Sometimes in life a good dose of perspective is required. The FIA have decided to ban all non-FOM media and TV people from the pit lane forthwith because a tyre came loose from a Red Bull car, bounced down the pit lane and injured an FOM TV cameraman.
Further, everyone must now wear helmets if they are working on the car at anytime they are present in the pit lane and official FOM TV crew must film from afar on the pit wall.
Interestingly those sat on the pit wall studying data screens with their backs to any high risk events out of sight are excluded from these regulations. These people are sat in a very dangerous location and historically the main reason for their presence was to operate a manual stopwatch as they viewed the cars passing by.
Granted, there is one other reason for the pit wall posse risking life and limb and that is should the pit to car radio fail there needs to be a man who can hold out board each time the teams drivers pass to give them information.
So let’s try to put the rampaging tyre event at the German GP and the subsequent FIA emergency regulations into some kind of perspective.
The UK has been consistently either the safest or in the top 2 safest nations in the world when it comes to road safety. The latest comparable international survey (that we have available from 2009) had the number of fatalities on the roads of Britain as 3.8 per 100,000 of population. This compares with 23.8 per 100,000 in Malaysia.
The UK numbers have fallen each year since then to 3.0 per 100,000 but we have no international comparisons.
Remember these are deaths we are measuring from normal people’s wandering around, minding their own business in their normal daily activities.
The last time we saw a rampant tyre on the loose injuring pit lane personnel was in 2010 exactly 3 seasons ago in Hungary. Mercedes had a similar problem to Red Bull and a tyre from Nico Rosberg’s car made a bid for freedom and hit an ex colleague of his from Williams, ‘big Nige’.
Nico had this to say. “After I heard my tyre hit big Nige, one of my old Williams truckies, I was more concerned about my tyre than him. But seriously its great he doesn’t have any serious injuries and I’m sorry for the incident”.
So in 57 races since this incident we have had 1 more tyre ‘flying free’ incident where someone has been injured. During that time there have been 12,236 tyres changed in race conditions during 3059 pit stops.
If we put this into per 100,000 as we have for UK road deaths, this gives us 8.17 pit lane injuries per 100,000 tyres changed in F1 – or 32.69 pit lane injuries per 100,000 cars pit stopped.
Now – there have been more pit stops at racing speed done than the above recorded race stops. These occur during testing and practice. TJ13 asked a team head mechanic how many of race simulated pit stops are done each race weekend and the answer was at least as many as occur during the race – and this excludes winter testing.
This would give us 4.8 pit lane injuries per 100,000 tyres changed compared to 3.0 road fatalities per 100,000 people each year in the UK. Yet some may argue these simulated race pit stops do not carry the same pressure as a race pit stop – so we’ll exclude all of these from our study.
However, we are being generous to F1 when comparing the risk factors. Road deaths verses pit lane injuries appears unfair. The latest road injury figures we have for the safest country in the world are from 2011. They show there were 37.29 serious road injuries per 100,000 population and 288.59 slight road injuries per 100,000 people.
The injuries suffered by our FOM camera man Paul Allen and Willaims truckie ‘big Nige’ are classified in the road safety statistics toward the upper end of ‘slight injuries’ and the lower end of ‘serious injuries’.
So what can we draw from this. Well from a scientific point of view we are comparing apples and heffalumps.
What we do know is that for the average person going about their daily business in the country with the safest road traffic injury statistics in the world, each year in every 100,000 people, 288.59 of them are injured going about their every day activities in a road traffic incident (2,308 per 100,000 in Malaysia).
Contrast this with people working in the highly dangerous pit lane in the world’s premier motor racing series. For every 100,000 pit stops (which will take about 98 years), 32.69 people will be injured by flying wheels.
Conclusion: The FIA road safety campaign is clearly a better focused activity in need of the Association and monsieur Todt’s urgent attention than is the the knee jerk regulations they have introduced to improve safety in the F1 pit lane.