Lately we have taken for granted the improved safety in single-seat racing. The last fatal accident dates back to the tragic race at Imola in 1994 when three-time world champion and a legend of F1 died when a mechanical failure on his Williams caused him to hit a wall at 217 km/h.
Since then the emphasis on driver saftey was much higher as the FIA introduced ever more rules to make the cars safer. The technologies pioneered in F1 ware later implemented in lower categories of formula.
As a result, in a sport where death is unfortunately part of its history, we have seen more than a decade without a casualty.
That is until this Sunday, when we were all reminded that formula racing is a dangerous business. Tragedy struck in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch racing circuit in Kent, England, claiming the life of English driver Henry Surtees.
Henry, son of John Surtees, the 1964 Formula 1 World Champion for Ferrari and seven times World Motorcycle Champion, was hit on the head by a wheel and tire from the car of Jack Clarke, who had spun and crashed into the wall exiting Westfield Bend on his own. The 18-year old driver, who had finished on the podium in Saturday’s race, was knocked unconscious, and flown to a London hospital.
Henry Surtees followed in his father’s footsteps and entered his first kart race at the age of eight in 1999. He won the 2000 Club Winter Championship at Rye House. In 2005 he won the Junior Gearbox Championship.
In 2006, Henry graduated into motor racing in the British Ginetta GT Junior Championship, scoring three wins and six podiums to finish third overall. The following season he stepped into single seaters competing in both Formula BMW and Renault series.
In 2007, he scored a win with Carlin Motorsport and finished seventh overall and second in the rookie standing in Formula BMW UK. Last year he raced in Formula Renault UK, finishing 12th in the championship. In the Winter series he was placed second with one victory and three podiums from four races.