Risks inherent in F1 but it's as safe as it can be: Bernie

LONDON • Formula One is as safe as it has ever been but danger and risk will always be a part of the sport, said commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone yesterday after the death of 25-year-old French driver Jules Bianchi.

"If you were to choose to have an accident today in anything, you'd choose a Formula One (car) because it's probably the safest it's ever been," the 84-year-old Briton told BBC radio. "What actually happened to Jules was just very, very, very unfortunate.

"Of course, it's dangerous," he added of the sport. "They have 20 races a year, so you see how many accidents there are. We do our best, or always have done our best, for driver safety."

Bianchi died in hospital in his Nice home city in southern France on Friday after nine months in a coma following his horrific accident at the Japanese Grand Prix last October. His funeral will be held at the Sainte-Reparate cathedral in Nice tomorrow.

He was the first Formula One driver to die of injuries from a race since Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.

The Marussia driver skidded off the track in wet conditions and fading light, while yellow warning flags were being waved to tell drivers to slow down. He smashed into a recovery tractor that was removing another crashed car.

F1's governing body has introduced a number of safety measures after the crash at Suzuka, including the use of a "virtual safety car" and making the area around the cockpit stronger.

The Grand Prix Drivers' Association said Bianchi's death was a reminder that more could always be done, however.

"It is at times like this that we are brutally reminded of how dangerous racing still remains," the body said in a statement. "Despite considerable improvements, we, the grand prix drivers, owe it to the racing community, to the lost ones and to Jules, his family and friends, to never relent in improving safety."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Risks inherent in F1 but it's as safe as it can be: Bernie'. Print Edition | Subscribe