Normally, the day before Memorial Day is like Christmas for me. I get to wake up well before sunrise and watch the Monaco Grand Prix live on television, then wait a few hours afterward for the start of the Indianapolis 500. The Coca-Cola 600, or whatever it’s called nowadays? Sorry, but NASCAR takes a back seat to open wheel racing on this special day.
My day of racing is over. Even though I should be happy I saw two great races, I’m relieved no one was seriously injured or killed. This should have been a fun day to relax and watch my favorite drivers battle for victory, and instead I’m left wondering if it’s a matter of time before tragedy strikes.
Let’s review what happened today:
MONACO: I still can’t believe Lewis Hamilton didn’t win. He was 19 seconds ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg when with about a dozen laps to go “Mad Max” Verstappen attempted to overtake the Lotus of Romain Grosjean on the inside heading into Sainte Devote (Turn 1). Just as he had done with Grosjean’s teammate Pastor Maldonado earlier in the race, Mad Max made contact with Grosjean and took him out of the points.
The collision caused Mad Max to lose a wheel and his brakes, and he shot straight into the barriers at high speed. If this had happened at the chicane coming out of the tunnel, we might have had a different outcome for the young driver. I don’t mind seeing aggressive driving, but you never should do it at the expense of your competitors unless it’s the final laps.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t the biggest brain fart in Monaco. That belongs to whoever made the call in the pits for the AMG Mercedes driver to pit for new tires under caution with a dozen laps to go. Instead of rolling the dice and letting Lewis battle for the win, the points leader had to settle for third place on the podium. I appreciate Lewis defending his team after the race, but he’s too smart to make that call. He should have won his fifth race this season, not his crybaby teammate.
INDIANAPOLIS: If you’ve been reading my forum posts this past week, my fears of a fatality are well documented. I had every reason to be worried. The changes in this year’s aero kit and car design were a huge step backward in driver and fan safety. Cars that had not previously gone airborne when going backwards were now flying in the air like prototype sports cars. We also could have had a new mayor of Hinchtown when James Hinchcliffe was critically injured earlier in the week.
Then there was talk of assaulting Arie Lyendyk’s lap record with this same, flawed car next year. If these cars are getting airborne at 200 mph, how much higher do you think they’ll sail at speeds ten to twenty miles an hour faster? Did we not learn from Tony Renna’s practice accident? Tony Kaanan’s accident a dozen years ago when a suspension part pierced his legs? We haven’t, and I told all of my friends to brace themselves for the very real possibility we’d see a very serious or fatal accident like the ones that were commonplace twenty to thirty years ago.
Thankfully, no cars got airborne and no drivers were killed or seriously injured today. However, it must be noted three crew members from Dale Coyne Racing were injured when someone let James Davison exit his pit while both lanes in pit road were occupied by passing cars. In a cruel bit of irony, Davison’s car struck teammate Pippa Mann, who was on the inside lane and entering her own pit.
The collision sent Davison’s car into the pit of third teammate Tristan Vautier while the crew were changing right side tires. Luckily, the accident looked worse than it actually was. At this writing, only one crew member is hospitalized for an ankle fracture. In my opinion, none of the drivers were at fault. If Davison’s pit had kept him there until Mann was clear, this incident never would have happened.
The traveling open wheel circus goes to Detroit next weekend, but I worry about what could happen when they arrive in Texas in two weeks for the Firestone 600. Will there be enough safety measures to prevent a repeat of Hinchcliffe’s accident? A car going airbone like Kenny Bräck nearly a decade ago?
I know racing is dangerous and not all fatalities are preventable, but to compromise driver and fan safety for the sake of faster speeds will ruin the sport in the long run unless immediate changes are made. With the safety advances the series has made over the past few years, including the creation of the DW12 car, there is no excuse for these cars to endanger the lives of drivers and fans like they did in the past.