By Steve Aibel, Senior F1 Writer
The Fernando Alonso accident at the Australian Grand Prix is a reminder of the danger faced by open wheel drivers each time they take to the circuit.
In the case of Alonso, the discussion surrounding the crash centered on whether a Halo system would hinder driver extraction. This is certainly a valid concern but looking earlier into the sequence of events tells a different story.
In reviewing the accident frame by frame, a loose wheel flew dangerously close to Alonso’s head before the first wall impact. Fortunately for Alonso, the wheel flew over the McLaren and did not impact the driver. Had it done so, we might have had a totally different story.
In many cases, driver protection is needed before the car impacts a wall or permanent structure. In the case of Justin Wilson and Felipe Masse, head impact occurred from loose car parts while they were still on track. Both of these tragedies were freak accidents that might have turned out differently had there been some sort of Head Protection system in place.
There has been tremendous improvement in driver safety and the strength of the McLaren is a tribute to the value that Formula 1 places on safety. It is also a reminder that research and development into driver head protection is a direction worth pursuing.