Fittipaldi praises F1 safety standards
Formula One legend Emerson Fittipaldi has hailed the safety standards in the sport after McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen emerged relatively unscathed from huge shunt at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Finn was subjected to forces of 26 Gs when his car hit a trackside tyre barrier on lap 22 following a left-front tyre problem that saw him spear off the circuit at around 145mph.
The impact ripped the front off the McLaren monocoque and briefly rendered Kovalainen unconscious, but subsequent hospital tests revealed the 26-year-old had suffered nothing more than a mild concussion and slight injuries to his neck and elbow.
In another era Kovalainen's injuries could have been significantly worse, and two-time world champion Fittipaldi believes a combination of safety measures were to thank for the Finn's fortunate escape.
Fittipaldi said: "In the last 30 years I think the big improvement in racing has been safety and the improvements with tracks.
"Carbon fibre means the cars are much stronger and the drivers' equipment and rescue teams are better.
"The whole safety level has improved tremendously, and that's very good news."
Kovalainen's accident once again highlighted the strength of modern Formula One cars less than 12 months after BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica escaped serious injury following an enormous shunt at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.
A safety crusade triggered by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger on the weekend of the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 has given way to significant advances in driver protection, and the quest to maintain those standards remains one of the primary aims of the sport's governing body, the FIA.
Raised cockpit sides, head and neck support (HANS) devices, stringent crash-tests and increased safety at circuits have played a significant role in reducing injuries, and 61-year-old Fittipaldi concedes that today's safety measures are unrecognisable from those he experienced during a 10-year Formula One career between 1970 and 1980.
"Today's safety today is much much better - there's no comparison with a few years ago," added Fittipaldi, who is now principal of Team Brazil in the A1GP series.
"I remember at the beginning of the 1970s, the odds of survival were seven to one.
"There was on average 20 plus grand prix drivers [a season] and at the end of the year three would be gone. The odds were not good." sportinglife.com