Palmer defends Williams after F2 fatality

A devastated Jonathan Palmer has moved to defend Williams and the safety of the relaunched series amid rumours the standards of the British team’s formula two car design contributed to the death of Henry Surtees. The F2 single seaters driven by the 18-year-old Briton and the entire field this season were penned and built at Williams’ Grove headquarters.

Reports suggested that it was the lack of F1-style tethers that led to the flying wheel fatally striking Surtees on the helmet at Brands Hatch, but in fact the F2 cars confirm with all F1 safety standards of the 2005 world championship.

“As with F1 … wheel tethers cannot provide an absolute guarantee that a wheel will not come off in an accident,” said Palmer, whose company Motorsport Vision runs the FIA series. The FIA also confirmed that Patrick Head’s design conformed to F1 standards including impact tests, head protection and wheel tethers.

Palmer said a detailed investigation will now take place, but expert opinions already suspect that it was the freak nature of the 200kph accident, rather than the low-cost nature of the relaunched series, that led to Surtees’ death.

He noted: “In a single seater race car the front of the head is inevitably exposed to the risk, however small, of being hit by another car or component.” Palmer revealed that those involved at Williams, which was the last team involved in a fatality in F1 dating back to Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994, is “enormously saddened, shocked and stunned” by the Surtees tragedy.