If the medical car hadn’t been called at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, we may never have found this out, but current test driver Alex Wurz was behind the wheel. On the night before the race, the normal medical car driver was taken ill. Bernd Maylander, who has driven the safety car since 2000, recommended Wurz for the position, being a friend of the man, and knowing his vast experience. Wurz took to the track after Nelson Piquet crashed into the wall, but assistance wasn’t needed. Piquet hopped out of the car by himself, and headed back to the pitlane.
Alex Wurz was a sensible choice, having so much Formula 1 experience. He’s raced for Benetton, tested for McLaren, raced for Williams, and is now a test driver for Honda. His results may not be particularly impressive, he has started 69 Grands Prix, and only been on the podium three times, but he has been involved in Formula 1 forever and knows the situations inside out. He has also participated in the Le Mans 24 Hour race, and therefore has plenty of experience with night racing as well.
The medical car is similar to the safety car, in that it is a modified Mercedes, ready to zip to the scene of any accident. Dr Gary Hartstein, the FIA’s chief medical delegate, is always on board, and once arrived at the accident, he uses a system of lights on top of the car to indicate how serious the situation is.
There are paramedics situated at different points around the track to deliver first aid in case it is needed, and if the situation is serious, drivers can be transferred to the medical centre, and/or the MedEvac helicopter for the onward journey to a local hospital.
The medical centres are fully equipped to deal with emergencies, housing a full operating theatre and resuscitation facilities, but transportation to hospital is designed to be straightforward if necessary.
Thankfully, Formula 1 has so improved its safety in terms of the cars, that visits to the medical centre are usually just as a precaution. In recent years, we have seen less and less necessity for medical intervention, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be there. If a serious accident does occur, F1 circuits should, and currently do, have the facilities to deal with it and minimise any effects.