Ayrton Senna: The one positive from Senna's death has seen safety improvements prevent any further deaths in F1 20 years on

No driver has died in F1 since Senna's tragic crash at Imola 20 years ago

If there was one lasting legacy left by the tragic deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger 20 years ago at Imola, it was the impact they had on attitudes towards driver safety in Formula One.

It is testament to the measures implemented since that no driver has lost his life over the course of an F1 weekend since Senna on May 1, 1994 and Ratzenberger the day before.

Former FIA president Max Mosley was the pioneer, vowing then that F1 would never again be plunged into such darkness, believing if one of the sport's greatest drivers could so needlessly lose his life that change was drastically required.

Following the events at Imola, Mosley commissioned the late Professor Sid Watkins, the FIA's former medical delegate and one of Senna's closest friends, to chair the Expert Advisory Safety Committee.

Together with a number of influential figures, including current race director and safety delegate Charlie Whiting and the late Harvey Postlethwaite, a former key designer, the group devised a number of safety features.

With Mosley insisting money was no object, the group worked closely with the Manufacturers' Research Institute and Transport Research Laboratory, to implement many of the devices seen today.

 

Amongst the ideas that have come to fruition are the collapsible steering column, protective foam around the top of the cockpit, crash tests for front, rear and side impacts, the Head And Neck Support (HANS) device which has become mandatory for every driver, and wheel tethers.

There has also been a revamp of many circuits, which now include much larger run-off areas, and notably impact-absorbing crash barriers.

Whiting remains one of the pivotal characters within the FIA, having worked with motor sport's world governing body since 1988 when he started out in the technical department.

Whiting has spent the last 17 years in his current posts, as well as being a member of the FIA's Research Group, Safety Commission and Circuits Commission.

Reflecting on the weekend at Imola, and the improvements made since, he told Press Association Sport: "At that point (in 1994) nobody had lost their life at a grand prix for 12 years, which at the time was thought to be quite an achievement.

"But everything came together that weekend, which was quite amazing really when you think about it because none of those accidents were linked.

"You could have sat down for hours, with all sorts of people, trying to think of something. Had something broken in Formula One?

Read more: RON DENNIS STILL STRUGGLES TO TALK ABOUT SENNA 20 YEARS ON
BRUNO SENNA: MY UNCLE AYRTON IS STILL A DRIVING FORCE

"There was absolutely no connection between the accidents of Roland, Ayrton and Rubens Barrichello (injured in a crash in Friday qualifying), and then there was the start-line accident with Pedro Lamy and JJ Lehto (when nine fans were injured by flying debris).

"A couple of weeks later, of course, we had Karl Wendlinger (who was in a coma for several weeks after an accident at Monaco).

"You couldn't really honestly say there was one thing out there that was a problem, other than the need for higher-cockpit sides because they arguably would have helped Wendlinger.

"The important thing was to do the right research because what you sometimes think is the right thing to do intuitively often turns out not to be the case.

"So much has since been done in terms of safety with the cars, and this was led by Sid, Harvey and I.

"We did lots of work which led to the higher-cockpit sides, wheel tethers, anti-intrusion panels on the sides of the cars, stringent crash testing, all manner of things. It started from that point.

"Then we have the modern design of crash helmet that took some years to develop, and which was as a direct result of Ayrton's accident. It is the same weight, but now twice as strong.

"We've also much more stronger roll structures front and rear; we've put lots of padding inside the cockpit, inside the foot well; also extractable seats."

Whiting concedes to being amazed by how much has been achieved over the last 20 years, in particular how some drivers are able to walk away from an accident these days that would likely have resulted in serious injury or death two decades ago.

Whiting, though, is far from resting on any laurels, adding: "Without wishing to be downbeat about it, even now it only takes a little bit of bad luck to have a completely different result.

"Take Mark Webber's accident for example (in the 2010 European Grand Prix in Valencia when he ran into the back of Heikki Kovalainen and somersaulted through the air). He could have made different contact with an overhead advertising sign and who knows what the end result might have been?

"When (Romain) Grosjean had that moment of madness in Spa (in the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix), he could have gone across the side of (Fernando) Alonso's car and quite easily have injured or killed him.

"So we have to temper our enthusiasm and learn from the accidents that do happen.

"As long as we keep looking and don't sit back and say 'Well, this is as safe as we can make them', then we should be in good shape.

"I have to say the teams, through the Technical Working Group, and things like that, are extremely receptive to ideas.

"I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed to keep asking for more and more and more, but they are always very up for it."

There is no doubt the advancements made have been life-saving, and Whiting concluded: "When you look back at the cars 20 years ago - and we thought they were safe then - I am proud of what we have all achieved."

PA

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

John Moore starred in Coca Cola and Morrisons adverts

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
people

Former boxer recalls incident when he was seven years old

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes