Ex-Formula One star David Coulthard says Jules Bianchi’s death is a brutal reminder that motor racing remains a dangerous activity, but thinks risk cannot be entirely eliminated from the sport for it is etched in its DNA.
Bianchi fell into a coma last October when he suffered a heavy crash at the Japanese Grand Prix. The Frenchman then fought for his life for nine months but eventually succumbed to his severe head injuries on Friday night.
“As Bianchi's accident proved, the danger is still very much there,” Coulthard wrote in his latest BBC column.
“No-one involved in motorsport is ever under the illusion that what they are doing is not dangerous.
“Although an F1 racer had not suffered a fatality between the deaths of Senna and Bianchi, there have been several drivers killed in crashes in other categories.
“Everyone who steps into a racing car knows that what they are doing could put their life in jeopardy, but they still choose to do it because of what it gives them back.”
Bianchi’s demise has already led the Grand Prix Drivers Association to call for a fresh safety push in F1, yet Coulthard believes risk will always be part of the sport.
“F1 is about pushing the limits of human ability. That is a big part of its appeal to millions of people around the world.
“[Fans] watch for myriad reasons. Because the racing is exciting, or because they admire what the people involved are doing, and understand what it means and – let's accept it – because they know what's at stake.
“[Bianchi’s accident] happened at one of the older race tracks, in the most challenging circumstances - wet weather, fading light, on a very demanding corner, over a blind brow.
“There is less risk of that happening at one of the newer, flatter tracks, with vast run-off areas. But unquestionably the drivers would say there is less pleasure in driving there than at Suzuka.
“The bigger the competition, the higher the stakes, the greater the satisfaction.
“Therein lies the fundamental conflict – and appeal – at the heart of F1.”