MAY 1, 2002
Eight years ago today...
EIGHT years ago today we were at Imola undergoing the worst weekend in modern Formula 1 history. It was a race that has had enormous repercussions in the years that have followed both in terms of safety but also because it deprived us of the one man who might have been able to keep Michael Schumacher in check. Without Ayrton Senna, Schumacher has been able to break all the records and while one cannot blame Schumacher for this, it does somehow detract from his achievement. If Senna had lived he would be retired by now and it would be an irrelevant point but we will always wonder what might have happened in the late 1990s had he not been killed at Imola.
The good news is that nowadays there is much less complacency about safety than there was before the accident at Imola. If you look back to April 10 1994 you will find a Globetrotter column called "That Sao Paulo crash..." which highlighted the fears which, a few weeks later, became a reality.
Today there is still the danger that a driver will be killed. That danger will always be there for this is a dangerous sport but the likelihood of its happening has been reduced enormously thanks to the efforts of people like Professor Sid Watkins, Charlie Whiting, Peter Wright, the late Harvey Postlethwaite and many others who have worked quietly and scientifically to bring up safety standards.
There are still areas which are worrying. The standard of decision-making amongst the stewards is sometimes alarming given the things that we have seen done. The modern F1 cars are so safe that drivers will take much bigger risks than ever they did before. These will inevitably lead to accidents and to people being hurt or killed. If you read the report of the Belgian GP of 2000 you will find a warning of what happened two weeks later at Monza.
Thankfully, however, the safety record is remarkable. Let us hope it stays that way so we can avoid ever having to go through what happened at Imola again.
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