Oct.18 (GMM/Inautonews.com) The death of Indycar driver Dan Wheldon is making waves even in the world of formula one.
As a Briton and a former track rival of contemporaries including Jenson Button, the 33-year-old was well-known in the F1 paddock and his death has been felt as a big blow.
Not surprisingly, formula one figures suggest Indycar has a lot to learn from F1.
“It is the most dangerous form of motor racing at the moment,” 1979 world champion Jody Scheckter, who wants his son Tomas to quit Indycar, told the BBC.
Also criticised since the crash has been the small size of the Las Vegas speedway, the large number of competing cars, the skills of some of the drivers and the very nature of high speed oval racing.
Former Super Aguri driver Anthony Davidson, a former junior rival of Wheldon’s, said: “The safety record in Indycar is not good and I would never drive there. It’s just not worth it. The cars are agricultural.”
Agreed David Coulthard – who moved to German touring cars after retiring from F1 in 2008 – in his Telegraph column: “I could have moved my family over there and made a life for myself in the United States.
“But the risk-reward ratio was simply too high for me. Formula one, I felt, was at an acceptable level but Indycar was, and is, probably 20 years behind F1 in terms of safety.”
Added 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell: “Formula one does an exemplary job.”
Coulthard added: “With any luck it (Wheldon’s death) will spur on the IRL to improve its safety record. Say what you like about Max Mosley but one thing that we in formula one must all thank him for was his response to (the deaths at) Imola in 1994.”
Sir Jackie Stewart agreed: “I think there needs to be more discipline by the (Indycar) governing body. If drivers do consistently collide with each other, there should be heavier penalties.”
British Racing Drivers’ Club president Derek Warwick said: “They need to understand the quality of the drivers that are in the field as well.
“With formula one the drivers are all great drivers who have won championships from working their way up from formula 3 to GP2 before they get a super licence to be able to race.
“I sometimes question the depth of talent in Indycar races and that will lead to inexperience and the inexperienced generally end up having accidents. They need to tweak what they’re doing a little bit,” said the 162 grand prix veteran.
Former McLaren driver Mark Blundell, who has also raced in America, added: “These kinds of cars shouldn’t have been running on these kinds of circuits.”
Stewart told Sky Sports: “It was such high speed on such a small track with too many cars together and not that many top racing drivers in there.
“It may be that we have to have smaller engines with smaller horsepower and slower speeds in Indycar racing.”
But Johnny Herbert, who flirted with a switch to America after retiring from F1 in 2000, thinks Indycar fatalities are inevitable.
“They will continue as long as this extreme form of motor sport exists,” the Briton wrote in his column for The National.
“The tremendous speed at which the cars travel, while separated by inches on those steep oval tracks, means you will likely see more deaths, no matter what safety measures are implemented.”