s effectiveness.

    2. Danger is not a part of F1, being punished for mistakes is (see Baku vs. Abu Dhabi). Obviously this is where safety comes in. The punishement should never be death or a serious physical injury.

      1. Tony Mansell
        22nd June 2016, 10:20

        A risk is not a punishment. I don’t want drivers to die but I don’t want them driving round in cotton wool either. Watching the TT you realize how far F1 is from its ‘core pillar’. It doesn’t attract risk takers anymore and that’s another reason it all looks a bit safe. The fact we see every single fatal a million times on youtube is the reason everyone thinks something must be done to stop whatever it was that led to that accident that led to that death.

        1. FlyingLobster27
          22nd June 2016, 14:18

          I am so sick of the “Four-a-Year” Isle of Man being cited in these debates! Saying “I don’t want drivers to die” and bringing up the TT is a statistical contradiction! The Isle of Man’s death rate has not improved since the 60s, and there have only been two deathless years there since the war, one of which because the races were cancelled (2001, foot-and-mouth).
          Yes, the TT is for very brave risk-takers and it is impressive, but it’s simply not representative of motor racing as a whole. It used to be, which is part of the charm, but it’s not “core” to the sport anymore. It’s not relevant to be compared with anything else out there, because there are so many alternatives which make obituaries at least unlikely. And drivers who don’t want to grieve after every event, take those daredevil risks and most people who genuinely “don’t want drivers to die” head for those.

        2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
          22nd June 2016, 14:19

          But it needs to attract spectators as well. And spectators don’t need to leave home having witnessed death. I don’t mean, with this, that for this reason everything should be softened in F1. But accidents will always happen. Why not trying as much as possible to protect the drivers?
          I agree that drivers should be punished but not injured. Solutions as the one in Canada, which made drivers who cut the last chicane take a longer line, are good. Maybe the halo is too open in the middle sector over the driver’s head, but they are heading into the right direction. And it will evolve, it won’t remain ugly. Be sure of that.
          Drivers will benefit from this ugly thing. How many complained that the HANS was too uncomfortable? And yet it has saved many.

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        22nd June 2016, 13:10

        That is danger though. The danger is if you run wide, you will hit a wall.

        What we need in F1 is heavily controlled danger. Yes you might hit a wall but you’ll walk away from it…

        1. @petebaldwin You’re just exactly repeating what I said now…?

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            22nd June 2016, 20:27

            @xtwl – Yeah I agree with you – I think you misunderstood Seb though. He’s not saying people should die. I think he agrees with you too – there should be consequences for mistakes but it should be safe.

    3. petebaldwin (@)
      22nd June 2016, 13:06

      “…speaking to drivers such as Stirling Moss, at that time a Formula One car was the best car you could drive and the most exciting one.”

      So it’s not now?

      1. @petebaldwin

        I think there are many drivers who would say it is not. Unfortunately, the current tire regulations are partially to blame, as drivers want to be able to REALLY lean on the car and lean on the tires, to be on the ragged edge of the performance envelope through every corner, which they are rarely if ever able to do.

        What else makes a great car? Surgically precise handling with sensitive feel for the surface, razor sharp reflexes, superior driveability and traction, the feeling that whatever your skills allow, your car will do NOW, and exactly in the way you command. The suspension geometry and mechanical grip that underly many of these traits are now designed under the constraint of maintaining as stable a platform for the aero as possible, which changes how a car feels, and how it handles when the downforce is taken off.

        But mainly it’s because at the time, a Formula 1 car WAS the cutting edge of automotive racing design and technology. Stirling drove before the revolution in sports prototypes. I think you would find a lot of drivers saying an LMP1 car is the best car you could drive now. It’s basically an F1 car with skin and none of the compromises. And a modern rail dragster at 300 MILES per hour the most exciting. Anyone who has been to a full-on NHRA event will tell you that it is a life-changing experience. The ground literally shakes with the power of those engines.

    4. Some drivers are for the halo and some are not. Let the drivers have a vote and make a decision based on the guys that wheel these cars around. I doubt F1 loses money and sponsorship because people feel F1 isn’t safe enough. We all took time to get used to the hybrids and and we ve accepted it but the halo thing may not be as easy. Tradition is important in any aspect of life and or sports. The single seater open head cockpit is tradition and don’t call me an old fashion has been. I’m 26 .

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        22nd June 2016, 17:09

        I’m used to the hybrids now – the “sound” of F1 is sadly no longer a point of interest to me. It used to be one of F1’s biggest USPs – listen to any F1 related advert from this year and you’ll realise that they’re still using the old engine sound on most!

        There was the advert for that weird German shampoo (Alpacin I think?) where they said “it’s racing off the shelves.” They wanted to associate themselves with F1 (without paying for it) so they used the V6 engine sound as a way of doing so. If they’d played a hybrid engine sound, it wouldn’t work because no-one would make the link.

        For me, the sound a car makes is a big deal. It’s as important as looks. Now, I understand that F1 isn’t about aesthetics but part of my interest in the sport is. In the past, I watched F1 because I loved seeing and hearing the cars circulate – any close action was an added bonus. These days, I watch F1 for on track battles and strategy. When nothing is going on, there isn’t really anything to keep my interest!

        1. @petebaldwin

          Indeed. I went to Barcelona in 2014 and witnessed the sound of the current cars. I almost lapsed into a depression. I have not been to a GP since (having been to 37 before) and won’t unless/until they sound like racing cars again. Sound was a MASSIVE part of F1. Now (for me) it is a TV sport, and TV only.

    5. I don’t think F1 has to be dangerous to be exciting, but I do think we should have the feeling that what we are watching can only be done by a handful of people in the world. I no longer have that feeling with F1 and that has negatively impacted my enjoyment of sport.

      1. @velocityboy If Palmer can do it I’m pretty sure I can too.

        1. @xtwl LOL! Thanks for that.

    6. Pretty strong words from a guy who’s never been able to overtake without DRS and screams on the radio the moment anyone challenges him wheel to wheel.

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