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F1 safety back in the spotlight

THE serious injury suffered by Felipe Massa during Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying has served as a reminder that Formula One can never take safety for granted despite significant steps forward in recent years.

Formula One has not had a race fatality since Massa's Brazil compatriot and triple champion Ayrton Senna died at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix but there have been some close calls over the years.

"Inevitably we all become complacent if we're not confronted with a serious accident," said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh. "Obviously 1994 was a massive wake-up call for all of us in Formula One at the time. Everybody, the teams and the (governing) FIA, contributed to a lot of big steps forward in safety."

Ferrari's Massa was stable yesterday after surgery to a head wound suffered when he was struck on the helmet by a bouncing metal spring, weighing nearly a kilo, that had broken off compatriot Rubens Barrichello's Brawn car seconds earlier.

The accident on Saturday came less than a week after 18-year-old Briton Henry Surtees, son of Ferrari's 1964 F1 champion John, was killed after a bouncing wheel hit him on the head in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch.

"I honestly don't believe in coincidence in life," said Barrichello, the only current driver who was in Formula One when Senna died. "Things happen for a reason and I think this is the second message. Imola was a message. The cars were improved. Unfortunately we lost a boy, which is tremendously sad. It is not a coincidence that something happened right now."

Safety measures have improved hugely since 1994, with HANS head and neck safety devices, higher cockpit sides and stronger helmets, but there was a feeling at the Hungaroring that something more needed to be done.

"We need to keep a perspective of it, I guess," said Brawn owner Ross Brawn, the ex-Ferrari technical chief. "From what has been seen last weekend and this weekend we need to have a proper study to see if there is a need to do something."


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