Ecclestone urges safety re-think after Monza tragedy

Bernie Ecclestone, head of Formula One's commercial affairs, joined the sport's latest safety debate last night and steered a conflicting course with that advocated by Max Mosley, President of the FIA, motor racing's governing body.

Bernie Ecclestone, head of Formula One's commercial affairs, joined the sport's latest safety debate last night and steered a conflicting course with that advocated by Max Mosley, President of the FIA, motor racing's governing body.

Mosley maintained chicanes were established features of race-tracks and charged the drivers with the responsibility of avoiding the kind of accident that led to the death of a fire marshal in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

However, Ecclestone, never a man to compromise his own views, called for the removal of chicanes and gravel traps, which are widely used on the outside of corners.

Ecclestone said: "We just have a different opinion on it. I don't like chicanes. They are silly and unnecessary. They are there to slow the cars down on a fast straight but one very slow corner rather than the two that make up the chicane seems a better idea to me.

"We've got rid of them on many circuits and I want to see the rest of them go as well. It will require work on some circuits but it has to be done for the safety of everyone.

"It is worth remembering that it's easier for a driver to be killed at high speed, but we have to avoid the situation where accidents are created."

Mosley argues that Formula One drivers ought to be able to negotiate chicanes without the tragic consequences that blighted Sunday's race, but has stressed that attitudes among drivers must change, not the circuits.

Ecclestone sympathises with that sentiment but will urge another re-think of safety measures in light of the Monza tragedy.

He said: "I agree drivers should take care of chicanes but we have to change that wording to 'have to take care'. Possibly we have to look at the introduction of a small concrete wall around corners. Look at Monaco. They have walls there and the drivers take care."

Formula One has commissioned extensive research into finding an appropriate tarmac to be used in run-off areas rather than gravel and Ecclestone suggests now is the time to introduce it.

"Gravel traps are not the best way to stop cars," Ecclestone said. "Part of the trouble on Sunday was the dust thrown up and the drivers coming up behind could see nothing. We need to scrap them. They are old-hat. We have to replace them with very abrasive run-off areas.

"We've done a lot of work on this and found it's better when drivers can steer and brake on run-off areas. It's time we brought them in and this is something we shall be talking about with all the people concerned."

Investigators yesterday released the last of the five cars impounded in the inquiry into the crash. The McClaren-Mercedes driven by David Coulthard was returned a day after the other four were released.

* Ford are pulling out of the British Touring Car Championship at the end of their successful 2000 campaign. Their Mondeos have already won the manufacturers' title, while the drivers' championship can only be won by one of their three drivers, Anthony Reid, Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell. Ford cites that success and the imminent launch of a new Mondeo as reasons why now is a good time to take a break from the series. New BTCC rules for 2001, which Ford feels favour smaller cars than the Mondeo, together with its existing use of rallying to promote its smaller car, the Focus, also affected the decision.

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