Method 1’s prime trackside physician, Ian Roberts, says he at all times expects the worst

Following the pack for that first lap is essential. That’s when accidents are most probably to occur, as all 20 automobiles are tightly bunched and fiercely jostling for place. Roberts says that if Grosjean’s accident didn’t occur on that first lap, the medical automotive would have taken one minute longer to reach. And each second counts…

Fireplace crews clear up within the aftermath of Grosjean’s crash. Getty

This week, Roberts will likely be leaping right into a specifically tailored Aston Martin DBX, which alternates with a Mercedes-AMG GT 63S because the medical automotive. The security automotive, which leads the pack whereas the monitor is being cleared, additionally alternates between these manufacturers.

Roberts shares the medical automotive with a race driver (at Melbourne, Australia’s Karl Reindler was on the wheel) and with every nation’s nationwide racing physician in one of many two rear seats. The opposite seat can be utilized to move a rescued driver. The DBX has a full roll cage and extinguishing system. The boot is crammed filled with medical and rescue provides.

The DBX medical automotive, left, with the Aston Martin Vantage security automotive. 

So what is required in a medical automotive? “A car to get me, my gear and the nationwide physician to the scene of the incident in as secure a means as doable. We want one thing that’s extraordinarily dependable and might deal with the situations that we might want to work in.

“So it must be all-rounder by way of its pace, carrying capability, its reliability for certain, and dealing with the situations of the monitor. We will’t change tyres, now we have to function on one set in all types of moist and dry situations.”

Individuals go motor racing for the excitement, for the adrenaline. That is solely created while you’re in a harmful state of affairs.

Dr Ian Roberts

It’s moist climate Roberts fears essentially the most. “I’m sitting within the pit lane as they go by and the spray goes up and you may’t see something. That’s for me fairly regarding and fairly scary. I definitely would by no means need be in a Method 1 automotive or every other kind of [race] automotive in these situations.”

Though Grosjean escaped with comparatively minor burns (significantly in contrast with the likes of Niki Lauda many years earlier), Roberts insists even with out smashes, F1 brings accidents. “There are an terrible lot of forces on the physique … it takes a toll … arthritis within the neck and again, impacts of vibration. I don’t suppose you’ll discover a single Method 1 driver with out some harm.”

We spoke to Roberts again at his house within the UK between grands prix. His journey schedule is as gruelling as an F1 driver. He will likely be working at 22 races in 21 international locations this yr.

Roberts certified as a physician in 1986, specialising in intensive-care anaesthesia. On weekends, he labored because the racing physician on the Silverstone circuit within the UK, the place his abilities have been famous when the F1 circus got here to city. Now he’s an F1 worker, the highest racing medic and a member of the brains belief that determines find out how to make the game safer.

Romain Grosjean after the accident. The controversial halo helped save his life, says Roberts. Getty

Grosjean credit the halo – the cage above the cockpit, controversially launched in 2018 – for saving his life when his automotive pierced the Armco, although he nonetheless needed to free his badly trapped foot and negotiate the flames.

Roberts says they’re consistently studying about what works and what doesn’t as a result of “hardly ever in life does one measure one thing as advanced as a racing incident”.

Nevertheless, he says all of the proof suggests the halo is an enormous security advance.

“We did suppose initially it might be a double-edged sword in that it might shield the driving force however may additionally be an issue for his escape. That might have been a problem with Romain, relying on the orientation of the survival cell. However general, I feel it’s been a really constructive factor. The drivers usually didn’t prefer it to begin with [but] various incidents have proven how helpful it’s.

Dressed up and able to go. “I’m at all times anticipating the worst,” says Roberts. 

“It doesn’t look nice however, hey, a number of issues don’t look nice however assist save lives.”

Roberts shakes his head when he sees footage of the outdated days, when a “cowboy angle” would permit the race to proceed at full tempo by means of a fireball or a deadly accident.

“It was extra in regards to the race and means, means much less in regards to the driver’s security. There was just about no administration of threat. A number of the medical and security issues have been seen as peripheral as a result of they didn’t add to the racing.”

Regardless of at present’s utterly totally different angle, motor racing won’t ever be utterly secure, Roberts says. “Individuals go motor racing for the excitement, for the adrenaline. That is solely created while you’re in a harmful state of affairs.

“The one means you’d ever make it utterly secure can be to take these guys and put them on simulators [or] ban motor racing altogether. That’s not going to occur, so the FIA has been working, and continues to work, on security measures that mitigate the chance of harm and loss of life.

“We would like secure racing, but when we wish thrilling racing, there’ll at all times be a component of threat.”

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