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KERS raises drivers' safety fears

THE introduction of the new energy recovery system KERS to Formula One this season has raised fears of a possible safety risk to drivers.

There are concerns that trackside medical staff may be hesitant to carry out emergency life-saving treatment to seriously injured drivers because some cars are charged with a high-voltage electric system.

The circuit remains live for around a second after the car has stopped and the matter came to light when a BMW mechanic suffered an electric shock when he touched a car during testing last year.

Marshals and medical teams at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix have been advised to wear special gloves to protect against any electric shock but the thicker gloves may prevent them from carrying out instant treatment.

"Obviously if there is a large accident, we need pretty good medical attention and fast," Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber told a news conference in Melbourne yesterday. "It has been mentioned a while ago and we would like it addressed.

"But we're pretty sure they have the right type of gloves to still do the procedure that they need quite quickly, or the important procedures they need to do at the scene of such an accident to make sure everything's okay."

The importance of instant medical treatment in Formula One was graphically illustrated at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix when Finland's Mika Hakkinen was involved in an horrific high-speed crash.

Professor Sid Watkins, the then head of Formula One's medical head, performed an emergency tracheotomy on Hakkinen that saved his life.

"We know the medical treatment Mika had on the day and that was of course what saved his life," Webber said.

"The FIA (motor racing's world governing body) and the medical team and all those people understand what we need in a very critical situation like that and they need to be aware and deliver for us."

Webber said the matter had already been discussed by the Grand Prix Drivers Association but there was still some level of uncertainty about how it would work in a real-life crisis.

"As usual you do gain knowledge and experience on the front line so we'll see how it goes," Webber said.

"There's not many cars with KERS anyway so hopefully they have some commonsense that they know the cars with KERS and the cars without KERS can be treated a bit differently in an emergency."


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