During the Russian Grand Prix weekend there was a big crash in Formula 2 involving Hitech Grand Prix’s Luca Ghiotto and Campos Racing’s Jack Aitken. Fortunately both drivers were able to walk away from the accident, but that shouldn’t mean the incident can be forgotten about as there is the potential to learn from it and improve safety further.
Firstly there shouldn’t be blame apportioned to either driver. There is always a risk that when going wheel to wheel through Turn 4 at Sochi Autodrom that either the slightest contact, or running onto any marbles, can send a car out wide and into the barriers. This is something that Dan Ticktum mentioned over the radio to his team when he saw the crash and asked for confirmation that both drivers were ok.Embed from Getty Images
The TecPro barrier did its job in absorbing some of the energy from the crash, as well as the cars protecting the drivers enough to enable them to walk away from the accident. However I feel there are some issues raised from the crash that the FIA could do with looking into as were the incident to have played out just a little bit differently, it could have been a fatal accident for one or both drivers.
The first issue is that of the cars managing to ‘go under’ the TecPro barrier. It may be that they are designed not to be fixed like an armco barrier but it means, as was seen, that should cars approach the barrier at particularly high speeds or a certain angle it creates the possibility of the barrier being flung over the car. This in turn has the added issue of making it difficult for marshals to either attend to the driver or to make the car safe, such as putting out a fire.Embed from Getty Images
The other concern involves Luca Ghiotto whose car not only appeared to ‘go under’ the TecPro but also ended up catching fire. By the time the fire was put out the car was an absolute wreck the likes that wouldn’t have looked out of place in motorsport during the 1950s or 1960s. That is an issue that the FIA may need to look into as had Ghiotto got stuck in the car or had become unconscious from the impact, he could have sustained a serious or fatal injury.
Another issue is that of either or both drivers suffering a concussion as a result of the accident. It was recently announced in IndyCar that Oliver Askew would miss the upcoming Harvest Grand Prix double header after it was found he was still suffering from his Indianapolis 500 accident he had back in late August.
Concussion is something that, as has been highlighted in Askew’s case, is difficult to diagnose if the driver/athlete doesn’t report their symptoms to someone. There may be around a month from the weekend’s Russian Grand Prix and Formula 2’s next event in Bahrain but that shouldn’t stop the FIA having Ghiotto and Aitken checked for concussion.
It was indeed very reassuring to see the various car and circuit safety features doing their job in protecting Aitken and Ghiotto, allowing both to walk away from the accident unaided. But there is an opportunity to learn from the crash both in terms of car safety, circuit safety and even potentially circuit layout. It wouldn’t have taken much for it to have been far worse and it is better to learn and improve from this crash now rather than wait for a fatal repeat.