Formula One Debates Risks After a Driver is Badly Hurt

Nobody died in the last race in Japan. But the French driver Jules Bianchi, 25, suffered severe brain injuries when he crashed into a heavy tractor clearing another wrecked car. Five days after the accident, the mood among the teams and drivers in the paddock was as dispirited as at any time since Ayrton Senna's death.

updated: October 10, 2014 10:47 IST
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Marussia team officials walk towards the parc ferme as the race car of Jules Bianchi of France returns to the pit after a crash during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix.


Sochi, Russia: For years, Formula One has celebrated how much safer the sport has become since Ayrton Senna of Brazil died in a crash at an Italian racetrack in 1994. Measures taken after Senna's death improved safety, and Senna was the last driver to die in a series with a grim list of fatalities that includes some of its greatest champions.

The belief that risks have been reduced to "acceptable" levels, a description used by Max Mosley, the former leader of motor racing's world governing body, the Paris-based International Automobile Federation, was a comforting - perhaps numbing - reassurance at a time when Formula One was enjoying soaring levels of popularity. (F1 Drivers Dedicate Russia Race to Jules Bianchi)

But for all the innovations that have made it possible for drivers to walk away from 180-mph somersaults into crash barriers, there has always been the fear that the specter of death might return. Unhappily for the organizers of the first Russian Grand Prix, to be held here Sunday at a new 3.6-mile track that runs through the former Olympic Park, that moment seemed to arrive with a crash that marred last weekend's race in Suzuka, Japan.

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