Formula 1 is as safe as it has ever been but danger will always be part of the sport, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said after the death of French driver Jules Bianchi, but questions why a heavy duty tractor was allowed track-side during the race.
“If you were to choose to have an accident today in anything, you’d choose a Formula One 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, 25, died in hospital in Nice, southern France, on Friday after nine months in a coma following his horrific accident at the Japanese Grand Prix last October.
He was the first Formula One driver to die of injuries received in a race since Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.
The Marussia driver, popular and tipped for a stellar future after coming through the Ferrari academy, 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.
“The tractor should never have been there,” said Ecclestone, who started out in Formula 1 in the 1950s and witnessed the sport at its deadliest over the next two decades.
“We’ve done an awful lot of work to make sure that if a car does go off and hits something, they hit the tyre barriers or whatever, then its all OK,” he added.
“Hitting that thing, it wouldn’t make any difference if you’d hit it with a saloon car…if you’d hit it with a tank you’d have had problems.”
Formula 1’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 (GPDA) 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 as the world of motorsport paid tribute to the Frenchman..
“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.”
Ecclestone said the accident was a tragic waste of talent and must never happen again.
“It’s just a shame to lose such a talented guy at his age, and such a nice person. What happened was just tragic,” he said. “I hope he’ll be remembered the way he was as a driver and a person, not because he had an accident.”