MELBOURNE • Max Mosley, a pioneer of safety in Formula One, believes that Fernando Alonso would have been killed had his terrifying Australian Grand Prix crash happened 20 years ago.
The former president of the FIA, the sport's governing body, has arguably done more than anyone for safety in F1.
He pulled no punches as he looked back over pictures of the moment that Alonso's McLaren clipped the Haas car driven by Esteban Gutierrez while travelling at close to 320kmh, crashed into a trackside wall at Albert Park and barrel-rolled twice before the driver crawled out of the wreckage during the race on Sunday.
The impact was recorded at 46Gs, almost seven times the force typically experienced by a fighter pilot and one of the highest in the history of the sport.
Yet, Alonso clambered from the shattered remains of his car and managed a weak wave to the crowd. A knee bandage was the only visible sign of his accident.
Mosley said Alonso could not have survived an accident on that scale two decades ago, when F1 safety was in its infancy and death was a constant companion at the race track.
"I don't think he would have survived," Mosley said. "You wouldn't know for sure without a detailed analysis, but generally speaking, those sorts of accidents resulted in serious injury or death."
The trauma of two deaths in one race weekend - of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix - triggered a safety revolution. Mosley called in Sid Watkins, one of Britain's foremost neurosurgeons, to carry out a series of reforms to both cars and circuits.
The result was that F1 did not have to face up to a death at the track until Jules Bianchi crashed his Marussia into a recovery vehicle at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. He died last July aged 25.
Bianchi suffered severe head injuries and Mosley welcomed the move to introduce the "halo" head protection from next season, or even a cockpit canopy to protect drivers.
"There are still freak accidents, like Jules," Mosley said, "but those sort of serious racing accidents, you do expect the driver to walk away. That wouldn't have been the case 20 years ago.
"It is very satisfying to see Fernando walk away."
Alonso was cleared by Dr Ian Roberts, the F1 medic at the track, and was in a jocular mood as he prepared to leave Melbourne on Monday, although he told friends that he woke up with sore ribs after the accident.
Engineers have attempted to salvage some components from the wreckage, but Alonso's £4 million (S$7.8 million) McLaren is a write-off, including its sophisticated hybrid engine.
This means that he has lost one of his allocation of five power packs for the season after 17 laps of the first race and could incur penalties as the year unfolds.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN