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Formula 1

Are current F1 drivers taking more risks than in previous eras?

Safety in Formula 1 was put under the spotlight again at the Italian Grand Prix, as title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen clashed. With the Halo coming to the rescue, ex-F1 driver John Watson believes complacency may be creeping in among the current crop of drivers.

Interview
To news overview © FIA

John Watson believes that the current field of Formula 1 drivers are taking more risks on track than in previous eras, due to the sport's ever-improving level of safety.

F1 introduced the Halo cockpit protection device in 2018 and it has already played a key role in preventing serious injuries to several drivers, including Lewis Hamilton at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, when he collided with Max Verstappen for the second time this season.

It has since been confirmed that the incident will be looked at by the FIA's dedicated Safety Department, which was set up to analyse serious accidents in order to generate relevant learnings and applicable solutions to safety concerns.

Watson, who competed in F1 in the 1970s and 1980s, when serious injuries and fatalities were much more frequent, is concerned that today's drivers feel "bulletproof" when they are out on track, given how much safety has moved on.

"Drivers seem to have a blind spot; as safe as the cars are, you can still get severely hurt," said Watson in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com.

"It appears that there's an attitude amongst the current crop of younger drivers who think that they're bulletproof, simply because of the improvements in car design and integral safety.

"There isn't that sense of fear or danger that my generation of drivers lived with day in, day out. Now there's an attitude of, 'Nothing's going to happen to me, I can do what I like.'"

Watson heaped praise on the Halo for protecting Hamilton in his latest incident with Verstappen.

Having gone wheel-to-wheel through the first chicane at Monza, Verstappen's Red Bull struck the sausage kerb and jumped over the top of the Mercedes, with the Halo on Hamilton's W12 taking the full brunt of the weight from the RB16B as the two cars came to rest.

"It was a slow-speed corner, thankfully. If it had been another corner, God knows what would have happened," said Watson, who described Verstappen's attempted overtake as "an act of desperation".

"The Halo did a brilliant job. I acknowledge and accept what it's done, and what it's done to save people's lives.

"Initially, I hadn't appreciated how much Lewis' neck and head had been pushed forward. I know he was complaining about neck ache, I just thought that's being a bit of a wuss. Now I see it and I understand it, and why he had physio treatment following it.

"Had there not been the Halo, it would have been a potentially life-threatening injury to Lewis."

It's time for the latest episode of our new Formula 1 podcast, with F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Thomas Maher and Mike Seymour discussing the fallout from a dramatic Italian Grand Prix weekend.

RN365 News dossier F1 2021 Italian Grand Prix

The latest news about the Italian Grand Prix straight from Monza.

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