• The Inside Line

Safety

ESPN Staff
July 12, 2013
The FIA and FOM have been quick to react to the incident in Germany © Getty Images
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Of late, one of Formula One's great strengths has been the sport's ability to resist the temptation to dive headfirst into a knee-jerk reaction.

Where safety is concerned, proper research is paramount. Which is why the FIA is still investigating driver head protection following the 2009 accidents that led to the death of Henry Surtees and to Felipe Massa's hospitalisation. Rather than implement an immediate change to cockpit design, the FIA Institute is conducting research to find the best solution, studying cockpit canopies and forward roll hoops, among other things.

Which isn't to say that driver head protection is in some kind of limbo while the FIA continues its work - for the 2010 season, drivers in all categories were required to upgrade to a new design of helmet designed to better protect in the event of an impact such as Massa's.

But the quick response by both the FIA and FOM to camera man Paul Allen's accident in Germany feels like a knee-jerk reaction to me.

Minimising the number of people in an active pitlane is no bad thing, and requiring that people take added precautions - possibly involving the use of personal protective equipment - can't be argued with. But the series of press releases and statements we've seen this week feels more like a game of PR ping pong between the FIA and FOM than it does a well-considered solution.

First, Bernie Ecclestone announced that FOM camera crews would be stationed on the pit wall in future. Then the FIA released a statement announcing that media would also be confined to the pit wall during sessions, before noting some regulation changes president Jean Todt was pushing through ahead of their scheduled 2014 debut with a view to improving safety standards. FOM then upped their hand by announcing that media pit wall restrictions would also apply during practice sessions.

Sing it now - 'anything you can do, I can make safer…'

While bad luck can strike anywhere, at any time, an active pitlane is filled with people who know what they're doing. Members of the press work as each other's spotters, and have avoided incident so far. While it makes sense to remove them from the high pressure environment of a race, practice is as low-risk as it gets in Formula One - and that's without the new pitlane speed restrictions Todt just brought into play.

Preventing the media from operating - safely - in the pitlane during practice might make for temporary good PR in the face of an upsetting accident, but the reduction in coverage available to fans will only hurt the sport in the long run.

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