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Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen breaks mechanic’s leg in Bahrain-drama

2018-04-09 12:00

Image: AFP

Charlen Raymond

Cape Town - It will probably be spoken about for some time to come and be added to the 2018 highlight video, but Kimi Raikkonen knocking over one of his mechanics during the Bahrain GP is a matter of serious concern.

Though Ferrari was held responsible for the incident and fined €50 000 (about R736 571), Raikkonen received some flak on social media for his handling of the situation.

According to a number of the sport’s fans, Raikkonen didn’t show any remorse for what happened and came across cold when talking about the incident. Living up to his nickname of “Ice Man”.

The incident put a new light on safety in Formula 1 and undoubtedly gave the governing body (the FIA) and Liberty Media (F1 owners) something new to think about.

For 2018 the sport introduced the halo: a device added to the bodywork designed to increase safety around the driver’s head in the event of an object flying or driving into something. But accidents and incidents in the pit lane need to be covered to prevent more crew members from being injured.

What went down

At the end of the 36th lap Raikkonen pulled into the pits for his second and final stop of the race. His Ferrari pit crew removed and changed three of the tyres on the car before he got the sign to leave his pit box, but the left rear tyre was not changed. Raikkonen’s car was released and he set off, knocking over a crew member in the process. It was later confirmed that the crew member suffered a double leg break.

Raikkonen, as with all drivers on the F1 grid, is conditioned to react to a green light in his pit box. This light signals the completion of the pit stop and that drivers can proceed out of the pit lane. It seems a simple enough system to understand, but one out of sync moment can have dire consequences. Some teams have a crew member operating the lights, while other teams have their lights operating automatically on what happens in the pit box.

Whether Ferrari has someone operating the lights or whether it works automatically, a gremlin to the cost of more than R700k has crept in.

As soon as he saw the green light Raikkonen drove off, knocking over the crew member and was stopped just mere meters from his pit box. Walking back to the garage, Raikkonen merely glanced over to the stricken man and continued marching on. Should he have gone over to the injured man and make sure he was okay? Well, that would have been the ethical thing to do, but in F1 there is a risk of something happening and Raikkonen hanging around the pit box could be tempting that. It's also fair to consider that he might not have known what exactly was going on or the extent of the injury. It was best to enquire and wait for feedback from the back. Even Raikkonen’s post-incident interview was cold, but be that as it may…

Sadly for Raikkonen, though, this Bahrain GP marks the third time in four outings that he had to retire from the race because of an unsafe release.

*WARNING: Grim footage below*

Bring back the lollipop?

During the early 2000’s teams were using a lollipop to signal when a driver can leave his pit box. Someone would stand in front of the cars, lift the lolly, and move out of the way. And ironically, it was Ferrari that introduced the light system towards the end of the new millennium’s first decade.

As mentioned, this light system is heavily dependent on technology, which does allow for mistakes and gremlins to show their faces. Sure, the lights are faster than a lollipop, but incidents have taken place in the past. Think 2008, when Felipe Massa drove out of his Ferrari pit box during the Singapore GP with the fuel hose intact. And recently, at the opening round of the 2018 season in Australia, both Haas cars were sent off with their fresh wheels not tighten correctly. In 2009 fuel spew out of Massa’s Ferrari as he drove past a few pit garages and in Australia, if those tyres came off their hinges, it could have hopped into the crowds.

If the lollipop man had been there, he would have had to wait for the wheel gun operators’ signal that their procedure is complete. The lollipop is not without risk, but at least it takes away some technical problems.

There might not be any issues with the lights for the rest of the season, but F1 can’t wait another 20 years for a fatal accident to occure before serious safety measures are implemented.

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