F1 Midweek – Safety First

Kansas City – The whirlwind that was last Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix certainly has made an impact on the season. I say this for many reasons, chief amongst them being the fact that now we will not be seeing a Mercedes season sweep. Though it would be too much to say that Hamilton’s brake failure destroyed what momentum the team had, it certainly made a major impact upon that force of nature that has been Mercedes AMG Petronas. On the other hand, Nico Rosberg was able to stay in the race to the end, despite finishing in 2nd, his resilience and sheer luck may be what keeps Mercedes at the top.

This past weekend also saw the reawakening of the Red Bulls, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo securing the team’s first win since the final race of 2013 last November in Brazil. From all the reports that I have read and heard, Ricciardo appears to be one of the nicest guys in Formula 1 right now. For that reason alone, I was happy for his win on Sunday.

Red Bull’s momentum could very well keep up with the next few races, as the circus returns to Austria on the weekend of the 22nd for the first time since 2003. The race will be held at Red Bull’s home circuit, the aptly named Red Bull Ring. It will be good to see the sport return to such a beautiful country.

On the flip side from the jubilation of the Red Bulls, Sunday saw quite a few mishaps and crashes. Starting on Lap 1 with Max Chilton crashing his Marussia into the car of his French teammate Jules Bianchi. Chilton has been given a three-place grid penalty in Austria as punishment for his actions in Canada. At the far end of the race from the elimination of the Marussias, Force India’s Sergio Pérez and Williams’ Felipe Massa made contact at Turn 1 on Lap 70, sending both drivers hurtling with the force of 27 Gs into the barriers. Thankfully both the Mexican and Brazilian were released from hospital soon there after without any reports of major injuries.

The questions arose soon there after as to whom was to blame for the crash. From the initial Formula 1 television feed it appeared that Massa had made contact with Pérez, thus making Massa the guilty party. However, according to an FIA analysis, Pérez left his line at the last moment, crossing into Massa’s path, which then resulted in their elimination from the race and close encounter of an unwanted kind with the Turn 1 barriers. Naturally, Force India has denied that Pérez caused the crash.

In a press release that appeared on the Force India Facebook page on Monday the 9th, Pérez said, “I was following the same line and braking patterns as in the previous laps and I just got hit from behind by Massa.” He continued later saying, “I watched several replays of the incident and I can’t help but notice how Felipe turns right just before he hits me.”

Pérez's statements on the crash. / Sahara Force India Formula One Team Facebook

Pérez’s statements on the crash. / Sahara Force India Formula One Team Facebook

On the Williams team website, the race recap told a slightly different, if not more simple, version of what happened, with their main comment on the crash being, “Felipe was attacking Perez for fourth on the final lap when Perez crashed into him.”

One thing we can say for certain is that the sport’s safety has greatly improved in the last 20 years. Thankfully, as I already said, both drivers were able to walk away from their cars after a fashion. Because of the force of the crash, when Lap 70 finished, my family was far more muted in our celebrations of Ricciardo’s first grand prix win than we would have been otherwise.

After this past weekend’s race in Canada, I am unsure what to expect in Austria. True, it is very likely that the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix will be won by either a Mercedes or a Red Bull, but with the issues that plagued the teams last weekend, one can never be too sure of what will come next. Who knows, perhaps the lads at McLaren will finish on the podium following a Mercedes-Red Bull blow out similar to what happened to Pérez and Massa or even to what happened to the two Marussias on Lap 1.

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