Vettel wary 20 years after Senna's death

F has done much to improve safety since Ayrton Senna's death but world champion Sebastian Vettel warns the danger in the sport cannot be underestimated.

It is now 20 years since Formula One last suffered a fatality during a race when Ayrton Senna died in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix but four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel says the inherent danger in the sport cannot be underestimated.

"Formula One is safer today but it is still not completely safe because there is still so much that can happen," Vettel said.

Despite the increase in safety measures implemented since the death of Senna on May 1, 1994 - and Roland Ratzenberger, who died a day earlier in qualifying at the same Grand Prix - Vettel warned: "you must never feel too safe."

Drivers now have head and neck protection, a development which some feel could have saved Ratzenberger 20 years ago.

"Unfortunately it always took accidents and negative events for us to learn the most," said Vettel.

Development has been made in crash tests, larger cockpits with removable seats, better helmets to protect drivers and making the tracks safer.

The FIA governing body can also reduce the risk involved with race regulations and responsible drivers can follow the rules.

Former FIA president Max Mosley founded his own institute to research accidents under the leadership of Dr Sid Watkins.

"The progress in this respect is unbelievable," said Viviane Senna, Ayrton's sister.

That progress was seen first hand when the car of driver Robert Kubica was almost completely destroyed in a 2007 accident at the Canadian Grand Prix, only for the driver to emerge with only a concussion and a sprained ankle.

The simple fact is a sport such as Formula One can never be completely safe.

In 2009, Felipe Massa suffered a severe eye injury when a metal spring broke off the car in front of him and struck him in the head.

"There is always the possibility that something strange can happen with serious consequences," said Vettel.

The battle for driver safety remains a core task even 20 years after the death of Ayrton Senna.

2 min read
Published 29 April 2014 at 1:08am
Source: AAP