Hungary F1 2009 – Sweet and Sour

PheasantThis weekend’s Hungarian race proved to be something of a mixed bag, and disturbing coincidences.

Felipe Massa

The sour part is, of course, the unfortunate accident which Felipe Mass suffered during Saturday’s qualifying session, just six days after a fatal accident at Brands Hatch involving Henry Surtees, son of 1964 Formula One champion John Surtees, when he was struck on the head by a wheel which had come off another car.

Massa suffered a cut to his forehead, damage to the bone of his skull and concussion after being struck by a coil spring weighing about 1 kilogramme, part of the suspension which had broken off from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn car. Although Massa remained conscious and was able to apply his brakes, he ploughed straight through the next corner and into a tyre wall at high speed, where he remained motionless for a time. The accident occurred during second qualifying, and was the sort of incident that would be almost impossible to organise deliberately. Massa happened to come down the road at the exact moment a solid object was occupying the same piece of space as his head, and helmet. The blow was enough to destroy the visor and cause a deep gash above his left eyebrow, and later revealed to have caused two fractures to his skull.

As we write, we know that Felipe is in a serious but stable condition in hospital following an operation, and is being kept in an induced coma for the following 48 hours. He is woken at intervals to determine his condition, and CT scans are also being taken, with the doctors reporting that his condition is life-threatening, but that his progress is following surgery is satisfactory.

Understandably, there have been some calls to improve driver safety, and these two incidents indicate that there is never any case for complacency regarding this aspect, but as some of the drivers have already noted, the circumstances were extremely unusual, and some solutions could potentially introduce greater hazards than these events have highlighted. However, if nothing else, F1 always seems to be able to provide significant incremental improvements to just about anything that needs it, so there is bound to be scope for improving safety in this, and no doubt, other areas.

As a further coincidence, I happened to look in on one of those programmes that follows the various emergency services on the road, and reports on the various incidents they come across. This one included a third, very similar event. In this case, a motorcyclist was involved, and he had been unfortunate enough to try and occupy the same piece of space as a pheasant that flew across his path, on a 60 mph road – no-one else was involved, but nearby farm workers witnessed the incident as it happened. The rider had no chance as the bird arrived from the side and flew straight into his helmet, meaning the impact speed was at least 60 mph. Although not knocked unconscious, the rider was blinded as the bird virtually exploded as it hit the area of his visor. Unable to see for the remains, he deliberately steered to left – reasoning that meeting a car travelling at 60 mph the other way would not be a good idea – onto the grassy verge, and into a deep ditch, just missing the only tree for some distance around. In some ways he was fortunate, his injuries amounted to a broken nose and cheekbone, and could have been much more serious.

The

Race

Turning to the race in Hungary itself, it was particularly sweet to watch, and more interesting than the past couple of meeting, which left me without anything to think about, and bother to write a few notes later.

I just can’t get over my loathing of Alonso. Ever since he resorted to whatever dirty tricks he could think of to ensure that he could get any advantage he could over Hamilton a few years ago – regardless of who he took down and ruined along the way – I just can’t stop thinking of him as nothing more than a creep, and someone I’d never want as a team mate, or dare to turn my back on.

The high point of the Hungarian race had to be the coming together of Hamilton’s team, and the achievement of what seemed to be a return to form and an easy win, but one win could still just be a fluke, and we’ll have to wait for the end of the forthcoming four week break before we see if this is a definite change.

The higher point was the sabotage of Alonso’s car by the wheelman during a pit stop, when he failed to locate the brake duct spinner correctly, leading to it flapping loose as Alonso tried to make his way around the track after the stop, but unable to return to the pits before the spinner took its name literally, and spun in the wind. This led to firstly to the loss of the wheel nut, to be followed shortly by the loss of wheel, and Alonso’s limp back to the pits with only “three wheels on his waggon”. Although the crew stuck another wheel on the limping car, Alonso got his dues, and had to retire after completing  only a few more laps.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

This was made all the sweeter by the fact that he had been chasing Hamilton prior to his crews’ sabotage, and got to watch his former team mate and rival speed off into the distance ahead of him – and he couldn’t do a thing about it as both Hamilton, and his points for second place disappeared.

Given the other events of the weekend, and the fact that a loose wheel is no longer connected to the car by the restraining straps that keep the wheel on the car as long as it is still on the hub, it is also fortunate that the loose wheel bounced and rolled away harmlessly into the distance.

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