In the aftermath of Maria de Villota’s truly awful accident the immediate focus has been, quite rightly, on her condition. However, already, questions are being raised about whether she should have been in an F1 car at all and, more legitimately, about safety standards at the straight-line test. On the first of these, de Villota was a driver, like many, many others with the desire and ambition to be a F1 driver in whatever capacity she could. She cannot be criticised for that. She was not the first and won’t be the last driver whose chances were influenced by finance as much as or more than previous results. The fact that she is a woman has no relevance to this or to her accident. I admire her spirit and only hope this beautiful and ambitious young woman can make as full a recovery as is possible.
On the issue of track safety, there was a time when safety standards on test days were lax compared with those of official race weekends – with no trackside marshals or proper rescue and medical facilities. This approach cost the lives of talented drivers such as Elio De Angelis and Patrick Depailler in testing accidents. F1 rightly took the view that this could not continue. Whatever the ultimate cause, which is not yet certain, this week’s events emphasise that there are no circumstances in which safety in F1 can or should be compromised.
FORMULA ONE MUM