Nigel Roebuck discusses Michael Schumacher at length in Reﬂections this month, so I’ll keep it short. Forget 10-place grid penalties for Spa. For his pitwall chop on Rubens Barrichello in Hungary I’d have handed Schuey a three-race ban with immediate effect, and a suspended ban for the whole of next year, to come into force if he plays dirty again. Such a shame that a racing driver with his ability and record should stoop so low. Again.
This month Nigel, Bobby Rahal and Gordon Kirby all dwell on race track ethics in the contemporary sport. Hard racing or plain dirty driving? It depends on your opinion, but it’s rife in every arm of the sport. True, it’s always been with us. But in the deadly days before HANS devices, deformable structures and car park-sized run-offs, dubious ethics were limited to the few. Now they are common among the many.
The most alarming examples in the past month, aside from Schumacher’s swerve, have both occurred in less-publicised corners of racing, and both unfortunately at the glorious Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit (that’s worrying in itself. God forbid anyone suggests emasculating the loop ‘out in the country’). Both Francisco Carvalho in the SEAT Eurocup and Chris van der Drift in Superleague Formula escaped with their lives, no thanks to the cynicism/ineptitude (delete as you see ﬁt) of rivals. In the SEAT crash the car landed on an empty spectator bank and missed a couple of marshals by a matter of feet. Terrifying.
So when will our sport wake up? Thanks largely to the examples set by Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, new generations of drivers believe it is acceptable to block, weave and punt. Historians and fans still to this day debate the roles of Mike Hawthorn and Lance Macklin in the 1955 Le Mans disaster that claimed over 80 souls. In the litigious blame culture of today, imagine such a thing happening now. And it could happen, despite super-safe circuits, because of the sort of driving seen week in, week out at every level of the sport. From F1, below-the-belt tactics have trickled down the racing ladder.
Enough. Motor sport authorities from the FIA to national bodies must take a consistently hard-line approach to offenders. Unlike in football, which continues to ignore video technology to its detriment, motor racing stewards have the beneﬁt of cameras as well as observers to make their judgements. They shouldn’t be afraid to use them, to decide whether incidents are accidents in the true sense of the word, or avoidable crashes where blame is attributable. In such cases, there should be no room for tolerance.
As in everything, F1 should lead the way. Derek Warwick, who was the driver steward in Hungary, is said to have wanted a harsher penalty for Schumacher. His fellow stewards should have backed him up. Dangerous driving – or cheating, as it should be called – should be stamped out before someone is killed, either on the track or, worse still, in the stands.
Last month, we introduced an expanded road car section. This month, we have a new technical feature, researched with the help of Lola, plus our ﬁrst motorcycle road test for years. Now, the expanded road car coverage rufﬂed some of you, so let me be clear: we’re not about to ﬁll the magazine with two-wheel tests! From time to time we’ll be offering such stories, but only when we feel there is something worth talking about. If you haven’t already noticed, Motor Sport isn’t a historic or classic car magazine. It’s a living, breathing contemporary title, just as it used to be in the days of Denis Jenkinson, and if it is to prosper and grow that’s exactly what it has to be.