Fear Factor By Kelly Batke Not since the tragic loss of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger has the Formula One arena appeared so bleak. The realisation of just how fragile we are was displayed by last weekâ€™s terrorism attack on the United...
By Kelly Batke
Not since the tragic loss of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger has the Formula One arena appeared so bleak. The realisation of just how fragile we are was displayed by last week’s terrorism attack on the United States. Adding to this realisation was the news of Alex Zanardi’s devastating accident that claimed both his legs and memories of the 31 year old marshal who was killed by and incident on the first lap at last year's Italian GP. Who would have ever thought we would witness Michael Schumacher leading a brigade on Formula One safety? Last week’s events appeared to have altered risk perception for a lot of drivers.
There was much speculation last week on whether the Italian Grand Prix should even have taken place. The repercussions of last week’s terrorism in the U.S. clearly split the paddock in two. People either believed motor racing was too insignificant considering the tragedy of the World Trade Centre (WTC) or they thought canceling the Grand Prix would be giving in to the terrorists. After all, even the American President urged people to go back to work. Yet still, it was apparent that no one really wanted to go to the US.
Then came news of Zanardi’s accident. Severe injuries are accepted as part of the sport. However, the atrocity of Zanardi’s injuries sent a message loud and clear. Motor racing comprises intense speed, adrenaline and competition, but it is also has tragic consequences. Suddenly our heroes of auto racing were suddenly reduced to mere mortals.
We hear countless arguments pertaining to the driver’s salaries. Michael Schumacher may be the highest paid athlete in the world, but all the money in the world cannot shelter him from injury or death. No driver is too important, or immune from fate. But can you fear death and still be a good racer? When a race is about to start, shouldn’t a driver’s mind be focused only on winning? Sure fear establishes boundaries and limits but a grid full of incident fearing drivers could have produced a potentially dangerous atmosphere in Monza.
There are definite aspects of motor racing that only the drivers are qualified to question, one of course, being safety. Prior to the race, several of the drivers criticized the safety of the Monza circuit, arguing that more chicanes were needed to slow down the cars. If the FIA had sanctioned the track safe, wasn’t that proof enough? The apprehension leading up to the race was more deeply rooted than just another track safety concern. The terrorism in the U.S., Zanardi’s accident, and even chaos in the F3000 race that proceeded qualifying, all had cast a heavy cloud on the F1 race that had yet to take place.
It wasn’t much of surprise though that Jacques Villeneuve disagreed with Schumacher’s apparent attempt of persuading every driver to refrain from overtaking in the first two chicanes. Villeneuve, notorious for his outspoken views made no secret of his opinions on the matter. He signed a contract and he intended to race. It wasn’t so much Schumacher’s concerns that agitated Villeneuve along with the team bosses, but the timing in which he acted. No concerns were voiced at the beginning of the weekend, leaving Schumacher and his followers all the less powerful. The team bosses, obviously furious, imposed orders on their drivers to be competitive in the first two chicanes. Jenson Button was obviously listening, but was anyone else? Unfortunately for Button, not only did he fail to impress his boss by unintentionally taking out his future teammate Jarno Trulli but he also received criticism from his fellow drivers for breaking the “Pact.”
Schumacher may be regarded as somewhat of leader or spokesperson s. for the Formula One drivers, so his opinion should have been highly s. regarded. However, Schumacher also had the least at stake by s. forfeiting the race or any championship point As the sport now heads s. back across the water there are still plenty of issues yet to be s. resolved. Monza may be completed but there are still two races to s. go, and despite a two week gap between races, emotions will continue s. to remain high. Many of the drivers have already expressed their s. unwillingness to be present at the US Grand Prix. For the time being,s. it appears irrelevant to the team bosses on whether a driver wishes s. to race or not. The drivers may be the ones making all the money, buts. the bosses still make the rule s.