The FIA has been urged to consider imposing stricter safety protocols for personnel in the pit lane after a cameraman was hit by a wheel in the German Grand Prix.
Paul Allen, who works for Formula One Management, suffered broken ribs, a broken collarbone and concussion after being struck by Mark Webber’s right-rear wheel that had come loose from his car after a botched pit stop. The incident has highlighted the ever-present dangers in the pitlane, and prompted leading figures to call on motorsport’s governing body to make further safety improvements.
For 2014, it will be mandatory for all personnel working on a pit stop to wear head projection, but some think that requirement should extend to everyone who works in the pits during a race.
Mercedes boss Ross Brawn, in whose area Allen was standing, said: “Luckily our guys saw it coming, but unfortunately the cameraman didn’t. [The mechanics] were able to swerve and avoid it, but it was pretty nasty.”
When asked if the incident meant there was a case for all pit workers to wear helmets, he said: “I think from the basis of what we saw, yes. Everyone in the pitlane should have a helmet on. It is certainly worthy of reviewing the whole thing.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner backed Brawn’s view that the FIA should look deeper at pitlane safety.
“These cars have so much energy in them and it is a timely reminder that things can go wrong,” he said. “Mechanics have to wear safety gear and helmets, and maybe it is time that we looked at some of the other operational people having some safety equipment as well.
“The camera guys are getting close to the action. They are getting some great pictures, but it is still a dangerous environment. So maybe they need some kind of safety equipment, as head injuries in particular are particularly nasty. It’s something that needs looking at.”
Allen is expected to remain hospitalized in Germany until at least Tuesday.
CASE STUDY: PITLANE SAFETY AT LE MANS
Controls on access to the pitlane during the Le Mans 24 Hours have been tightened up in successive stages over the past 20 years. Journalists, photographers and TV camera crews must now wear overalls (the rules say they should be white or light in color) and wear a helmet.
Access has been severely limited and measures put in place to ensure the safety of people working in the pitlane. Press now have to book access to the pits and are only granted the necessary chausable or bib for a limited time. The days of teams herding photographers and hangers-on with ropes to keep them out of the way during pit stops are now a thing of the past.