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Should Drivers Compete In Potentially Dangerous Events?

Should Drivers Compete In Potentially Dangerous Events?

With Mark Webber currently recovering from surgery following his broken leg in the Pure Tasmania Challenge, questions are going to asked by the teams and driver managers about the dangers drivers face when they take part in potentially hazardous events and sports during the off-season. With a Formula One driver’s primary role of driving a Formula One car, is the pursuit of a challenge like Mark Webber’s triathlon-type competition worth the danger involved?

Formula One pilots are among the best athletes in the world, enduring physical pressures like no other when they compete in a race. They are fit, healthy and very strong. But when they place themselves in situations with increased risk of injury, are they toying with their careers unnecessarily? Geoff Donahue, the director of the 2008 Tasmania Challenge has today admitted that Mark’s future involvement will be carefully considered.

Of course, there is danger all around each and every one of us, but increasing the likelihood of injury just seems a little silly, even if it is for charity. Often, drivers will have something in their contract which prohibits the pursuit of overly dangerous activities, but Webber’s obligations are apparently a little more relaxed.

Juan Pablo Montoya once famously suffered a tennis-related injury in 2005 and despite speculation at the time, the Colombian driver resolutely denied his shoulder injury was the result of coming off his motorcycle. However the injury was inflicted though, Montoya was forced to sit out two races. When Montoya returned to the cockpit in Spain he wasn’t entirely healed and paddock-insiders have since stated that Juan Pablo’s arm was often immobile after races.

Nick Heidfeld has also felt the brunt of cycling accident when he was recovering from a testing accident in 2005. While out cycling he collided with a motorbike which further added to his healing process. Heidfeld was scheduled to return to racing for the remaining three grands prix, but was ultimately forced to sit out the rest of the season.

Earlier in the year, Jenson Button laid down a challenge to eventual championship winner and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton. Upon hearing about Button’s exploits in triathlons, Hamilton was impressed, but also convinced of his own fitness. Button suggested that the two compete in the same triathlon to settle the argument, and Lewis agreed. However, a few hours later Hamilton’s manager and father pulled his son from the challenge, stating that Lewis has to concentrate on the Formula One campaign.

Was Anthony Hamilton right to stop his son from competing? Is Webber doing the best thing by competing in the Pure Tasmania Challenge? Is Kimi Raikkonen really allowed to go snowboarding during the season? I guess drivers will always pursue a challenge to further their fitness and enjoyment of sport. Part of what they do during the off-season is to keep them in trim form, and there are always going to be inherent dangers in any sporting activity.

I hope Red Bull Racing do not restrict Mark Webber’s contract, preventing him from competing in sports away from the racetrack – it is a decision Mark has to make himself. But what do you think? Is it really sensible to compete when the risks of broken bones and other injuries significantly increases? Or should drivers be allowed to do whatever they want, knowing themselves what the risks and consequences are?

Further Reading

Oliver White

17 comments

  • Silly! Of course they should be able to compete in whatever they want, just for the fun of it.

    They are superb athletes and adrenalin junkies, you can only keep the beast caged for so long.

    And I’m still thinking Webber is laughing his head off of the Jenson Button’s Challenge on Lewis Hamilton (TM).

  • they compete in potentially dangerous event between 17 – 19 times every year between March and November 🙂

    on the other hand, how many people get hit by car every day performing relatively safe act of going to work for example

    what I would ask is how was the event organized that there was a car and Webber at the same time at the sample place and moving in different directions ?

  • Silly! Of course they should be able to compete in whatever they want, just for the fun of it.

    they compete in potentially dangerous event between 17 – 19 times every year between March and November

    Of course you guys are correct, but I doubt either of your jobs require you to be in optimum fitness all of the time. If Webber was an office worker, it wouldn’t matter if he had a broken leg – he could still hobble into work and function in his job normally (just about – I still went to work earlier in the year with a broken wrist).

    I agree that you can’t tame the beast, and even the driver’s training can be hazardous. But there should be a limit if their livelihood depends on them being able to compete as athletes 10 or 11 months out of the 12.

    what I would ask is how was the event organized that there was a car and Webber at the same time at the same place and moving in different directions?

    Good question. The event was being held on public roads, but they should have stopped traffic (which couldn’t have been that much of an inconvenience) while the cyclists passed through. Although it could have been a support vehicle, which seem to hit competing cyclists all the time in the Tour De France.

  • I’m curious about this too, but I guess the need for speed comes with that need for adrenalin, and that’s what makes them good at what they do. Perhaps it is hard to just switch it off.

    Also, it would be all very well for teams to say no extreme sports, but Massa can hurt himself sneezing in a lift. They have to stop worrying at some point.

  • Also, it would be all very well for teams to say no extreme sports, but Massa can hurt himself sneezing in a lift. They have to stop worrying at some point.

    I came so close to mentioning this incident in the post, but decided humour could wait until the comments. Thanks for bringing up Massa’s, ahem ‘extreme sports’ injury – maybe Ferrari should pay more attention to what he is doing rather than snowboarding and snowmobiling Raikkonen. 🙂

  • Webber was competing on public roads that were not closed off for the event. This isn’t as dangerous as it sounds, as only about 200 people actually live on the Port Arthur penninsula & the odds of encountering one of them were extremely low.

    Of course when you have luck as bad as Webber does, it may have been prudent to remove the 0.00001% chance of running into someone…..

  • Of course when you have luck as bad as Webber does, it may have been prudent to remove the 0.00001% chance of running into someone…..

    All I’m gonna say is… I’m pleased someone else said it and not me! 😉

    Get well soon Mark, best wishes from the BlogF1 community. 🙂

  • As far as I’m concerned, any activity that is likely to improve the fitness of a driver should be OK, even if there’s a risk of it doing the exact opposite (as has happened here). It would not surprise me if the Challenge, and in particular the fact that Mark can’t have a sneaky month off training if he wants to do himself justice in it, is part of the reason why he’s the fittest driver on the grid and will therefore heal quite quickly from this injury.

    Dangerous activities with no obvious benefit to the day job can be banned, though banning the use of lifts in Massa’s case may be counter-productive if he’s anywhere near as incident-prone as I am.

    It does seem typical though, that of all the people that have competed in the Challenge over the years, the first one to get a serious injury would be the bloke who came up with the idea…

  • I marshall at our city’s Marathon every year. We close the streets, put on barriers, post cops, etc. Yet last year, one driver (who presumably thought his errands were more important than the marathoners’ lives) ignored the policeman at the intersection, went around the barrier, and proceeded to drive down the course. Luckily it was only sparsely occupied at the time by pre-race walkers…

    FWIW, i’d think it would be up to the driver to decide whether to participate in dangerous activities. After all, it’s their livelihood at stake, no? The best the team can do is write in the contract clauses for penalties and/or withholding salaries if a driver misses a race or test session due to an injury not related to F1.

  • When this happened, I thought right away of a few noteable incidents on American shores that were of the same variety, and the ensuing issues they caused. After the 2003 baseball season, Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone- who hit the game-winning hoemrun in extra innings to beat Boston in Game 7 of the ALCS- injured his knee playing basketball, which was forbidden in his contract. The Yankees released Boone over breach of contract, clearing the way for Alex Rodriguez to come to the Bronx- along with his mega-salary, personal controversey, and postseason futility.

    Another good one is the case of Ben Roethlisberger, the talented young quarterback of the NFL’s Pittsbugrh Steelers. “Big Ben” was well-known for his love of motorcycles even before leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl Championship in just his second NFL season. However, a few months later in summer 2006, Ben was out riding without a helmet when he broadsided a car and wound up smashing his head off the winshield of the car. Had paramedics not sealed off an artery bleeding in his throat, he would have died within minutes, and he was also riding the motorcycle without a license to do so, and agaisnt the advice of team management.

    I am happy to say that Big Ben returned the following season and suffered no aftereffects of his injury, and hopefully it will be the same with Webber. In my mind, the major point that needs to be considered is if the event is held in a safe location- and that could mean closing down the roads in the future. I don’t see anything wrong with Webber’s event, but hopefully he will be a bit more careful the next time around.

  • Yes! I still think it was really a tennis injury (having fallen on my side a bit awkwardly a few times playing it), but it says something about Juan Pablo’s playing ability or lack thereof – my most notable achievement in tennis was getting seven tennis balls on the school roof in the space of six weeks completely by accident (not counting the ones that ended up in the hedges at the end of the area where I was supposed to play the game).

  • Teams nowadays seem much happier to let them take risks than in the past which is odd considering how much more dangerous racing was. The big problem is drivers are competitive animals. You can’t have them being aggressively competitive for 7 or 8 months of the year and then sit on their hands doing nothing for the rest of the time. It would be like a lion at a zoo being a lion while the zoo was open and then being a pussy cat as soon as it closes.

    I have been against cycle races on open roads since I first came across one. These guys take insane risks. I regularly come across bike races on the roads around here and I have lost count of the number of times I have seen someone negotiating a roundabout head down and bum up oblivious to the traffic and only thinking about his time.

  • As a fan, I personally don’t care what drivers do on their off time and if it ends up with them not being able to race. Live and let live.

    However, if I was a team owner or sponsor, I would take a very different position. Driver’s are paid a lot of money to be in a car on race day 20 times a year. Obviously they work very hard every day to be at the level to race, but from a sponsor’s point of view, if you aren’t in the car on a Sunday, when the fans are watching, then you have lost 1/20th of your year’s investment. That’s a pretty big chunk to lose to a driver’s need to an adrenalin fix.

  • Well, it could be a lot worse. The National Football Leagues’ New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress was out at a club on Friday night when he got shot in the leg. By his own gun. And he pulled the trigger.

    The receiver accidentally shot himself in the right thigh and spent Friday night in a hospital, and now is likely to face weapons charges.

    At least nobody in F1 has shot himself yet.

  • Well, it could be a lot worse. The National Football Leagues’ New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress was out at a club on Friday night when he got shot in the leg. By his own gun. And he pulled the trigger. {Greg Wesson – previous comment}

    That is just bizarre. I’d heard that guns were more dangerous to their owners than to the people they are aimed against, but this is silly…

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