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Weekend warriors

8th February 2011

What a shame, what a crying shame.

Robert Kubica’s violent shunt while competing in a regional rally in northern Italy on Sunday was terrible news, coming as it did just as we were all looking forward to an exciting F1 season.

Post-surgery the prognosis is encouraging but not great; the Pole’s 2011 season appears over, and serious concerns as to his ability to drive a formula car again are weighing heavy on everyone’s mind. He faces a long road to recovery.

The incident has focused sharp attention on the more risky ‘off piste’ activities some of the drivers engage in, with all the inherent dangers to life, limb and career that they may bring.

Sure, we live in overly sanitised times, and many fans pine for the days of yesteryear when F1 pilotes spent their weekends ‘off’ careening around in F2, saloon cars, Can Am, rallies, et al. But the commercial realities of top class sport as a whole, and F1 in particular, have utterly changed since then.

Drivers no longer have to scratch a living, racing every weekend to pick up appearance fees and prize money. They are paid well and contractually obligated to do a specific job.

Of course racing drivers are adrenalin junkies, but surely there has to be some thought given to the inherent risks of competing in events that perhaps don’t match the awesome safety standards achieved by modern F1.

I’m always surprised when drivers are allowed by their paymasters to compete as ‘weekend warriors’ in dangerous sports. Is there not some responsibility owed by the drivers, not only to their own health and their continuing ability to do the job for which they’re paid, but also by the drivers and their bosses to the myriad personnel that work so long and hard to get an F1 car to the grid?

When a team approaches potential commercial partners, the calibre of the drivers is part of the pitch. Money in the bank, isn’t there some degree of responsibility owed to all concerned to stay safe? This is a team sport in every aspect of the endeavour.

Sure, one can get hit by a bus while crossing the High Street, but that’s not really the point, is it? Throughout life we are beset by the dangers of everyday living so we take precautions and minimise the risks.

If you want your F1 heroes to be more like the leather cap and goggles brigade of the past then that’s your choice. For me, seeing the best drivers in the world doing what they do at the wheel of contemporary F1 machines is thrilling enough.

It goes without saying that I, along with everyone else in motor sport, wish Robert Kubica a speedy and full recovery.

Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my photos from the pre-season Valencia test by clicking here.

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