Motorsport is Dangerous.
Anthoine Hubert, Juan Manuel Correa, and Giuliano Alesi all knew this as they strapped their helmets on before they started the latest race in the Formula Two world championship event at Spa-Francorchamps yesterday. Sadly, the race did not conclude well, with the death of Hubert and the serious injuries to Correa after the three of them collided.
But reading through the feeds of social media last night, I was struck by an apparently serious question raised by an individual, “How do we deal with days like today?”
We have moved a long way from the years where racing drivers counted their friends at a start of a year’s championship, knowing that by the end of that year, the number could well have been reduced by one or more. History has taught us many lessons, and we have most of the time learned from these moments, improving car design, survivability, and gasp amazed at times at how people walk away from such huge moments.
So to many of the younger audience, the full range of the gladiatorial aspect of the sport has been lost to them as they comment only about the relative progress, or lack of, from their preferred driver, or the state of play of the championship they follow.
Much is made by certain well known commentators that motorsport is in the entertainment industry. But this is not a view I personally subscribe to. If you were to ask either Lewis Hamilton, named only because he is the current pinnacle of open wheeled racing, or any young Bambino kart racer of 6 years of age, at the start of their motorsport adventure, why they are there, they will both say the same thing, to be the best sportsman they can be. That was why Lewis Hamilton at the age of 10 said to Ron Dennis, owner at the time of the McLaren Formula One organisation, that he wanted to be part of the team. Not as an entertainer, but as a racing driver.
That, pure and simple, is the sporting part of motor sport. If people then find that entertaining, then it is usually because it is something that they aspire to, even if all the elements needed are not all in place, like skill levels, money and opportunity.
Every driver, team member and connected family member knows that for each highlight in their driver’s career, there will also be lows, and that has always included the possibility of death itself. That is why every ticket printed and issued, and warning signage seen at the track, includes the words “Motorsport is dangerous”. Thankfully, the ratio of losses on the track is lower than it has ever been, indeed more people are killed on the roads of the UK every day than have died on racetracks over the past ten years at international level events.
Yes, it is shocking when it happens. But it should not be taken out of context.
Next time you are at a race track, watching a driver strapping on their helmet, wish them good luck, celebrate their achievements with them as they happen, and appreciate the next day that they can go racing again. Returning home after a day’s racing is as much an achievement as is being the one who stands atop the highest step on the podium.
So how do you deal with a day like yesterday? With honesty, integrity and respect. The same as you would if it was a loved one who lived under the same roof as you, or a friend from down the street, or a racing driver living out their passion to be something in their lifetime.
And if it shakes your confidence to be at a motorsport event, there is nothing wrong with stepping away, consider quietly if following the sport is still for you, and taking stock of the fragility of life itself.
Anthoine wanted it like that.