Motor Racing: Drivers aim to steer clear of danger: Controversial new regulations in Formula One likely to stay after expensive modifications

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The Independent Online
FORMULA ONE'S drivers, relieved to have come through the 65 laps of the Spanish Grand Prix unscathed and satisfied their sport is back on track, are anxious to focus on their own jobs to avert another potential danger.

They have become conscious that lengthy meetings and political negotiations must not be allowed to consume their off-track time and fill their minds at every race weekend.

Footwork-Ford's Christian Fittipaldi, one of three official representatives elected by the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, said: 'We had to organise ourselves and make sure we could play a part in improving safety in Formula One, but we must not forget what our main role is.

'You have to be in the right frame of mind to drive grand prix cars and we cannot afford to have five-hour meetings at every race. It is obvious what the dangers could be. We travel all the time, we test, we race and now we have meetings. It can be too much.

'We are using different drivers to look at the safety measures required at different tracks and now that the engineers have control of the car regulations I am sure we do not have to worry about that.'

Gerhard Berger, the senior GPDA representative, has expressed his concerns about his inability to concentrate absolutely on driving, while Martin Brundle was told by his team, McLaren- Peugeot, to 'get your head back in the car' after a lacklustre showing in Friday's qualifying session. Berger has emerged from this troubled month with great distinction. We always knew him to be a decent, caring man. Now he had had, in the most distressing of circumstances, the opportunity to reveal his virtues to the world beyond Formula One.

Fittipaldi said: 'Gerhard and Martin are two of the drivers, along with Michael Schumacher, who contribute most to the meetings. Gerhard and Martin are very experienced, very intelligent and they are committed to making our racing safer.'

The safety group of engineers and drivers meet today to begin the revision of car regulations. The much-criticised changes introduced for the Spanish Grand Prix, however, are unlikely to be thrown out. Teams modified their cars at considerable expense and many are simply not in a position to revert to the previous specification.

It is generally accepted that Andrea Montermini's accident was the consequence of driver error and the trouble-free run here has restored much of the battered confidence. Flavio Briatore, managing director of Benetton-Ford, said: 'We have had a bad time, but now the engineers are in charge of the engineering, the administrators can worry about administration and the drivers can drive. It is the way it should be.'

Sunday's race - Damon Hill's emotional victory for Williams-Renault and Schumacher's phenomenal drive to second place in a Benetton-Ford stuck in fifth gear - succeeded in turning much of the attention back on the racing. Mark Blundell, third for Tyrrell- Yamaha, completed a blissful podium. Hill's performance may have diluted some of the enthusiasm inside Williams to bring Nigel Mansell back across the Atlantic, while David Coulthard did enough before his enforced retirement to book his place in Canada on Sunday week and suggest he belongs in Formula One.