Alexander Wurz is a man who has been around a paddock or two. He has driven about everything and has dipped his toe in the tepid waters of Formula One on a few occasions. He now drives sports cars fast…very fast. As a veteran of Formula 1 and other forms of motor sport, Wurz has seen his share of close calls and with the recent race-ban for Romain Grosjean’s first-turn incident at the belgian Grand Prix, the Austrian-born driver thinks it’s indicative of the new breed of driver. Wurz told Reuters Alan Baldwin (check out Alan’s story, it’s a good read):
“Things like the start collision with Romain can and will always happen,” told Reuters.
“But especially looking at GP2 races, which is the feeder series, the driver standards there are appalling – bad, very bad – and they are coming in to F1.
“It’s something we clearly must work on that the feeder series are very strict and of the same standard as F1. And we have to achieve this and address it very quickly.”
Those are harsh words but its a refrain we’re hearing a lot. SPEED’s pit lane reporter, Will Buxton, is no stranger to GP2 and said that there are signs of a different approach to driving in the junior feeder-series that are concerning. There are many junior forms of racing and the younger the drivers are, the less they are aware of the dangers of the sport. While Formula 1 has not had a death in the series since 1994, we discuss that track record in the penumbra of the death of a man who was very responsible for this record, Professor Sid Watkins. Sadly the singular man in F1’s safety and medical history passed away today.
In the end, young drivers are aggressive and the series of Formula One is nearly impossible to get in to. When a young man does get the chance, he’s pushing every limit he can to make a name and hold his spot in F1. The lack of a recent death in F1 is no reason to ignore just how dangerous it can be and that doesn’t only apply the the offending driver but to other drivers, track-side workers and spectators alike. Freak accidents like that of Felipe Massa or Henry Surtees can happen in a blink of an eye and that is the nature of a sport contested at 200 mph. Those incidents were not born from aggressive driving but demonstrates how quick something can happen and when you push the limits and add dodgy, aggressive moves to the equation, it only ratchets up the chances of serious injury or death.
Red Bull’s, Mark Webber wrote in his BBC column:
“You do need to get involved but some guys are having more incidents than the others and they need to take that on board,” said the Red Bull driver. “We should be the best at what we do, racing in all conditions on all kinds of tracks, and driver etiquette has to match that.”
Romain Grosjean has had 7 incidents in 12 races and while not all of those are patently his fault, he has been the least common denominator in the incidents. Pastor Maldonado has had his fair share of incidents as well and was penalized heavily at the Belgian Grand Prix. Stewards are cracking down on the aggressiveness in Formula One but if the junior series aren’t going to do the same, F1 could end of up being the series in which these young drivers find limits and hone some of their first steps in race craft and quite honestly, those elements should already be there when they get to this level of motor sport.