Lewis Hamilton says one of the reasons the risks racing drivers take are not fully appreciated is because it is impossible to get close to experiencing anything similar purely as an observer.
Anthoine Hubert’s death at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix has sparked a debate about safety and the dangers drivers face, with Hamilton claiming in the immediate aftermath of the incident that fans and members of the Formula 1 paddock don’t appreciate the risks involved. Explaining why he believes that to be the case, Hamilton says the detachment between what drivers experience and how anyone else can recreate it plays a major role.
“I think it’s a difficult one, because as I always say, it is not like other sports where any one of us can go and kick a ball,” Hamilton said on media day ahead of this weekend’s Italian GP. “Not as well as professionals, obviously, but if anybody has ever made a good serve in tennis and felt like Roger Federer or scored a cross (in soccer) and it’s gone in the top corner of the goal and you felt like a pro, you can’t go and do what we do in these racing cars and get close to what we experience.
“It’s different when there were deaths constantly, because it was more at the top of people’s minds. It happens a lot less and we go through the weekend like it’s a fun sporting event, but geez, it’s still super dangerous and we are doing over 200 mph and the majority of the time we are on or beyond the limit.
“It’s difficult when there are not too many crashes all the time because of the run-off areas we have, but the danger factor is still there. That’s the point that I had to mention and make sure it is not forgotten.
“It needs to be remembered by us all — even my engineers that I work with or the guys in the garage need to remember. Stuff like last weekend happens and everyone is shocked, but it is still a dangerous sport and we need to continue to work towards making it safer.”
Hamilton’s view was backed up by Daniel Ricciardo — who has admitted having doubts over racing at Spa. Ricciardo says drivers are affected by crashes even if they aren’t obviously injured.
“I heard Lewis’ comments and it was also related to when he crashed earlier that day (in practice), and he said some people were cheering. Non-Lewis fans were happy that he was out of the session. Whether you like somebody or not, it is not nice to cheer for someone’s downfall or mistake.
“He thinks the crowd assumes that the crash was OK, and whatever. But it is not like that — every time we go on track there is a risk, and every time we do hit a wall, whether we are OK or not it is still plays on your mind. If you crash, every time you go back to that corner there is something physiological there. It does have an impact one way or another, physically or mentally.
“Maybe that is where he was coming from. I do agree with him, but it is also so hard because a fan, unless you race and put yourself in that position, can never experience what we do. Like those of us who watch boxing or UFC — we are cheering and saying do this, do that, keep fighting, get up, it is just a bit of blood. But we are not the one in that position. If you put us in that position we would act or respond very differently.
“It is just the nature of being a fan in a sport you don’t compete in — it is hard to really grasp or understand. All we can ask for if you are a fan then be a true fan and respect what we do, the skill and the risks.”